Category Archives: Women

Raucous in Old Dominion

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Recent events in Florida’s Capital

[This was originally posted on the Tallahassee Socialist Organization’s blog]

By Mike C

There were a few events of interest in Tallahassee in the past week or so that should be noted:

Egypt Solidarity Demonstration 2/5/11

About a week an a half ago, a small crowed comprised of many TSO members stood at the Capitol to show their support for the Egyptian revolution.  The demonstration was a last minute call for a rainy day and was well received by those driving by on the crowded intersection of Apalachee Parkway and Monroe St.

The demonstration was covered by the newspaper of the Florida A&M University, the FAMUAN:

It was a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon as protesters assembled on the Capital Lawn carrying handwritten signs reading, “Freedom in Egypt” and “We Support Egypt.”

Local residents and organizations held a solidarity rally to express their support for freedom in Cairo.

Anti-government protests, demanding economic and political changes, began in Egypt on Jan. 25.

Since then, tens of thousands of people are filling the streets of Cairo and other cities and have called for President Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in power.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a famous quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., helps to define one of the many reasons why American protesters are voicing their opinions.

“It should affect us all as Americans because it is what a truly American concept is about putting in a democracy,” said Alla Hadi, an Egyptian-American attending Florida State, whose family, and friends that are worried about what is going on in Egypt.

“We have to voice our support.”

This demonstration was held the same weekend as demonstrations across the country, from California, to New York City, Washington, DC. and South Florida all held similar events, as well as other Southern cities like New Orleans. (For more information on other demonstrations, check out the ANSWER Coalition’s article)

Public Hearing on Racist Immigration Bill 2/7/11

On February 7th, a public hearing was held to discuss the possibility of the introduction of a bill similar to the now infamous  racist “SB1070” Arizona law that promotes racial profiling.  As the Florida Progressive Coalition Blog reports, 90 percent of the speakers at the hearing were opposed to the prospect of such a bill with only 2 people speaking in favor of it during the entire event.  Folks came from all over the state to voice their opposition to the bill as well as people from Tallahassee.

Here’s one example of the opposition voiced during the hearing:

Pro-Choice Action 2/17/11

Last but certainly not least was the recent visit to the Florida State campus by a group that attempts to equate abortion to genocide.  Florida State students organized a counter demonstration to show that groups that go around attacking womens’ rights are not welcome on their campus and that opposition will be loud and heard.  Chants like “When choice is under attack, What do we do? Stand Up, Fight Back!” were heard in a busy section of the FSU campus while those promoting their anti-choice message were attempting to spread their message of hate.

While the group that was traveling by may seem like a fringe group in its message, their visit to Tallahassee comes at a time when abortion rights are under attack by the Right-wing in America (including attempts to limit access, attacking Planned Parenthood).

The pro-choice counter-demonstrators outnumbered those anti-choice by dozens, and stayed until the anti-choice folks packed up for the day, opposition to their second day is expect as well.  The student newspaper is also expected to run a story on the event.

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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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FIRE Collective Event: Reportback from the Revolution in Nepal

by KurtFF8

(Taken from Kasama:)

This was originally on thefirecollective.org.

Austin, TX Event: Reportback from the Revolution in Nepal

The Mountains Tremble: A Reportback from the Revolution in Nepal

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 May and June of 2010, Eric Ribellarsi traveled to Nepal to report on these events. Eric Ribellarsi’s presentation will tell the story of this revolution, the current situation in Nepal, and feature video and photography from his journey.

Saturday, November 6, 2010 @ 1PM

ACC Pinnacle Campus, Room 1013

7748 Highway 290 West

Austin, TX 78736

Presented by The FIRE Collective and Twelfth Revolution

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Announcement: Southern Human Rights Organizer’s Conference

 

Website here

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Cultural Politics and Resignification: The Case of July 4th

By hastenawait

A couple of years ago when July 4th rolled around, I began thinking about the contradiction between my celebration of the holiday and my leftist politics. Those who oppose racism, imperialism, genocide (e.g. the slaughter of the indigenous population of North America) and other forms of oppression perpetrated by the United States have many reasons to be critical of the holiday.(1) Despite the more manifest meaning of the holiday (the celebration of values like freedom, liberty and so forth), for many it has come to represent oppression, and there are ample reasons for that; like other social phenomena, it is contradictory. At the immediate, personal level, I was faced with the question: Should I opt out of my family’s holiday celebration, one of the few times during the year when we all get together to enjoy one another’s company? Ultimately I decided not to opt out, and here’s why.

The celebration of a holiday is a cultural practice, which can be analyzed as a performance (or rather collection of performances) which bear meaning. To say that a holiday has inherent meanings which cannot be changed is essentialist and ahistorical. A holiday, like any other cultural practice, can be submitted to a process of resignification. Todd Holden describes resignification as follows.

As its name implies, resignification is a semiotic process—meaning that it involves the creation of meaning from signs. However, resignification is a particular kind of semiosis: one where new sign elements (signifiers, signifieds, signs, significations) are lifted from their original contexts and inserted into other semiotic sequences, though not always (indeed seldom) in the position they occupied in their prior incarnation.

Two aspects are most salient about resignification: first, strung together in unrelenting sequence, such recycling amounts to a phenomenon of sociological import. Most especially, because, procedurally, resignification both reflects and assists cultural mutation. [Italics added by the present author.](2)

In other words, the concept of resignification – an extension of the concept of signification – has been developed to indicate that not only is meaning dependent upon the social context, but that meaning changes over time. The social radically conditions the ability of individual actors (or even groups of actors) to create meaning, but agency is also involved in the production of meaning. Critical intervention is always possible. Despite his emphasis on the determining power of social structure (particularly the economic base) Marx still said that “History does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men [sic.], real, living, who do all this.”

In terms of holidays, the history of Christianity offers an instructive example of successful resignification. It is well known that as the influence of the Catholic Church spread across Europe, many indigenous traditions, including holidays, were transformed into Christian traditions (but at the same time the emerging “Christianity” was also modified by the absorption). An uneven, dialectical synthesis took place, in which Christianity was the dominant force. That the early Church was able to do this was an important factor in its ability to transform the European continent after its own image, in other words, to establish a hegemony which lasted over 2,000 years. Whatever we think about it today, Christianity was certainly a successful revolutionary force that changed the course of world history.

When I was thinking about the 4th of July a few years ago, I wrote

…it’s undeniable that this country has a lot going for it, things that are worth celebrating. War hawks often say, with a sense of deep satisfaction, that the freedoms and stability we enjoy were won through blood and sacrifice. They’re right, but not in the sense that they intend. They usually say such things to defend an imperialist foreign policy and the military industrial complex, things which I believe have done nothing but curtail freedom and stability around the world. But there are altogether different struggles and sacrifices that have given us something to be proud of.

…That we have anything close to a system with a human face, in other words democracy, is absolutely the result of popular struggle. Democracy doesn’t come from anywhere else.

I’m talking about the struggles to end slavery, racism, exploitation and sexism. I’m talking about struggles for peace and equality. I’m talking about the movement for LGBT rights. The list goes on.

…For all these reasons I’m celebrating the Forth of July this year. I’m celebrating the democratic rights that we have, and the people who fought to make them a reality. I am celebrating to embolden myself for the future, because the fight for democracy, really, is just beginning; what we have now is just a taste of what we can achieve if we put forth the collective effort. The Right doesn’t own this holiday any more than they own this country. In fact, let me say something that will infuriate right-wing patriots: It is Left-wing and progressive forces that have made the United States live up to its promises of freedom and democracy [to the limited extent that it has], and we’re the ones who should be celebrating; it’s our victory.

In other words, I was suggesting that we could celebrate the 4th of July in a radically different way. We could resignify it. I ask: Would the Catholic Church have been as successful in its efforts to conqueor Europe if it hadn’t transformed some existing cultural practices, instead of simply trying to wipe them out? Would the process have gone less smoothly if they had taken the latter course?

I honestly don’t think that it will do for the left to simply tell working people that their holiday is racist and imperialist. It is a deeply embedded cultural institution, in which people of various classes, nationalities, genders, sexualities, and more, have made powerful libidinal investments. In fact, most of the African Americans that I know here in southern Louisiana celebrate the holiday very enthusiastically, and wouldn’t be too impressed if I told them that they should give it up in the name of struggle. Communists and other progressives should realize that many of the traditions which have developed around the holiday are the expressions of oppressed and working people (contradictory though they are), and should not, therefore, be dismissed in a heavy-handed or patronizing way.

Let me juxtapose two hypothetical cultural activist interventions in regard to this holiday.

Imagine a leftist group on a street corner, protesting the 4th of July, chanting angrily and holding up provocative signs. Then, imagine a leftist group throwing a big 4th of July celebration in a major park, in which the workers’ movement, the civil rights movement, the American Indian movement, the LGBTQI movement, the immigrant’s rights movement, the women’s movement, etc. were celebrated. Imagine an event which popularized the history of struggle in this country, brought attention to those who have really worked to bring about the modicum of freedom and equality that we enjoy. What if we held up banners with the faces of great U.S. Americans like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, John Brown and Cesar Chavez?

I ask: Which of these interventions would be more alienating to working people raised in a culture of patriotism? Which of these is more patronizing? Conversely, which of these is more subversive? Which would help to win more people over to the side of radical social transformation, i.e., revolution?

(1) Check out Frederick Douglass’ Independence Day Speech at Rochester, 1841.

(2) http://journal.media-culture.org.au/0104/japtele.php

In addition to the works of Ferdinand de Saussare and Roland Barthes(semiotics), Judith Butler (performativity) and Mao Zedong (the mass line), I am also influenced in my thinking on this matter by Alain Badiou’s insistence that we remember that, in the process of revolutionary dialectics, it is not enough to negate an existing condition, but also to affirm or create something new. All too often this is a weak point on the left, whether reformist or revolutionary. See, for example, his lecture, Destruction, Negation and Subtraction, which you can watch on YouTube.

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Demand DemocracyNOW! on LPB

With the BP oil spill in the gulf, the attack on the Freedom Flotillas, the escalation of the occupation of Afghanistan the people in Louisiana need real news coverage. DemocracyNOW! has been an “exception to the rulers,” challenging the corporate media’s disinformation campaign for 14 years, and has been an indispensable tool for activists on the left. It is time that we organize for our right to the real news of the day, and stop accepting the corporate media’s pro-Wall Street, Zionist, Nativist propaganda and give the people of Louisiana the weapon of knowledge to strike back against injustice and oppression.

Join up on the campaign to get DemocracyNOW! on Louisiana’s Public Broadcasting network on the Facebook group, Demand DemocracyNOW! on LPB and check in for regular updates.

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