Category Archives: United States

The South and the Death Penalty

by KurtFF8

The recent execution of Troy Davis has caused many to again discuss the merits of the death penalty in the United States.  (It also sparked a mass march in New York City that was met with a heavy handed police response). According to the Daily Beast, the South has the highest execution rate in the country, as well as the highest murder rate.  On top of that, the incarceration capital of the world is a southern city: New Orleans.

These renewed debates not only bring into question broad topics like the death penalty itself, but they should also let us contextualize them in a regional sense.  We should begin asking why is the South the home to so many problems still (to throw yet another one in there: the South is “bearing the brunt” of the US’s raising poverty rate).  There are plenty of answers to the question of why the South faces these problems.  But one thing should be quite clear, it is something often repeated on this site: the South remains an important part of the country to organize progressive forces.

Amongst the many lessons we learned from the Troy Davis incident (to steal the ANSWER coalition’s article title), we should also add the lesson that the world pays attention to the South, not only to the injustices that happen there but to the folks that organize against those injustices.

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Filed under African Americans, ANSWER Coalition, Atlanta, Georgia, inmates, Leftists in the U.S. South, National Oppression, New Orleans, Prisoners, prisons, racism, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, United States

America’s Right Wing: YES to Quran-burning, NO to Flag-Burning

Originally posted to Islamaphobia Today, May 14, 2011

 

 

When LSU graduate student Benjamin Haas planned to burn the U.S. flag to protest the clamping down of civil liberties and the right of due process for “students and suspected terrorists alike”, an angry mob of over 1,000 people came out to stop him.  Haas “sustained physical and verbal taunting”and in fact received numerous death threats.  Had the police not been there to protect him, Haas might have been seriously hurt.  (Haas backed down from burning the flag.)

 

Here’s a video of the despicable mob (hint: any time you see Americans wrapped in the flag chanting “USA! USA! USA!” more often than not they are war-mongers):

  Continue reading

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Filed under Anti-Imperialism, Anti-War, Education, Imperialism, Islam, Louisiana, Middle East, racism, Southern United States, Students, Uncategorized, United States

The Martin Luther King You Don’t See on TV

[This originally appeared on Common Dreams]

It’s become a TV ritual: Every year on April 4, as Americans commemorate Martin Luther King’s death, we get perfunctory network news reports about “the slain civil rights leader.”

The remarkable thing about these reviews of King’s life is that several years — his last years — are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn’t take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they’re not shown today on TV.

Why?

It’s because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation’s fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without “human rights” — including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for “radical changes in the structure of our society” to redistribute wealth and power.

“True compassion,” King declared, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

By 1967, King had also become the country’s most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 — a year to the day before he was murdered — King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” (Full text/audio here. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2564.htm)

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was “on the wrong side of a world revolution.” King questioned “our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America,” and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions “of the shirtless and barefoot people” in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about “capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”

You haven’t heard the “Beyond Vietnam” speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 — and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” The Washington Post patronized that “King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People’s Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble “a multiracial army of the poor” that would descend on Washington — engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be — until Congress enacted a poor people’s bill of rights. Reader’s Digest warned of an “insurrection.”

King’s economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America’s cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its “hostility to the poor” — appropriating “military funds with alacrity and generosity,” but providing “poverty funds with miserliness.”

How familiar that sounds today, nearly 40 years after King’s efforts on behalf of the poor people’s mobilization were cut short by an assassin’s bullet.

In 2007, in this nation of immense wealth, the White House and most in Congress continue to accept the perpetuation of poverty. They fund foreign wars with “alacrity and generosity,” while being miserly in dispensing funds for education and healthcare and environmental cleanup.

And those priorities are largely unquestioned by mainstream media. No surprise that they tell us so little about the last years of Martin Luther King’s life.

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Human Rights, Imperialism, labor movement, Leftists in the U.S. South, Race, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, United States

Workers and Students in North Carolina, Virginia and Throughout the South: Follow the Lead of Wisconsin Workers and Students!

Posted by hastenawait, taken from Fight Back! News

Analysis by Saladin Muhammad |
February 17, 2011
Read more articles in

Resistance in the U.S. to attacks on the public sector is growing.  Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is unleashing a major assault, seeking to take away collective bargaining rights from state and possibly all public sector workers, including threatening to call out the National Guard against worker resistance.

The labor movement and the students are fighting back.  Labor, including public and private sector unions held a rally in Madison at the State Capital, turning out 30,000 people, demanding that the Governor’s bill be defeated.

High school students throughout Wisconsin walked out of their schools to protest against this attack, which also affects their teachers and education. The Madison School Superintendent was forced to close the schools on Tuesday after 40 percent out of 2,600 members of the teachers union called in sick. The students see their actions as part of the growing struggles for people’s democracy that took center stage by the mass actions of the youth and workers in Tunisia and Egypt.  

The U.S. South is been a bastion of right-to-work laws, denying public sector workers the right to collective bargaining.  Dr. Martin L. Kings lost his life supporting the struggle of the Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers who were fighting for this right, which he saw as a next phase of the Civil Rights struggle.

North Carolina and Virginia have specific laws making it illegal for workers and state and local governments to bargain for union contracts. Most of these laws were enacted during the period of Jim Crow, when Blacks were denied the right to vote and had no representatives in Southern state legislatures. When the state and local governments deny their own workers this basic right, it sends a message to all workers in the region, that the governments are hostile to unions.  

The lack of a concerted movement to organize public sector workers throughout the South based on a program that includes winning collective bargaining rights, has been a major factor weakening the few efforts to organize unions in the South.  

The major restructuring of the core industries of the U.S. economy over the past 30 years, resulted in shifting more than 1/3 of the auto industry and other formerly unionized manufacturing to the South. There are more union members in the state of New York, than in all of the 11 Southern states combined.

The largely un-unionized South has undermined labor’s strength as a national movement.  Organizing labor in the South must be addressed, if the U.S. labor movement is to survive and be a powerful force for workers in the U.S. and global economy.  

The economic crisis is increasing the competition between the states for industries and investments, in their efforts at economic recovery.  The unionized states outside of the South, in their efforts to shift more public resources to private corporations through privatizations, tax breaks and major incentives, are sharpening their attacks on public sector unions to compete with the Southern states and low wage labor internationally. Attempts to roll back collective bargaining are now occurring in Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, as well as Wisconsin. Right to work bills are pending in about a dozen Northern states. Public service jobs, wages and benefits are under attack just about everywhere.

National resistance to the attacks on public sector, must therefore link the struggles against attacks to eliminate existing public sector rights to collective bargaining, with the struggles of public sector workers concentrated in the South, who are denied this right.

The NC Public Service Workers Union UE-Local 150 has been in the forefront of the movement to repeal the ban on collective bargaining rights for public sector workers in North Carolina. Through its International Worker Justice Campaign, it has won a ruling from the International Labor Organization finding the U.S. and North Carolina out of compliance with international laws.

In addition to fighting for collective bargaining rights, UE150 is initiating campaigns for legislative and local government workers bill of rights, pressing to make the terms and conditions of public sector workers a part of the political agendas.

Public sector workers and unions throughout the South must form a Southern Alliance for Collective Bargaining Rights, to launch a region-wide movement.  The South must become a strategic battleground for the U.S. and international labor movement, demanding that the U.S. and the South comply with international human rights standards.

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Filed under class struggle, Human Rights, labor movement, labor unions, Middle East, North Carolina, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, United States, Virginia, workers

North Carolina – Regional Organizing Conference

This was passed along to us by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression. Follow this link to register for the conference. – hastenawait

Published on Thu, 2011-01-27 15:08
Date: 

Sat, 2011-02-19 10:00 – 17:00

Location: 
UNC School of Law 160 Ridge Rd Room 5052

Chapel Hill, NC United States

See map: Google Maps

Southern regional organizing conference of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

The conference will be held Saturday Feb. 19 at the UNC Law School in Chapel Hill, NC, from 10:00AM to 5:00pm. Please register now.

You can make an online donation to support the conference – please put “FBI Conference” in the “designation” section of the donate form.

Directions and parking information are available on the UNC School of Law website.

Agenda

9:30am – 10:00am Registration

10am – 10:10am Opening remarks from conference organizers

10:10am – 10:30am Subpoenaed activists Meredith Aby and Steff Yorek give overview of case

10:30am – 10:45am Call for donations to the legal support fund

11:00am – 12:15pm Panel

History of FBI and Political Repression Against People’s Movements.

  • Moderated by Elena Everett from Raleigh FIST.
  • Lewis Pitts; Raleigh NC.
  • Efia Nwangaza, US Human Rights Network; Atlanta GA.
  • Theresa El-Amin, Southern Anti Racism Network; Columbus GA
  • Dianne Mathiowetz, International Action Center, Atlanta GA.

12:15 – 1:15pm Lunch

1:15pm – 2:45pm Panel

Grand Juries, Material Support of Terrorism, the Legal and Political Context of the September 24 Raids

  • Peter Gilbert, National Lawyers Guild; Durham NC.
  • Representative of In the Name of Humanity; Rocky Mount NC.
  • Khalilah Sabra, MAS Freedom; Raleigh NC.
  • Maureen Murphy, Palestine Solidarity Group; Chicago IL.
  • Steff Yorek, Freedom Road Socialist Organization; Minneapolis MN.
  • Jennifer Rudinger, ACLU; Durham NC.

2:45pm – 3:00pm Break

3:00pm – 3:45pm Organizing reports from around the South

3:45pm – 4:30pm Discussion of upcoming actions and protests

4:30pm – 5:00pm Summing up the conference

Sponsors of this conference include

  • ACLU of North Carolina
  • Asheville Committee to Stop FBI Repression
  • Atlanta International Action Center
  • Balance & Accuracy in Journalism (BAJ)
  • Blackwater Watch
  • Durham Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Durham County Libertarian Party
  • Freedom Road Socialist Organization
  • Freedom Road Socialist Organization/OSCL
  • Green Party of the US
  • Internationalist Books
  • Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD-USA)
  • Jews for a Just Peace
  • Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation
  • National Lawyers Guild at UNC Chapel Hill
  • NC Stop Torture Now
  • North Carolina Peace Action
  • Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • Orange County Peace Coalition
  • Peace and Justice Committee, Community Church of Chapel Hill UU
  • Raleigh F.I.S.T.
  • Raleigh Fruitcakes
  • SDS – Asheville
  • SDS – Tuscaloosa
  • SDS – UNC Chapel Hill
  • Southern Anti-Racism Network
  • Triangle Committee to Stop FBI Repression
  • UE Local 150
  • US Human Rights Network
  • Veterans for Peace, Eisenhower Chapter
  • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom–Triangle Branch

Registration

  • Conference is free and open to the public, but we are asking for $5-20 sliding scale donation to help cover costs.
  • Lunch is $5, no one will be turned away.
  • Need childcare? Let us know the number of kids and their ages.
  • Need housing? Contact housing coordinator ncstopfbi@gmail.com

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Filed under Event Announcement, North Carolina, other announcements, Uncategorized, United States, Upcoming Events

Rally for the Brave People of Egypt, New Orleans, Louisiana

By hastenawait

Signs from yesterday's rally

Hundreds took to the streets of New Orleans yesterday to march in solidarity with the revolutionary peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. A rally was held in front of the steps of the federal building before protesters began winding down the streets of downtown New Orleans.

 Protesters not only challenged dictatorships in other parts of the world and U.S. imperialism – many made the connection between the inspiring struggles going on elswhere and what is happening here in Louisiana, the South and the United States. The signs which read, “New Orleans, walk like an Egyptian,” and “Egypt -1; Tunisia – 1; New Orleans, ?” distilled this popular sentiment. Among others, chants of, “One solution: Revolution!” could be heard echoing through the streets of of the Crescent City.

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Filed under Anti-Imperialism, class struggle, Gulf States, Human Rights, Imperialism, Louisiana, Solidarity, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States

DNC and RNC to be held in the South

by KurtFF8

Recently it was announced that the Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This means that both the DNC and the Republican National Convention (RNC) will both be held in the Southern United States (with the RNC being held in Tampa, Florida).  The importance of the region is clearly highlighted with both major political parties holding their conventions in North Carolina and Florida respectively.

The interesting thing about this, for the “radical Left,” however will be to see how grassroots organizing against these conventions will take shape.  Over the past decade or so, Leftists have organized large demonstrations at both conventions, and while many who attend come from out of town, the majority of organizing is done by grassroots organizations.  What could be demonstrated by that kind of organizing is a show of progressive Southern politics that runs counter to the idea of Southern passivity or conservatism.  This is what could make these conventions important, not the plans of the two parties of capital.

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Filed under Corporations, Florida, Leftists in the U.S. South, North Carolina, other announcements, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, The Left, United States

The American Prison System

by KurtFF8 (Mike C)

There have been various stories relating the the conditions of the prison system in the United States in the news recently.  From the under reported (yet perhaps most significant) recent Georgia Prisoner’s strike to the high profile solitary confinement of Bradley Manning who gained notoriety for his involvement in leaking a video to Wikileaks.  This attention should be seen as an opportunity to open up space for debate on the very structure of our prisons.

There is also the case of Cornelius Dupree, Jr.who was just freed in Texas after 30 years of being in prison when DNA evidence showed that he was actually innocent.  According to his attorney, Texas has had the most DNA exonerations of any state, and Dallas the most within Texas.  This is of course a disturbing trend that may certainly be seen as yet another case of institutional racism that has a strong tradition (especially in the South, but of course not limited to the South) and seems to be rather obvious in these cases as according to the Innocence Project, almost 60% of those exonerated post-conviction via DNA are African American.

Bradley Manning’s conditions have been highlighted in the international press recently, with an emphasis on his mental health as a result of being in solitary confinement for a long period of time.  The interesting thing about the Manning case is that it is being portrayed in the media as a sort of political imprisonment by the United States, while the majority of cases that activists consider to be clear cases of political imprisonment tend to be portrayed as seen that way only by a small fringe.  Thus the case offers yet another example for the Left to call into question this system.

The most bizarre incident is the Georgia Prisoner’s strike.  I say bizarre because of the relative silence (or at least not much emphasis) by the “mainstream media” on what has been labeled the largest prisoner’s strike in the history of the United States.  For example, if you compare two New York Times articles that came out within a day of each other, you’ll find one long article about the new “problem” of smart phones in prisons (and it does detail the strike).  The NAACP recently claimed that there was violent retaliation against striking prisoners which was certainly anticipated by prisoner rights activists, yet this story got one paragraph in the NYT.

Taking these various stories together, and how they were covered by the media makes for an interesting trend that reveals a small bit of ideology that dominates our conversations here.  The cases of Cornelius Dupree, Jr. and Bradley Manning received more attention than the Georgia prisoner’s strike.  Why is this the case?  One part of the answer can certainly be traced to ideology: when an individual is treated poorly by the system, this is a miscarriage of justice that simply needs to be corrected.  When prisoners from across an entire state come together and challenge the system itself, this calls into question the system itself.  The strike also defied stereotypes of prisons divided along racial lines, when all prisoners of different races worked together to demand better conditions.  This ideological reasoning can at least help us understand why events like the Georgia strike are not emphasized by the media.

There are many problems about the American prison system.  The United States has the largest prison population on Earth (in terms of raw numbers and as a percentage of our population); the United States has increasingly allow private corporations to run prisons for profit, which includes free labor from their inmates (which some people rightfully equate to modern day slavery); Racism continues to play an important roll .  And the biggest problem of all: There is not a national debate about this, these issues are not constantly being discussed on CNN every night, we’re not having town hall meetings about it.

This is an important issues, especially in the US South where prison populations seem to be particularly large (For example, New Orleans having the biggest incarceration rate in the World).  It’s time we start reframing these issues and start organizing.

Further reading:

U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations

YouTube Clip – Angela Davis discusses Prison Industrial Complex

YouTube Clip – Prison Industrial Complex (clip from documentary)

 

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, Georgia, Gulf States, Human Rights, inmates, Prison Industrial Complex, Prisoners, prisons, Race, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, strike, Texas, United States, Wikileaks

Another reason the South is important today

by KurtFF8

 

The South made significant population gaines in the last census while much of the North lost congressional seats

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Filed under Leftists in the U.S. South, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States

Anniversary of Secession: What it means today

By KurtFF8

Today is the anniversary of the declaration of Secession by South Carolina from the United States in 1860.  This lead to the founding of the Confederacy and lead the  nation on a path to a long bloody conflict that cost the lives of countless people on both sides.  What does this anniversary mean for 2010 though?  For the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Confederate Heritage Trust: it means it’s time to throw a party.

The Secession Ball

Tonight, the two groups mentioned above will be throwing what they are calling “The Secession Ball” what is according to the website is “Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of South Carolina’s Secession.” They claim to even have the President Pro-Tempore of the SC Senate planning on attending the ball.  The Sons of Confederate Veterans officials condemns slavery and their spokesperson for the event claims that they are not celebrating the war, but instead just the courage of those who decided to sign the secession statement, while the NAACP has planed a march to protest the event tonight.

So if they are not celebrating the war or slavery, why the event?  Many organizations and individuals who attempt to defend things like the foundation of the Confederate States tend to appeal to notions of States’ Rights and of “Heritage” (“not hate”).  But it doesn’t take much to demonstrate how secession and the creation of the Confederacy were explicitly about preserving slavery and that the specific rights sought out in trying to defend “States Rights” in this particular case were the rights of the state to keep Slavery a legal institution.

So the courage to stand up to the Union ought to be seen as the “courage to defend slavery.”

Causes of the Civil War

 

John Brown is often portrayed as "insane" for his radical anti-slavery actions, and was even executed for them

Slavery was the base of the economic power for the Southern elite in the pre-Civil War South.  After decades of complicated power struggles and debates about expanding the institution to new American states, the Southern elite was threatened and to use a phrase Marx used, launched a “Slave owner rebellion.”  As I noted above, they made their reasons for secession quite clear: to preserve slavery.  While other factors, such as “taxes and tariffs,” are sometimes pointed to as causes for the war, these factors existed in so far as they interfered with the source of the wealth that was being harmed: the institution of slavery!

This is of course a long historical debate, but the arguments for Southern Secession tend to be red herrings when it comes to slavery.  Even these groups putting on the “Secession Ball” make sure to note that they are opposed to slavery and the Civil War’s bloody toll.  Yet they defend the event that is noted for its strong defense of slavery and for starting that very war.

States’ Rights

When “States’ Rights” is appealed to as the reason for the South’s actions, what rights those States were looking to protect are often ignored.  This is because it was the right to own slavery by the Southern elite.  Yet the argument over States’ Rights was not resolved at the end of the War.

After the Civil War ended and what is often referred to as “radical reconstruction” was abandoned to an extent, the newer elites in the South instituted “Jim Crow Laws.”  It was the “Jim Crow South” that was responsible for racial segregation that wasn’t to be fully broken until the civil rights movement exploded in the 1960s.  The arguments for maintaining these laws often appealed to the same thing: States’ Rights.

We can also see a similar kind of rhetoric of States’ Rights in the opposition to the moderate attempt at health care reform over the past few years.  It’s rare in the history of the South that these concept is appealed to actually expand the rights of the majority of the people, but instead States’ Rights are often appealed to for the strengthening of the elite.

We need to be clear about the nature of celebrating the Confederacy in any way: It was a reactionary attempt to preserve slavery in the South, and its’ defeat needs to be celebrated, not its’ founding.

 

Further Reading:

150 Years Ago: Marx & Engels on the War Against Slavery

Collection of Marx and Engels writings on the Civil War

Huffington Post Article

Guardian Article

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Filed under African Americans, class struggle, confederacy, Demonstration Announcements, Gulf States, Human Rights, Leftists in the U.S. South, Liberalism, slavery, Solidarity, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, State's rights, U.S. Civil War, United States