Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Washington-Wall Street axis of evil expands DPRK provocation


Pushing to brink of war

U.S. sends warships, jets to Korea

Published Nov 29, 2010 9:03 PM

Scores of U.S. warships and fighter jets, carrying more than 6,000 crew members and reinforced by ships, planes and 70,000 soldiers of the armed forces of south Korea, began carrying out joint military “exercises” in the sea west of Korea on Nov. 28. They have brought the divided peninsula to the brink of war.

In July some 20 U.S. warships and 200 planes had carried out similar maneuvers with the armed forces of the south. So this is the second time in less than six months that Washington and the right-wing south Korean regime of Lee Myung-Bak have carried out a grave provocation against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (socialist north Korea).

Nor can China, which lies just 200 miles to the northwest, fail to be alarmed at such aggressive military moves by the U.S. Two days before the joint maneuvers began, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: “We hold a consistent and clear-cut stance on the issue. We oppose any party to take any military acts in our exclusive economic zone without permission.” (Xinhua, Nov. 26) Nevertheless, the U.S. and south Korea went right ahead with the maneuvers.

Hostilities began with shells fired at DPRK

This time the south Korean forces went a step further than in July. Days before the joint exercises with the U.S. were scheduled to begin, they fired live shells into the waters right off the DPRK from the island of Yeonpyeong, which lies far west of the south Korean mainland and very close to the coast of the DPRK. Both the island and the waters are disputed territory. The U.S. had arbitrarily drawn a line on a map years ago claiming the island for south Korea, but the DPRK has never accepted that.

Thus, the military that ordered these shells be fired at 1:00 p.m. on Nov. 23 knew full well that this was a brazen provocation against the DPRK — one that could easily lead to a response in kind, especially since the DPRK had already characterized the “exercises” as a simulated invasion of the north.

If south Korea and its huge sponsor, the U.S., had wanted to avoid confrontation with the DPRK, would they have fired shells into a disputed area?

The provocation comes from the U.S. and the Lee Myung-bak regime, not the DPRK.

An hour and a half later, at 2:34 p.m., after making immediate verbal protests, the DPRK retaliated by shelling the south’s military base on Yeonpyeong. According to officials in Seoul, two soldiers were killed. They later claimed that two civilians had died as well.

Immediately, the propaganda blast from both the U.S. and south Korea went to earsplitting levels, blaming the DPRK for “irrational” and “brutal” behavior. The Pentagon announced it would have to send the USS George Washington — a nuclear-powered carrier with nearly 6,000 sailors and an air wing of 75 fighter jets that had taken part in the July “exercises” — plus five other warships to back up the forces of the Lee regime in joint naval maneuvers.

While the south Korean military ultimately takes its orders from the Pentagon, the U.S. claimed it had not been involved with the south Korean “exercises” at the time of the exchange of artillery. But the facts show otherwise. CNN.com on Nov. 23 reported that “Some U.S. forces had been helping the South Koreans in a military training exercise, but were not in the shelled area.” Right. They were part of the provocation but stayed out of range. Like U.S. “advisers” in Vietnam in the early years of that war.

However, even with a media blitz focused on inventing reasons for north Korean “aggression,” sometimes an article slips through that blows a hole in the fairy tales.

Thomas D. Farrell, a former U.S. Army Reserve intelligence officer who served in Korea and says he is “no apologist for North Korea,” explains how these events were seen by the DPRK: “This attack occurred on an island in the West (Yellow) Sea. Although there is a clearly defined Military Line of Demarcation on land, there is no clearly defined line running into the ocean. The so-called Northern Limit Line has never been accepted by North Korea, and has been the subject of many skirmishes over the years. A look at a map shows that Yeonpyeong Island is rather close to North Korea. The ROK [south Korean] Navy was dropping shells in nearby waters as part of its annual Hoguk military exercises which, like all military exercises, are condemned by the North Koreans as a provocation and rehearsal for invasion. ...

“The point is that when one views this event from the mindset of the other side, it is perfectly understandable. The grand theories attempting to explain it are gaseous. The real story is that the North Koreans saw the ROK Navy’s actions as a provocation and responded as they might well be expected to.” (Honolulu Star Advertiser, Nov. 29)

China also feels threatened

The imperialist media are saying that the DPRK’s “belligerence” is trying the patience of China. China has been an ally of the DPRK since 1950, when U.S. forces under the command of Gen. Douglas McArthur invaded north Korea, bombed all its cities, and threatened the new revolutionary government of China with nuclear war.

But while China is seeking a peaceful solution to the present crisis, there can be no doubt that it sees U.S. belligerence toward the DPRK as a threat to its own peaceful development.

Li Jie, a researcher with the Chinese navy’s military academy, wrote about the U.S.-south Korean “exercises” scheduled for last July:

“A joint drill with the ROK [south Korea] in the key waters off its Asian military bases will help the U.S. realize multiple strategic goals in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Li.

“First, the drill will help the U.S. maintain high-pressure against what it calls a restive DPRK regime. It is also believed to be an explicit indication of the U.S. stance that the world’s sole superpower would stand firmly behind the ROK and Japan in case of a military conflict between Pyongyang and Washington’s two traditional Asian allies.

“In addition, a well-deliberated military exercise in the Yellow Sea will also help the U.S. collect geographic and military information about some Asian countries [especially China — d.g.] bordering the vast waters.

“General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, has expressed ‘firm opposition’ to the scheduled U.S.-ROK military maneuver.” (China Daily, July 12)

But the July maneuvers took place anyway, and are now being repeated at an even higher level of provocation. China has called for an emergency meeting with the U.S., south Korea, the DPRK, Russia and Japan to defuse the situation. As of Nov. 29, this call has been ignored by the Obama and Lee administrations.

There is nothing “irrational” in either the response of the DPRK or the worries of the Chinese. U.S. imperialism waged a horrendous war against the Korean Revolution from 1950 to 1953, one that resulted in millions of deaths. It has occupied south Korea ever since, with a force that still numbers almost 30,000. It has refused to even discuss a peace treaty to formally end that war.

Should it be surprising, then, that the DPRK knows it has to be ready at any time to repel another invasion? If even a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer knows that the shelling by the south would force the north to respond, didn’t those who ordered the shelling know it too? Wasn’t it deliberately intended to provide the excuse for greater threats against the DPRK, with the intention of provoking “regime change”?

U.S. pundits are now openly talking about the “reunification” of Korea based on the south swallowing up the north — in other words, an invasion and counterrevolution that would allow capitalism and imperialism a free hand to exploit the workers and farmers there.

This is something that the DPRK leaders and masses will never allow.

Is it surprising that the Chinese leaders are also alarmed when U.S. imperialism, while making money off investments and trade there, nevertheless tries to encircle China militarily?

The chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, reveals the mindset of the Pentagon: “I don’t think this will be the last exercise,” he said. “This is a part of the world that we’ve exercised in for decades and we will continue.” (CNN, Nov. 28)

Instead of putting out anti-DPRK propaganda in the guise of psychoanalyzing its leaders, why don’t the media ask why the U.S. leaders do what they do? Why have they maintained a hostile policy against the DPRK for more than 60 years, ever since its anti-colonial and anti-capitalist revolution? Why won’t they sign a peace treaty with the DPRK so that the Korean people can work for real disarmament and reunification?

But that would be to acknowledge that the U.S. is ruled by a class of billionaires that has fattened itself on war and exploitation all over the world and has a long history of creating excuses for the bloody expansion of its imperial reach. The media have been part of this inglorious history, ever since the Hearst papers invented an excuse for invading Cuba in 1898.

Let’s not fall for another “Bay of Tonkin” or “weapons of mass destruction” lie. The enemy of the working class is right here, in the boardrooms and banks of U.S. capitalism, that are taking away everything the workers have won over generations of struggle and hard work.

No aggression against socialist Korea! End the war “games,” lift the sanctions, sign a peace treaty with the DPRK, and bring U.S. troops and ships home!


Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

alex callinicos

GASLAND Trailer 2010





Zodiac actor placed on terror list for opposing oil drilling method

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, November 26th, 2010 -- 4:09 pm

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Indie actor Mark Ruffalo says he found himself on the Pennsylvania Homeland Security office's terror watch list for organizing screening of an oil-drilling documentary.

According to the World Entertainment News Network, Ruffalo -- who has starred in such films as The Kids Are All Right, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Zodiac -- told GQ magazine he found it "pretty f--cking funny" that he would be suspected of terrorism for raising the alarm about what many say is an environmentally harmful way of drilling for oil and gas.

Ruffalo has been promoting GasLand, a documentary that focuses on hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." It's a process of drilling for oil and gas that involves pumping large amounts of water into a well to crack the rock under the ground, releasing the oil or gas. As energy prices rise and fossil fuels become scarcer, the practice has been growing in popularity.

The trailer for GasLand states that at least six states have documented some 1,000 incidents of groundwater pollution related to fracking. The documentary interviews people who say they suffered from neurological diseases and other conditions as a result of contaminated water.

The Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security appears to be at least as heavily focused on anti-oil and gas documentaries as it is on international terrorism. In October, it was revealed that the department had declared the documentary Coal Country to be a "potential catalyst for inspiring 'direct action' protests or even sabotage against facilities, machinery, and/or corporate headquarters."

A Pennsylvania activist Web site reported earlier this month that the department has been monitoring the Twitter feeds of known anti-war activists.



Alex Callinicos: Bonfire of Illusions

Marx Reloaded Trailer - Coming 2011

From Greece to France to UK to Ireland to Portugal

Portugal: the general strike and the tasks of the left


On November 24, the working class paralysed Portugal in a general strike against the latest austerity plan of the Socialist Party government.

Picket. Photo: Bloqo.
Portugal is one of the weakest links of European capitalism. After the Greek economy was put under the control of the European Union and the IMF in March, the pressure has increased on Ireland and Portugal. In fact, Ireland has just accepted the intervention of international economic agencies after falling prey to the blackmail of the financial markets. Portugal seems to be the next target. According to Barclays Capital, quoted by Diário de Notícias, it is likely that Portugal will have to be bailed out during the first months of 2011, with an approximate amount of 34 billion Euro, which represents 20% of Portuguese GDP. The budget deficit (9.6%) is less than the two digits figures of Greece, Ireland or Spain, but the Portuguese economy is in a critical state that invites attack by these financial sharks known euphemistically as "the markets". Public debt is near 85%, when EU rules only allow a 60% maximum, but the problem is that companies and individuals are heavily indebted , bringing total debt (public, corporate and household) to a staggering 223% of GDP. Portuguese risk premium peaked at 406 points, very close to the Irish and twice that of Spain. In addition, the latest unemployment rate figure just released is 10.9%, an historical high.

The vultures have smelled blood, and after winning over Ireland, international speculators are prepared to repeat the experience in Portugal, so they will increase their pressure. If this happens, it is highly likely that the EU, IMF and European Central Bank will impose a "rescue" plan which will mean the adoption of draconian austerity measures: cuts in public spending, cuts in pensions and wages of civil servants, higher taxes, and reforms to "liberalize" the economy. The problem is that these attacks, which places the burden of the crisis on the working class will only deepen the cuts already approved by the Portuguese government in successive adjustment plans since March. First was the so-called Stabilization and Growth Program (PEC), which envisaged the privatization of public assets, freezing the wages of civil servants and social spending cuts as well as tax increases and cuts in benefits. This plan soon proved to be insufficient in the eyes of the European bourgeoisie and the markets demanded more cuts. Thus, in May, coinciding with the plan of adjustment in Spain, the Socialist government of José Sócrates (ruling without an overall majority) was forced by the EU to raise taxes, especially VAT, in order to further reduce the deficit .But this was still not be enough and so the Portuguese Parliament, with the votes of the PS and the abstention of the right wing PSD, adopted on 3 November, as part of the budget for 2011, a new plan that cuts civil servant wages between 3.5 % and 10%, freezes pensions in 2011, slashes social spending and further increases VAT tax. These measures would lead to a sharp reduction in purchasing power in a country where the average wage is less than 800 Euro.

Airport workers on strike. Photo: CGTP
We are witnessing the acceptance by the Socialist Party government of the blackmail of speculative markets and their political agents in the EU. But the Portuguese trade unions have been pushed to the limit with these measures and have said enough is enough. They are refusing to collaborate in this dynamic in which only the workers pay. The UGT and CGTP reacted to the last package of measures with a call for a general strike on 24 November, the first joint strike in 22 years. The general strike had been prepared with a demonstration in Lisbon on November 7 which according to the unions saw 300,000 workers marching against cuts.

According to the unions, more than three million workers, out of a work force of 5.6 million, took part in the strike on November 24. Commuter trains, ferries that carry thousands of people on both sides of the Tajo river, buses and trams, were all paralysed. The Porto Metro closed down and in Lisbon only one line was open. Schools, universities and the justice system were brought to a standstill. But the most striking image of the strike was at the airports, where 90% of flights were cancelled. In the private sector, the strike was widely followed in the industrial hub of Palmela, where Autoeuropa, the massive Volkswagen factory is located, and in sectors such as cork production, engineering and energy. Manuel Carvalho da Silva, leader of the CGTP, the communist trade union, which represents a majority workers in Portugal, said:

“From now on we will be more demanding and strong in defending our demands such as the minimum wage, compliance with the agreements on defence of workers and the unemployed, and the demand for different policies.”

Other sectors, such as health care, also experienced high participation. In the case of nurses, during the night shift, participation in the strike was over 73%. Teachers also joined in, shutting down hundreds of schools, leaving thousands of students at home. Indeed, according to the teachers union, this was the largest participation ever of teachers in a strike. Even in areas such as call centre workers, mainly young and without trade union traditions, participation was 80%.

The Government, through the Minister of Labour, Helena André, gave very different figures, and assured journalists that only 20% of public employees had gone on strike, although she admitted that in some sectors such as transport had been almost totally paralysed. However, according to Spanish newspaper Público:

“Portuguese media refuted this official optimism, endorsing the figures given by the unions. The only that functioned where those required to by law as essential services, such as medical emergencies, energy, fire fighters and fuel and water supply, and the professions that are banned by law from striking, such as judges, parliamentarians, the military and the security forces.”

In a display of cynicism, the government accused the workers of making the country lose 500 million Euro. This statement is part of the discourse of fear and national unity, along the lines of, “we are all in this together and only together will we emerge from the crisis”. However, it has become clear that Portuguese workers, like the Greek, have broken radically with that idea. We have entered a stage at the European level where the class is entering the struggle with its own demands. So far, these demands have been mainly defensive in character with a view to preserve rights acquired in many decades of battles. But the Portuguese political scene has some interesting features compared to other European countries.

The Portuguese left

One of the most interesting features of Portugal is the existence of two strong parties to the left of social democracy, the Left Bloc (BE) and the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). Between the two they have 31 seats in parliament, 16 for the BE (9.8%) and 15 for the PCP (7.9%) obtained in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

The PCP is a party with strong roots in society, an important network of members in the factories and it plays a dominant role trade union movement through the CGTP. This is reflected in its municipal election results, where it get almost 10% of the vote. However, its leadership is very sectarian towards the ranks of the Socialist Party and other left organisations, which limits them in expanding its social base. But the movement itself imposes unity, as in the case of the general strike.

Bloco de Esquerda is a different kind of party. It comes from a fusion between Maoists, Trotskyists and the former Euro-Communist sector of the PCP in 1999. It has between 4000 and 7000 members (about 10% of the membership the PCP claims), and its trade union roots are much weaker, mainly amongst teachers. However, it has been shown capable of gathering the vote of important sectors of the Portuguese urban youth. Their results at national level have been very good, but they go down to 3% in the municipal elections. The Bloco has taken controversial decisions lately, such as voting in favor of the Greek rescue plan in the Portuguese parliament. Such decision cannot be justified, neither from a Marxist nor from an internationalist point of view, and seems completely illogical. Digging a little deeper, however, we can see that one of the problems that the BE has is its inability to transform its votes into actual members, which means an increasing dissociation between its rank and file and its parliamentary group, together with a growing electioneering orientation. Undoubtedly, there are two contradictory pressures within BE: a reformist one, oriented towards the parliamentary arena, which suffers heavily from the pressure of bourgeois public opinion, and a more radical one, from its voters, which are looking for an alternative to the pro-capitalist policies of the leadership of the PS and the Stalinism of the leadership of the PCP.

Another issue is the support for Alegre in the forthcoming Presidential Election. Alegre is a left-wing Socialist leader, who once opposed the leadership of the PS, but that has already gone back to supporting the pro-capitalist policies of the social democracy. The leadership of the Bloco has decided to support him in the upcoming presidential elections, with the excuse of avoiding the re-election of the right wing Cavaco Silva. Thus, the BE finds itself in a peculiar and contradictory political position: while raising the banner of not managing the system with the social democracy, it supports the same presidential candidate as the PS. This decision obviously has not sat well with the ranks of BE, least of all at a time when the PS leads the attack against the Portuguese working class. On the other hand it has to be said that the PCP was not exactly in favour of a joint left candidate: the leadership of both parties has failed in offering a united workers' alternative able of standing up to the bourgeoisie and its agents.

Louça, the BE leader, told Viento Sur:

“If one party participates in elections it must learn to exercise the mandates it obtains in an exemplary way, through its proposals, its ability to innovate, the attitude of its elected representatives, the consistency of the positions defended and loyalty to the program it proposed to the voters. It must demonstrate an ability generate conflicts and mobilizations on which the struggle can be developed. But by having elected officials and participating in the institutions is also learns and thanks to this the Bloco is now much stronger, it knows reality better and is actually even more prepared to carry out the struggle for hegemony in all areas.”

Have the parliamentary group of BE and its leaders been consistent with these words? Or do they know base themselves only on considerations of short term electoral gains? It is true that the BE has strongly supported the general strike, along with the PCP (their respective leaders even left the parliament to participate in the picket lines). BE also supported the censorship motion submitted by the PCP against the Socrates government and opposed PEC austerity plans. Their presence in the unions is weak, however, due to its lack of systematic orientation to the working class. Such an orientation is not a guarantee that an organization will wage a serious fight against capitalism (there are dozens examples, such as the Italian or French CPs ). The two factors must come together: correct ideas in the struggle against capitalism and an organized presence in the working class, the only force materially capable of putting these ideas into practice.

The enormous potential of the Portuguese left, and its tasks for the future

This situation in the Portuguese left, which is relatively strong compared to its counterparts in countries such as Spanish, is based on a politically very turbulent few years, where the presence of a social democratic government has not acted as a brake for working class mobilization, even if this government had broad electoral support. These movements began in 2006 and took the form of huge demonstrations against Sócrates, three in one year, with tens of thousands of demonstrators, culminating in a general strike against the government's policies. These demonstrations were called and organised by the CGTP. One of the factors that explain the roots of the PCP in the labour movement is its hegemony within the CGTP. The orientation of the PCP towards the labour movement expresses itself in the presence of Communist worker cadres in factories and workplaces. The importance of this fact is shown when organisation of demonstrations takes place, in the participation in picket lines, rallies, etc. This strong relationship between party and union is comparable to that of the KKE in Greece. Interestingly, these are the two Western Communist parties which broke with Euro-communism and have maintained working class traditions that have been mostly lost by other organisations of the communist and post-communist left, although at the expense of maintaining a Stalinist structure and ideology. In the case of the PCP this is true both of its internal regime as well as the distinction it makes between the supposedly “progressive bourgeoisie” and the reactionary one.

The trade union militancy has allowed the Portuguese left to arrive with great potential at the outbreak of crisis. This has been reflected both in the electoral front as well as in rank and file organisation, although in this regard, there is still a lot of work to be done. Above all, it needs to break with the idea that there is a way out of the crisis within capitalism. The BE and the PCP speak of "neoliberal capitalism", but the problem is not one kind of capitalism but the system itself.

The mobilizations and their continuity: for an internationalist solution

The example of the recent movements in France and Greece show that in the current situation is difficult to stop the adjustment and austerity plans and in general attacks on the working class. The objective economic situation pushes the capitalist ruling class to a policy of permanent austerity. The situation is compounded by the existence of the Euro which prevents each country from applying monetary policies more suited to their needs. The attacks of the "financial markets" against the weakest economies in the Euro area are a reflection of the impossibility of apply the same monetary policy to very different economies.

Under these conditions, in order to face the attacks of capitalism the trade union movement needs a serious strategy of struggle which increases the intensity of the movement. In the case of France we saw how the trade union leaders refused to call an indefinite general strike, which would have been the next logical step after a series of very militant national days of action. In the case of Greece we saw how calling for 24 hour general strikes one after another led to wearing down the movement. In Portugal, if the government makes no concessions after the November 24 general strike, the trade unions should raise the call for a new general strike, this time for 48 hours, accompanied by mass demonstrations in the streets to demonstrate the strength of the working class.

At the same time, we must break with the dynamics of nationally isolated struggles, raising the idea of European-wide mobilizations. This is a realistic perspective. The attacks are similar if not equal in most of the EU countries. The reasons are the same and also , the European Central Bank is playing a key role in the imposition of such adjustment programs.

Moreover, it is important that in these demonstrations, the Portuguese left adopts a program that emphasizes the idea that these attacks are the consequence of the crisis of the capitalist system and therefore require a genuinely socialist program to fight them. One cannot propose half-way measures such as the creation of a public banking sector, as a solution. Actually, this bank would be a financial appendix of the bourgeois states, and, as such, it would be, as they are, vulnerable to the blackmail of international capital. We need to raise the slogan of nationalization of the banking system as part of the struggle to stop the cuts.

The Portuguese left, forged in major mobilizations and with powerful loud speakers in Parliament, has a real chance of stopping the wave of attacks waged by the European bourgeoisie, with the complicity of the parasitic Portuguese bourgeoisie .The general strike on November 24 has helped the working class become aware of its strength and the role it can play in the future in an alliance with the European working class, raising again the banner of April 25 and its revolutionary traditions in order, as the song of Zeca Afonso says to "esganar a burguesia" ("destroy the ruling class").

From Greece to France to Ireland

Ireland: 100,000 march to the GPO


100,000 marched from Wood Quay to the GPO today in protest against the austerity measures outlined in the four year plan despite the cold wintery weather. A few even demonstrated in a curagh on the Liffey – the workers navy has arrived. Meanwhile the government are behind closed doors discussing the bailout package with the officials.

Photo lusciousblopster
The contradiction between the reasons for the crisis and the government’s so called solution is stark. On the one hand the bankers and the speculators – the so called risk takers, put us here, but the risk has been transferred onto the very people least able to take any more “risk”. The minimum wage is to be cut by €1 per hour which amounts to an 11.56% cut. It’s the sort of situation that people write songs about, which is convenient as Christie Moore himself was on hand.

There were dozens of trade union banners from SIPTU, Impact, INTO, TEEU and TUI among others and many home made placards in evidence also. It is clear that the political crisis has put the class struggle back on the agenda. The demonstrations against the pension levy in February last year and the demonstration on November 6th 2009 were of similar size, but this time the mood is different. The government is on the retreat and the stakes have been raised massively because of the intervention of the EU and the IMF.

Cowen and Lenihan have nowhere to hide, the by-election on Thursday illustrates that. Now, 95 years after the Easter Rising the choice of the GPO as the rallying point for the demonstration illustrates the anger in the state over the government being forced to go begging to Europe for a bailout. In an ex-colonial country like Ireland the memory of foreign rule runs deep.

But the crisis in Ireland is a crisis of Capitalism and it falls most heavily on the working class. That’s why there are big demonstrations like this, and that’s why the FF and the Greens are going to get banjaxed in the forthcoming election. But central to the struggle against the austerity and the cuts has to be the trade union movement and particularly its leadership. Whilst the trade union leaders made some important speeches today, what they do tomorrow is the important thing.

Photo: lusciousblopster
The cuts outlined in the four year plan will re-emerge in the budget. The trade union leaders have a huge responsibility to defend the public services and their members. The days of the Celtic Tiger have long passed now. The idea that somehow “Social Partnership” can resolve the problem has been shown to be an illusion. Everytime the trade union leaders and the government have entered talks they’ve collapsed because of the scale of the crisis. Now the Croke Park Deal is under threat although the government has tried to avoid a direct conflict for now, no doubt for fear of the reaction to further wage cuts. The government intends to “fully implement” the deal, which means attacks on services and workers conditions. The four year plan includes cuts in wages for new entrants into the public sector. This is an attack on the Deal via the back door. But it’s also an attack on young people, at a time when emigration is on the rise and unemployment is over 400,000.

The movement has to campaign to defeat the cuts and drive the government out of office. The demonstration today shows the extent of worker’s anger. But the next step should be to galvanise the movement against the cuts into a 24 hour general strike encompassing private and public sector workers together. As the placards said today Fianna Failed. Now’s the time to drive them out.

Source: Fightback (Ireland)

Photo: lusciousblopster
Photo: lusciousblopster
Photo: William Murphy

The bitter fruits of "Anybody But Bush" politics



Pessimism Porn: Chris Hedges's New Book Is a Depressing Journey Into the Liberal Mind
Chris Hedges's new book, The Death of the Liberal Class (Nation Books, November, 2010) exemplifies the limits of the liberal elite in critiquing itself, its double bind as it responds to the American state going haywire on empire, human rights, and capitalism. Exiled from his former position of privilege at the New York Times, Hedges has been busy impersonating past American Jeremiahs. Yet Hedges's narrative of "dissent" itself is the essence of failed liberalism.

Liberals are retreating farther and farther into defeatism, conspiracy theory, emotional darkness, and tunnel vision. Hedges's progression from War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002) to American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2007) to Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009) to The Death of the Liberal Class (2010) represents the sorry spectacle of the boundaries of American liberalism in confronting horrors not included in its official creed.

Hedges's background as the son of a Presbyterian minister, and his sojourn at Harvard Divinity School, are the keys to his thought; religion always pulls him, even as he bemoans its abuse at the hands of the morally obtuse. Reinhold Niebuhr, the Christian realist who became virulently anti-communist and supported both World War II and the Cold War, is the most important influence on Hedges; Niebuhr's theological pessimism has been a dominant influence on post-World War II leaders, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (as Jesus was George W. Bush's favorite philosopher, so Niebuhr is Obama's favorite).

In War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, Hedges told us that the sensory quality of war belies our images of heroism and bravery. Having been a frontline reporter in war zones, Hedges felt qualified to offer the insight that war hollows out culture, as leaders mobilize nationalist myth to support aggression. Hedges reported from the Balkans and Central America, but felt no need to make the connection between American empire and the ravages of war. War is taken as an existential, depressing, unavoidable force.

Hedges tends to stay a couple of steps behind. When the Bush years were nearly over, in American Fascists he explained that there was no way to talk to Christian fundamentalists, and that the real danger was that in a time of economic crisis they may find broader footing. When the last wars of American empire had already peaked, in Empire of Illusion Hedges gave us a gloss on Daniel Boorstin's mid-twentieth-century insight that politics has become media spectacle; Boorstin's pseudo-event is the only way for politics to advance.

In Empire of Illusion, Hedges put together a compendium of the fully assimilated thought of Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Umberto Eco, Neal Gabler, Aldous Huxley, Walter Lippmann, C. Wright Mills, Ortega y Gassett, George Orwell, Neil Postman, David Riesman, and William H. Whyte. Like an eager but not very bright graduate student, he compiled the pessimistic thought of twentieth-century critics of mass culture, and applied it to contemporary case studies like Barack Obama's election, professional wrestling, and happiness studies.

Note the consistent, growing, Niebuhrian strand of pessimism: war is inevitable; Christian fundamentalists are beyond the pale of discourse; there is no escape from the tyranny of media.

Empire of Illusion seemed to promise a coming synthesis, a semblance of an original argument. In fact, Hedges has crashed and burned in The Death of the Liberal Class. He founders on this shallow proposition:

The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions--the pillars of the liberal class--have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power.

The institutions of the liberal class have been bought off? Instead of any historical analysis of these institutions, Hedges insinuates that in some golden age they were resistant to being bought by the highest bidder. What are the social forces that compel institutions to compromise? Have unions ever been as exalted in America as they have been in Europe? Not being an atheist like Christopher Hitchens, Hedges accepts the church as an indispensable pillar of the liberal class. We live and die by the two parties, neither of which has a coherent class critique, unlike political parties in Europe. As for the arts, Hedges hankers for a public support system encouraging the arts to instruct us about the misery of workers. Does Hedges know where to look for radical art?

The so-called pillars of the liberal class are fundamentally anti-oppositional, at times shifting by degrees but remaining essentially pro-state, pro-corporation, pro-war, pro-capitalism.

Hedges claims that "Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class struggle and filled with members who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated junior partners of the capitalist class."

Like other populist-liberal commentators, Hedges lacks a theory of economics. At heart, he's a nationalist, as is true of our most vocal liberal critics today. They're uncomfortable with the gains of globalization for the rising economies of the world; they've bought into the dogma that advances for other countries necessarily diminish us; they've left behind the basic doctrines of comparative advantage and free trade, and become advocates of various forms of barriers and borders. It's become unfashionable to advocate free movement of labor and capital. While Hedges criticizes Christian fundamentalists for having adopted a fearful mindset, he shows himself no less fearful--toward what globalization portends for American economic dominance.

Globalization benefited enormous numbers of people in the 1990s and 2000s, however, and the world is not likely to retreat from it, even if America is having second thoughts. Can unions be mobilized around the concerns of the past when most workers are in the information/service economy rather than in the industrialized trades? This is more difficult than accusing union leaders of treason.

Lacking a consistent ideology, Hedges is in two minds about the alleged death of the liberal class: "Ironically, in killing off the liberal class, the corporate state, in its zealous pursuit of profit, has killed off its most integral and important partner." Hedges desires the resurrection of the liberal class which was complicit in bringing us to the point of ruin. He claims that the liberal class served the function of a valve, but if the valve was small, ineffective, and perverse, why should we lament its closure?

In a functioning democracy, liberal institutions set the parameters for limited self-criticism as well as small, incremental reforms. The liberal class is permitted to decry the worst excesses of power and champion basic human rights while endowing systems of power with morality and virtues they do not possess.

Is there a separate liberal class such as Hedges posits, or is it a convenient narrative hook--another "us" versus "them" mythology, the result of shallow, ahistorical thought? Hedges says:

Dick Cheney and George W. Bush may be palpably evil while Obama is merely weak, but to those who seek to keep us in a state of permanent war, such distinctions do not matter.... The liberal class...can no longer influence a society in a state of permanent war and retreats into its sheltered enclaves, where its members can continue to worship itself.

Who are "those" who want to keep us permanently at war? Are they separate from the liberal class? Did the liberal class--before George W. Bush--not endorse the first Persian Gulf War, or the Balkan wars? Hedges himself is a prime example of a member of the liberal class who has retreated into a sheltered enclave, where he continues to idealize his own unstinting moral rectitude. Shortly before Bush assumed power, this brand of liberal defeatism told us--as in Morris Berman's The Twilight of American Culture--that liberals should disengage from public life, and be like the medieval monks who preserved knowledge for future generations.

Hedges presents himself as being an exile from the corridors of power he previously frequented at the New York Times--his commencement speech after the start of the Iraq War brought on his personal apocalypse--but as his acknowledgments testify, he remains the beneficiary of the largesse of the same liberal class whose demise he loudly proclaims (generous funding from the Nation Institute, the Ford Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, etc.).

Certain vocal environmentalists are also in the habit of advocating retreat from civilization. The righteous should await inevitable collapse due to overpopulation, resource exhaustion, and catastrophic climate change. They may want to get some farmland in Vermont while they're at it, for a possible future in subsistence farming. Hedges fits right into this strain of thinking; it's individualism run amok, in fact, the backup plan for the lone moral individual when the lights go out on civilization.

The upward transfer of wealth, the demolition of civil liberties, and the rampant nationalism supporting permanent war are entirely valid criticisms. But what principled philosophy do these thoughts hang around? Criticism of social injustice becomes numbing if its various dimensions are repeated as facts in themselves, not connected together. So Hedges draws on Noam Chomsky, Sheldon Wolin, Denis Kucinich, and anyone else with a handy opinion about propaganda and war. He ends up mythologizing corporations as omnipotent behemoths over whom citizens have no control. The corporations, in fact, are us, aren't they? Who do the vast majority of us work for?

Euphemisms (which always imply lack of clarity) are rampant among the liberal class. Hedges is particularly fond of Sheldon Wolin's "inverted totalitarianism," which "finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state" rather than revolving around a charismatic leader. Rather than theorists like Immanuel Wallerstein, Tzvetan Todorov, David Harvey, Ulrich Beck, or Slavoj Zizek, Hedges relies on Wolin, who explains that we give up power voluntarily. This tautology promotes passivity. Someone else is doing it to us, by means of propaganda. When the means of propaganda were rather rudimentary, in Orwell's time, it made sense to depict the apparatus as an external omnipresent entity; when this reality has become fully realized, it no longer makes sense to speak of it as a hidden force manipulating us. Today, we happily give up privacy for transparently false promises of security. Where is the corporate state's sleight of hand in that?

Similarly, Hedges's focus on mass culture would have had more resonance when Edward Bernays and Dwight MacDonald were first fleshing out the ideas at mid-century; it was a force only then emerging. Now anyone empowered enough makes his own contribution to mass culture, particularly through the Internet. If spectacle leads to illusion, it also leads to fulfillment. Thus movies were the twentieth century's dominant art form, reflecting a continuous schism between the repressive and the expressive, a dream world split right down the ambiguous middle, opening possibilities for hidden talents within all of us. Movies are democracy at work. Hedges, however, betrays his Niebuhrian darkness when he says:

Liberal and radical movements at the turn of the twentieth century subscribed to the fiction that human diligence, moral probity, and reform, coupled with advances in science and technology, could combine to create a utopia on earth.

This is the dream of the enlightenment; Hedges is anti-humanist when he expresses the technocrat-manager-stakeholder's skepticism toward the dream of reason. Hedges's discomfort with utopia comes from the American liberal class's lack of access to any coherent ideology of class. Therefore, Hedges is compelled to seek refuge in a mythical image of intellectual liveliness that never was: "Intellectual debate, once a characteristic of the country's political discourse, withered" (in the 1920s). Was it robust and rigorous before the 1920s? The interwar years were some of our best for intellectual discourse, and it's revealing that Hedges would pick the period of high modernist achievement as the beginning of intellectual decline. But it fits into his template of the history of mass communications, so he dates it then.

On the arts, Hedges is utterly misinformed. Hedges ignorantly misinterprets the 1930s. Art does not need the sponsorship of the liberal class; arguably, art does best under conditions of general indifference, or even repression. Hedges actually admires examples of propaganda theater! Proletarian literature of the 1930s is mostly a forgettable product; Hedges has no aesthetic sense, and if a play or novel depicts class conflict directly, then that constitutes worthwhile art for him. About the Federal Theatre Project, Hedges notes: "It was the high point of American theater." He endorses Sinclair Lewis's didactic, deeply flawed It Can't Happen Here, because its ideas are politically significant. Hedges invariably mistakes pedestrian protest in art for the real thing, the avant-garde; thus his dismissal: "Abstract painting emerged as the artistic expression of this sterile form of rebellion, an outgrowth of the apolitical absurdist and Dada movements." Art makes the highest political statement not when it directly transcribes political discourse, but when it is saturated by a higher political vision--what Hedges, like Niebuhr, would call utopia.

In their disdain for the counterculture, liberal and conservative critics have much in common; a puritan streak of repression, a suspicion of the Dionysian instinct, comes through. Hedges says:

Protest in the 1960s found its ideological roots in the disengagement championed earlier by Beats such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs.... The counterculture of the 1960s, like the commodity culture, lured adherents inward. It set up the self as the primary center of concern.
Politics as spectacle is a half-century-old criticism that has outlived its usefulness. All ideas operate in the media environment now. So when Hedges says that with the counterculture, "dissent became another media spectacle," he's reverting to a venerable tradition in American liberalism of blaming the medium itself. When we blame the omnipotent medium, we signify the end of active citizenship. In a familiar criticism, Hedges castigates the New Left for abandoning doctrinal rigor: "The New Left of the 1960s turned out to be a mirage.... The left and the right played their roles before the cameras. Politics was theater." But media constantly evolves. What about the new media? Hedges discounts the capacity of art to exceed the bounds of media spectacle.


He goes on to echo the common criticism that Marxist critics have become coopted by literature and humanities departments, as multiculturalism has become an end in itself. Whether it's pessimism toward politics as spectacle or the absurdities of identity politics, Hedges fails to provide any positive vision--a convincing counterpoint to Bush's ludicrious "freedom agenda." Past critics of liberalism from within the tradition, such as Orwell, were committed to a set of social principles. Criticism without political commitment is an exercise in futility. When Hedges says about the media that the "pernicious reduction of the public to the role of spectators denies the media, and the public they serve, a political role," he underestimates the capacity of citizens to reshape the media landscape according to their needs. Hedges is so busy criticizing elite institutions that he has no time for citizens.

Artistic expression today, Hedges holds, "is sustained by a system of interlocking, exclusive guilds," and "those who insist on remaining independent of these guilds...are locked out." True enough, but Hedges seems to yearn for the dominance of the right guild--made up of print-oriented, media-decrying, puritan artists who'll humanize art by making it aspire to the state of politics.

In checking off all of today's bad guys, Hedges can't resist the easiest of all targets, globalization. It's here that liberal critics appear at their most foolish. Hedges says:

By the time the touted benefits of globalization...were exposed as a sham, it was too late. The liberal class had driven critics of this utopian fiction from their midst.... [The liberal class] abetted the decline of the middle class.... It has permitted, in the name of progress, the dismantling of the manufacturing sector, leaving huge pockets of postindustrial despair and poverty behind.

So globalization is utopian fiction too? Wanting to perpetuate globally uncompetitive manufacturing is like calling for the majority of people to have remained in the agriculture sector a hundred years ago. Workers in poorer countries are on the whole better off because of globalization; the United States needs to be more nimble in moving to higher planes of manufacturing and services. It's intellectual deceit to call globalizaton a "sham." Hundreds of millions of people moving out of poverty in China and India is a sham?

Globalization, at its best, is an embodiment of the utopian ideal of freedom, but Hedges has difficulty accepting the consequences of freedom. There will always be winners and losers, but what is not sustainable is obsolete manufacturing--such as old Detroit--because it leaves consumers everywhere poorer in the long run. How is Germany, for example, adapting to globalization? If Hedges were to address this question, he would have to enter the substance of economics, and then, instead of lamenting the departure of Marxist critics to the humanities departments, he would have to weigh the pros and cons of redistributive economic policy.

Like other liberal critics today, Hedges betrays his regressive patriotism in his nostalgia for the American middle class before the economic shocks of the 1970s. Always the clarion call is to rejuvenate the old middle-class--with its safe pensions and affordable mortgages--never to alleviate the difficulties of the working class. Is Hedges going to call for any substantive economic policies to alleviate the pain of the indigent, including immigrants? Universal health care and universal college education? His brand of cultural critique--"the half-baked ideas of globalism" and of the "new world order"--overlooks the pragmatic choices facing working people.

Hedges's contradictions reach a crescendo in his fruitless search for a neat conclusion. He quotes Father Daniel Berrigan: "It is very rare to sustain a movement in recognizable form without a spiritual basis of some kind." Those of us without spiritual leanings are out of the preferred class. He may hate the media, and especially the New York Times which fired him, but he keeps emphasizing how crucial print newspapers are for democracy. He yearns for the good old days when the liberal class--church, media, Democratic party, universities--consisted of moralists not yet deformed by the heretic ideas of globalism and counterculturalism.

At one point--about when you'd expect him to seize you by the lapel and announce his grand doctrine--he suggests, in the context of radical social change, his plan of action:

Out of this contact [between the liberal class and the poor] we can resurrect, from the ground up, a social ethic, a new movement. We must hand out bowls of soup. Coax the homeless into a shower. Make sure those who are mentally ill, cruelly cast out on city sidewalks, take their medication.

In other words, benevolence and charity from the privileged liberal class toward the unfortunate others. This turns out to be a very conservative, incremental, and personalized message, for such a dire analysis.

Hedges's myopic, melancholy, self-righteous, elitist, detached, uncommitted, ultimately apolitical jeremiad, familiar from a century of American political discourse, has little traffic with structural explanations. The question should be, What is the prescription for the ordinary citizen to become guardian of his own moral role? Demonizing corporations is easy--they're the target du jour. Demonizing lobbyists is even easier.

Liberals need to answer, for their critique to have any meaning, these questions: Are they for or against globalization? And they can't hedge the answer by saying they're for "globalization with a human face," or some such fuzzy logic. Are they for unrestricted trade and capital flows and human mobility or not? If not, what do they propose in its place? Are they for media freedom, an unwavering stance on free speech, and if not, why not? Are they for or against empire? If they're against empire, then they should propose how to dismantle it. They can't be against empire, and yet be for "humanitarian intervention" (what gives America the right to be the world's policeman?), since this is the rubric used to justify every kind of war--the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were meant to free Afghans and Iraqis.

The idea has been sold since the end of World War II by a certain class of American intellectual that utopia is a myth, that it leads inevitably to barbarism. In fact, utopia lies behind all progress. The enlightenment was utopian. Science is utopian. But like other environmental apocalyptics, Hedges even lays the environmental catastrophe, about whose imminent arrival he has no doubts, right at the feet of the enlightenment:

The fantasy that Enlightenment rationality will dominate human activity has collapsed before the brutal truth that those who seek to exploit human beings and nature commit collective suicide.... The death spiral, which will wipe out whole sections of the human race, demands a return to a radical militancy that asks the uncomfortable question of whether it is time to break laws that, if followed, ensure our annihilation.

So he's on the verge of calling for illegal actions to ward off the calamity, but of course he immediately backs off: "The fantasy of widespread popular revolts and mass movements breaking the hegemony of the corporate state is just that--a fantasy." If Hedges even hinted otherwise, he would be unlikely to get the generous funding of the institutions of the allegedly defunct liberal class for his books.

Hedges shows that it's possible to dumb resistance down to nothing:

Access to parcels of agricultural land will be paramount.... Music, art, poetry, journalism, literature, dance, and the humanities, including the study of philosophy and history, will be the bulwarks that separate those who remain human from those who become savages. Why must resistance take these small, incremental forms? Because we stand on the verge of one of the bleakest periods in human history, when the bright lights of civilization blink out and we will descend for decades, if not centuries, into barbarity.

This is straight out of James Howard Kunstler's fictions of catastrophe. Better throw in the economic catastrophists too--taking Nouriel Roubini, Naomi Klein, and Paul Krugman to extreme conclusions:

Once China and the oil-rich states begin to walk away from our debt, which one day has to happen, interest rates will skyrocket.... This is when inflation, most likely hyperinflation, will turn the dollar into junk. And at that point the entire system, beset as well by environmental chaos, breaks down.

Also throw in Jared Diamond, and a grim Malthusian pessimism:

Collapse this time around will be global. We will disintegrate together. And there is no way out. The ten-thousand-year experiment of settled life is about to come to a crashing halt.

There are environmentalists today who refute the gains of the Green Revolution and advocate a return to subsistence farming. Hedges echoes them:

If we build small, self-contained structures, ones that do as little harm as possible to the environment, we can perhaps weather the collapse.

In all this, Hedges reveals himself as a righteous member of the Brahmin class, unwilling to soil himself with commercial activity (the working class actually has to earn a living), positive thought, or inorganic foods. What does resistance consist of?

No act of resistance is useless, whether it is refusing to pay taxes, fighting for a Tobin tax, working to shift the neoclassical economics paradigm, revoking a corporate charter, holding global Internet votes, or using Twitter to catalyze a chain reaction of refusal against the neoliberal order.

He's throwing words around, hoping something will stick. How many of these acts of "resistance" (tweeting, Internet votes, refusing neoclassical economics) are open to average people? This anti-democratic message appropriates agency for the privileged alone. I'm waiting for Hedges to refuse to pay taxes as he gives up his fellowships and searches for self-fulfillment in the wilderness. But Hedges has preempted his own resistance. By no longer being part of the New York Times, he's searching for "moral autonomy," as a member of the "underclass." That's some underclass! He's been banished by one form of print culture! Borrowing from Neil Postman, Neal Gabler, and Russell Jacoby, Hedges says:

The death of the liberal class has been accompanied by a shift from a print-based culture to an image-based culture.... It has been supplanted by the wildfire anything-goes of the blogosphere, the social media universe, and cable television.

In the future, resistance will only be possible as long as one is "wedded to the complexity of print." And print is dead, so resistance is dead (except when Hedges publishes his own books). Moreover, the complex print people must be paid handsomely (echoes of Mark Helprin and Jaron Lanier):

The Internet, held out by many as a new panacea, is accelerating the cultural decline.... This means financial ruin for journalists, academics, musicians, and artists. Creative work too often is released for free to Web providers who use it as bait for corporate advertising.... The great promise of the Internet--to open up dialogue, break down cultural barriers, promote democracy, and unleash innovation and creativity--is yet another utopian dream.

Apparently, all of us Internet users have switches inside us, determining whether we behave as 'individuals or members of a mob"--as per Lanier. So the Internet is just an instrument of control. While the rest of us--who were never part of the liberal class to begin with--are mere switches, people like Hedges are the true dissidents. In a passage of grandiose delusion, he identifies with Vaclav Havel's description of his dissident status:

You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.

Can we have some joy back in liberalism? Some acceptance of risk, some objective valuation of danger, some appreciation of anarchy? We don't need elegies for the dead liberal class--we don't need to mythologize it. Hedges talks about how "important radical movements are for the vitality of the liberal class." This rather sounds like Arthur Schlesinger's "vital center," absorbing and coopting the more moderate possibilities of movement politics. I call this pessimism porn.

John Rees | Imperialism in the age of crisis | Marxism 2008

New advance in growing movement to free the Scott Sisters


Media’s “Discovery” of the Scott Sisters

Links:
[1] http://mije.org/
[2] http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/11/20/1935670/taking-11-fails-to-justify-life.html
[3] http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/2226
[4] http://www.freethescottsisters.blogspot.com/
[5] http://freethescottsisters.blogspot.com/search?q=%22%22Slavery+in+Mississippi+has+changed+names%22
[6] http://nancylockhart.blogspot.com/
[7] http://www.blackcommentator.com/300/300_mississippi_vs_scott_lockhart_guest.html
[8] http://solitarywatch.com/about/for-jamie-scott-an-11-robbery-in-mississippi-may-carry-a-death-sentence/
[9] http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/05/jamie-scotts-letter-prison
[10] http://www.michaelbaisden.com/tools/podcast/player.php?file=all-natural-thursday/ant_hr3_a_10282010.mp3&title=All%20Natural%252%200Thursday%20Hr%203%20%2010.28.201
[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/opinion/12herbert.html?_r=1&ref=bobherbert
[12] http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.freethescottsisters.comso#%21/StandingwiththeScottSisters
[13] http://www.blogher.com/social-media-takes-freeing-scott-sisters-mississippi?page=full
[14] http://nems360.com/pages/full_story/push?article-M-+SCOTT+MORRIS-+Cheap+shot+doesn-t+help-case-+Herbert%20&id=10020686
[15] http://www.newsweek.com/blogs/the-gaggle/2010/03/11/left-wing-pardon-me-governor-barbour.html
[16] http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_7044.shtml
[17] http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/1961-freedom-riders-call-for-prisoners-release-105761698.html
[18] http://thedailyvoice.com/voice/2010/11/mississippi-goddam-free-the-sc-1-002670.php
[19] http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/10/haley-barbour-will-decide-fate-scott-sisters
[20] http://www.addtoany.com/share_save?linkurl=http%3A%2F%2Fblackagendareport.com

Movement to free imprisoned Scott sisters - WLBT 3 - Jackson, MS:

Movement to free imprisoned Scott sisters - WLBT 3 - Jackson, MS:


Jackson attorney and City Councilman Chokwe Lumumba will soon deliver 24,000 additional petitions and support letters to Governor Haley Barbour in an effort to secure the release of two imprisoned sisters.

Lumumba represents Jamie and Gladys Scott. He claimed the two women were unfairly punished for an armed robbery in Scott County in 1993.

Wednesday, the Jackson attorney told reporters the state parole board is reviewing the case.

Lumumba said, "It appears that the governor and or the parole board have taken some affirmative steps to at least investigate our petition and we expect an answer in the near future."

The petitions for clemency were signed by people from across the United States. The Scott sisters have been incarcerated for almost 17 years.

They received double life sentences for an armed robbery in which Lumumba claimed only $11 dollars was taken from the victim. The sisters did not have a prior criminal history.

John Rees - Coalition Of Resistance National Organising Conference 27.11.10

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