Thursday, April 22, 2010

The is what democracy looks like - The people in arms in Venezuela

Venezuelan students organised in the Bolivarian Militia.

This is what democracy looks like

A common chant around the world when people take to the streets against the crimes of the global capitalist system is: "This is what democracy looks like!"

It is a statement that real democracy is on the streets, in the united action of ordinary people. It is a statement that democracy is more than passive voting once every few years, it is popular power and direct participation.

April 13, 2002 in Caracas, Venezuela was the scene of a powerful expression of popular power. The poor majority and much of the armed forces rose up and overthrew a coup-installed dictatorship. Elected President Hugo Chavez was restored to power.

In Caracas on April 13, 2010, a large demonstration occurred that gives further meaning to the slogan. What occurred on the streets of Caracas that day was indeed what democracy looks like - a march by tens of thousands of Venezuelan people organised in the Bolivarian militias.

There were battalions of workers, peasants, students, the urban poor organised in social missions - all organised from the grassroots.

This was a dramatic demonstration of the "People in Arms".

This is a crucial part of democratising a society - breaking the hold over the potential for armed violence of small, highly organised professional bodies governed with tight discipline from the top down by privileged castes in the interests of the powerful.

The monopoly over violence by the powerful gives them the permanent potential to terrorise the powerless.

A “people in arms” is a people you think twice before fucking with. A people in arms cannot be easily subdued.

You only need to look at the brutal response by large landowners in Venezuela to the government's land reform policy to see the significance of this question. Since 2001, more than 200 peasant activists have been murdered, without the existing institutions stopping the bloodshed. No one has been brought to justice for these crimes.

Now, the peasants are being organised into armed detachments - as peasant organisations themselves have been demanding.

Peasant battalion in the Bolivarian Militia, April 13.

Organising the oppressed in such a way is a defensive measure to prevent the sort of coup that occurred in 2002, in which more than 60 unarmed protesters were murdered on the streets and supporters of Chavez were hunted down.

It is also a preventative measure against a US invasion or a US-sponsored invasion by, for instance, neighbouring Colombia.

When the US imperialists and Chilean capitalists organised a military coup against the elected left-wing Chilean government of Salvador Allende in 1973, a reign of terror was carried out with thousands slaughtered. On the back of the mass slaughter of militant workers, vicious neoliberalism was imposed.

This bloody example showed the need to do just what is happening in Venezuela - the arming of the people.

In Venezuela, there is a popular revolution that is still very much developing and seeking to advance. Capital still holds much power. It still controls significant sectors of the economy and has much power within the state.

The pro-poor policies of the Chavez government have helped raise the poor majority up and begun to create alternative structures. But much of capital’s economic power remains intact.

There are important steps forward in recuperating sections of industry. There are important experiments in popular power and ongoing attempts to strengthen these and create new institutions based directly on the organised people.

The most important are the communal councils and the communes (based on elected representatives from the communal councils, which are also experimenting with creating a "communal economy" in which the communes take control over production and distribution in their areas).

The struggle to implement workers' control, or other forms of workers' participation in management, in important state industries is resulting in important steps forward. This is a struggle to weaken and defeat the corrupt counter-revolutionary bureaucracy that still controls much of the state and sabotages the revolution's plans.

But it is all partial and still in the realm of experiments to find a way forward. There are important sectors of the broad-based Bolivarian movement that are hostile to serious attacks on capital and frustrate attempts to develop genuine popular power. It is not possible to advance decisively without ongoing struggle within the Bolivarian movement.

An important battlefield of this internal class struggle is the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) – the mass party led by Chavez that was formed in 2007.

Will it be a revolutionary vehicle that organises the most conscious and militant sectors in the communities and workplaces to push the revolution forward (as Chavez insists it must be)?

Or will it be dominated by more moderate, bureaucratic sectors as a vehicle for their interests, for advancement of individuals and competing power blocs fighting over the spoils of power (as Chavez’s old party, the MVR, was)?

This fight is occurring now. The right-wing has a lot of organisational power within the PSUV, but the political initiative lies with Chavez, who pushes leftwards, towards strengthening the bases.

At the founding congress in 2008, which right-wing sectors largely had organisational control over, these forces argued the provisional PSUV program should limit itself to “anti-imperialism” rather than be explicitly anti-capitalist.

Delegates rejected this and adopted a draft program and declaration of principles that calls for a thorough-going socialist revolution – in Venezuela and the world.

The problem facing the revolution is not simply from above, but also from below - in a related way. In particular, a major block is the fact that the organised workers' movement is too weak in Venezuela. It is divided, organises too little of the working class and the level of consciousness is too low.

This cannot be overcome by a government decree or a speech by Chavez. It can only be overcome through the many struggles breaking out to advance the interests of the working class.

This weakness in the revolutionary movement makes it hard to push forward decisively. Also, it leaves a vacuum within the Chavista movement that is filled by more right-wing and bureaucratic sectors.

But it is a live question, an ongoing struggle. How can you develop the working class except through the direct involvement of the working class in all aspects of the struggle to transform society?

This is the significance of the struggle for workers' control - and why it is resisted so fiercely by privileged bureaucrats. It creates a school for workers to develop, learn and transform themselves from a passive and narrowly-interested sector into active, organised, revolutionary actors.

The ongoing power of capital and bureaucratic sectors creates deep-going problems, with the government often unable to get its policies implemented. There is economic sabotage by corrupt state managers and private capitalists. This poses big struggles in the near future.

The Bolivarian militia is partial itself - it is uneven. Some communities and sectors are organised and others aren't. It is still relatively new.

But the demonstration of April 13 is a very powerful one. It shows the revolution is strengthening itself from the ground up. It shows the growing power of the oppressed.

It sends a powerful message: You don't fuck with the Venezuelan people.

This is what democracy looks like.

Below is a powerful eyewitness account by British socialist Alan Woods of this dramatic demonstration. The photos are by Kiraz Janicke, a member of the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau.

* * *

The People in Arms

By Alan Woods,

Eight years ago something occurred that has no precedent in the history of Latin America. The reactionary coup of 11 April, in which the Venezuelan oligarchy, in collaboration with the US Embassy and the CIA, overthrew the democratically elected government, was defeated by a spontaneous uprising of the masses.

On that day history was made. Ordinary men and women came onto the streets, risking their lives to defend the Bolivarian Revolution. With no party, no leadership and no clear perspectives other than to defeat the coup, the workers, peasants, and revolutionary youth, women and men, young and old, marched in their thousands to the gates of the Miraflores Palace to demand the release of President Chávez. The soldiers went over to the side of the people, and the coup collapsed.

These heroic events can only be compared to Barcelona in July 1936, when the workers, armed with old hunting rifles, clubs and anything they could lay their hands on, stormed the barracks and smashed the fascist reactionaries. If anybody doubts that this was a genuine revolution, they have only to study the events of April 2002.

In past years these events have been turned into a celebration of the Revolution. The Bolivar Avenue in downtown Caracas was a sea of red shirts and waving banners. But this year the scene was quite different to what I remember. Instead of a sea of red, Bolivar Avenue was filled to overflowing with a sea of camouflage green. This was the Day of the People’s Militia – a demonstration of the power of a people in arms.

The militias marching, April 13.

As you walked along the Avenue the files of militiamen and militiawomen (there were many women also in uniform) seemed to have no end. Here once again one could sense the unconquerable power of the masses. But now there was a different element. Here were thousands upon thousands of workers from the factories, peasants from the villages, and young kids from the schools and colleges, expressing their willingness to fight, arms in hand, to defend the Revolution against enemies – both external and internal.

Under a blazing sun, the people massed – the usual red shirts of the chavistas alongside the green-clad militia. Along the Avenue the loudspeakers blared out revolutionary slogans: against imperialism, against the bourgeoisie, for the Revolution, for socialism, and for Chávez: “The Right is still preparing another 11 April, but now the People have arms! Long live the Bolivarian Revolution! Long live the Armed People! Long live President Chávez!”

People climbed trees and lampposts to get a better view and to display placards with militant slogans, while some made a quick profit selling hats, tee-shirts and cold drinks (which were much in demand). There was a deafening roar of music – Latin American rhythms with revolutionary words, interrupted by chants and slogans. The militia was organized by groups that showed their origins: young teenagers from the schools and peasants with straw hats and tractors with Belarus written on the side.

To the rear, the militia was unarmed, but as one approached the head of the demonstration, everyone was holding a Russian-made AK-47, that most versatile and effective weapon, light and easy to use.

Students from the national armed forces university march with AK-47s

In recent years Chávez has bought large quantities of these weapons from Russia. Washington and its hired media have made a tremendous fuss, alleging that these guns are destined for the FARC guerrillas in Colombia. Now everyone can see what they are really intended for.

As they wait for the arrival of the President, the militias stand listlessly, or sit on the ground to eat a sandwich. Some rest on their rifles, and one or two even had the muzzle of their AK-47s resting on their boot – a somewhat risky practice, one would have thought. In fact a professional drill sergeant would doubtless have a heart attack, looking at these half-trained civilians with guns.

Militia members relax with their guns.

But this impression would be entirely false. These militias are the lineal descendants of the Cuban guerrillas, of the militias that fought Franco in the Spanish Civil War, of the workers´ militias that overthrew the Tsar in Russia in 1917, and if we go even further back in history, of the armies of the French Revolution and the militias of the American Revolution in the 18th century.

None of these were professional forces and they did not conform to the standards of a professional bourgeois standing army. But they did not fight any the less well for that, and in more than one case (Spain comes to mind) the attempt to force them into the format of a professional army had the most negative effects on their fighting spirit.

Late in the afternoon, a mood of expectancy can be noticed. The militia begins to form ranks. The crowd on the pavements pushes forward to catch a glimpse of their hero. Chávez appears, dressed in army uniform, riding on the back of an open vehicle – an ordinary army truck – saluting and waving to the militia and the crowd. The militia marches forward towards the tribune where Chávez is to deliver his speech.

His speech was shorter than in the past, but went straight to the point. Recalling the dramatic events of April 2002, he pulls out a magnificent sword and shows it to the multitude. It is the sword of Simon Bolivar – El Libertador (The Liberator). He tells the people that the liberation of Latin America has not been achieved for 200 years and can only be achieved through socialist revolution.

In the kind of dramatic gesture that is characteristic of him, he makes the people swear a sacred oath: that they will never rest until this task is accomplished. The militias repeat the words loudly, holding their rifles in the air. “The militia is the People, and the People is the militia,” he proclaims.

Then Chávez recounts the events of April 2002, from the fascist coup of 11 April to the popular-military uprising of 13 April. “I have been thinking a lot about this,” he says. “Ever since the 1970s, some people have been dreaming of a popular-military rebellion. But it never occurred. The 1980s was a black period that ended in the Caracazo of 1989, with a massacre of unarmed civilians.”

Chávez then recalled how he and a group of progressive army officers tried to stage a rebellion in 1992: “We failed because this was a military uprising without the People,” he concluded. After a spell in prison, he recalled the formation of a mass movement: the Bolivarian Movement, which swept to power in the 1998 elections. But the oligarchy lost no time in preparing the coup of 2002.

Chávez recalled the men and women who died in the coup, and the many more who were wounded. Contrary to the myth so assiduously spread by the media in the West about the allegedly repressive and dictatorial regime in Venezuela, nobody is in prison for these crimes, and eight years later the judicial investigations are still dragging on: “Let there be no impunity for this massacre, as there has been impunity for so many other massacres in our history!” he said.

He then went on to say that the blood of these martyrs of the Revolution acted as a spur to the Revolution. “Immediately after the 11 April there began the arrests and manhunts, the threats on television and the other media. But this aroused all the latent pent-up power of the masses that had been suppressed for so long,” he said. “This gave rise to the greatest rebellion in our history – the popular uprising we had waited so long to see.”

“This was an uprising against the bourgeoisie and imperialism. But the latter had calculated that such an uprising would be put down in blood by the army, as happened in the Caracazo. But our soldiers not only refused to fire on the People, but went over to the side of the People. The bourgeoisie and the imperialists had the surprise of their lives.”

Chávez pointed out that US imperialism was actively involved in the coup. US helicopters and spy planes were flying over Venezuelan air space, a US submarine and an aircraft carrier were in Venezuelan waters waiting to intervene. But the movement of the masses forced them to withdraw.

Ever since then the bourgeois media have tried to wipe that date out of the calendar, but the masses have kept it alive. “They cannot wipe April from the calendar, any more than they can wipe out January, February or any other month.”

Chávez observed that, if they had succeeded in crushing the Venezuelan Revolution, it would have dealt a heavy blow against the revolutionary movement throughout Latin America. “On our shoulders a heavy responsibility lies,” he said. “The peoples of Latin America are looking to us for their salvation.” Admitting that the Revolution was far from completed and that there was a colossal amount still to be done, he appealed for patience. “After its first decade, the Revolution has hardly begun,” he said.

Chávez then warned that the threat of counterrevolution had not gone away, and that there were conspiracies to assassinate him. He said that if this occurred: “Do not lose your heads, keep calm. You know what you have to do: take the power into your own hands – ALL the power! Expropriate the banks, the industries, the monopolies that remain in the hands of the bourgeoisie.”

Turning to the September elections he warned: “We cannot allow the bourgeoisie to take control of the National Assembly. If they do, they will use it to destabilize the country and create the conditions for another 11 April. We must win two thirds of the seats in order to press on with our programme.”

He warned the bourgeoisie that it was not possible to repeat what happened in April 2002, because the people were now armed and would crush any counterrevolutionary attempt. He finished with the words: Long live the National Militia!” Long live the People in Arms! Long Live the Socialist Revolution! Patria, socialism o muerte!

Caracas, 13 April, 2010

Education workers' combat corp.

Mission Ribas (education social program) combat corp.

Metro workers' combat corp.

A student battallion.

All ages have mobilised to defend the revolution.

You don't fuck with the Venezuelan people.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ireland's Easter Rising: striking a blow against an insane system

The Dubliners version of "The Foggy Dew" (featuring photos from the Easter Rising).

Easter is here again - the anniversary of the Irish rebellion against British rule in Easter 1916. On Easter Monday, Irish rebels took control of key parts of Dublin and declared a republic. It took seven days for the British to put the rising down.

The Foggy Dew, a much-covered Irish folk song about the event, details what happened and gives an indication of the issues surrounding the event.

There are two key lines that reveal something often sidelined about the rising. The first is: "'Twas better to die 'neath an Irish sky/Than at Suvla or Sud-el-Bar."

The second is: "'Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go/that small nations might be free/but their lonely graves are by Sulva's waves/or the shore of the Great North Sea".

Sulva and Sud-el-Bar are in Turkey and were the scenes of intense fighting in World War I. "Wild geese" refers to the flight path by migrating geese as they travel from Ireland to Europe - where many young Irish men were sent by the British to die for the British empire.

"That small nations might be free" is an ironic reference to the justification Britain used for its participation in the bloodshed - all Britain wanted was to "free" Belgium from foreign rule! A justification bound to ring hollow in Ireland - occupied by the British for 800 years.

These two lines say something fundamental about the Easter Rising often forgotten.

The Easter Rising is a seminal event in Irish history. It remains a touchstone for Irish republicanism.

But the rising cannot be viewed in a purely Irish context. It should not be seen as simply a rising to free Ireland of British rule and set up a republic.

Of course, it was. But one very important piece of context is that the rising occurred in 1916 - in the middle of the mindless slaughter occurring in Europe in World War I.

This fact is essential to understanding its significance. Ireland's colonial master, Britain, was one of the key protagonists. Britain sent millions of young men to die in a war to carve up the world between the great imperialists powers. There was a widespread recruitment campaign for the British army throughout Ireland and it was feared conscription could be introduced.

In Belfast, bosses sacked men and replaced them with women and boys so as to give the recruiting effort a boost.

World War I was a war of competition between competing capitalists classes for access to markets and resources. For this, millions were butchered.

An insane system that, to further the interests of tiny groups of the mega-rich, would destroy so many lives in almost unimaginable barbarity.

The threat of the wholesale conscripting of Irish men to fight for the British crown and British capital in a futile war was one factor driving the urgency behind the rising.

To best understand the relationship between World War I and the Easter Rising, it is best to look at how it was viewed by its most radical and clearest-sighted leader: James Connolly.

James Connolly: One of the greatest figures in the pre-1917 international socialist movement.

Born in 1868, Connolly was a veteran socialist revolutionary by 1916 who was active in the workers' movement in three countries: Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

He was one of the greatest figures produced by the post-Marx, pre-1917 socialist movement. He made enormous ground in developing an understanding of the relationship between the national struggle for Irish independence and the Irish class struggle.

Connolly saw the struggle for Irish freedom from Britain as an opportunity to fight for more than simply a nominally free country - it was as a chance to establish a socialist republic.

But more than that, Connolly was an internationalist. C Desmond Greaves explained in his 1961 The Life and Times of James Connolly that Connolly saw the horror of World War I as the most important injustice in the world.

In Belfast in the early stages of the war, Connolly's attempts to campaign against were criticised by other members of the Independent Labour Party (Ireland) Belfast branch, who wanted him to focus on "bread and butter issues".

Greaves said Connolly responded: "They seem to have a curious idea of what constitutes a working-class propaganda. They don't seem to think I ought to express an opinion on the greatest crisis that has faced the working class in our generation."

He saw the war as a direct result of the insanity of capitalism - and drew the conclusion it required a revolutionary response.

Greaves highlights an anecdote that claims when Connolly, sitting in his Belfast office, was brought the news in 1914 of European military mobilisations, he declared, "This means war" - and "sat for a long time silent, head in hands. Finally, he announced emphatically that a blow for Irish independence must be struck."

Connolly had drawn the same basic conclusion as the Russian Revolutionary V.I. Lenin as to the appropriate response to the horror of World War I.

Lenin famously coined the slogan "turn the imperialist war into a civil war".

Connolly wrote, Greaves said, in the March 1915 International Socialist Review: "The signal of war out to have been a signal of rebellion ... for social revolution ... Such a civil war would not have entail such a loss of socialist life as this international war has entailed."

Greaves shows Connolly's thoroughly internationalist reasoning for his participation in the Easter Rising by quoting an article by Connolly in the Irish Worker: "Starting thus, Ireland may yet set the torch to a European conflagration that will not burn out until the last crown and the last capitalist bond and debendture will be shrivelled on the funeral pyre of the last warlord".

In otherwords, a rising in Ireland was seen by Connolly as a signal for international socialist revolution.

This answers the allegation that, in turning his attention to liberating Ireland from British rule, Connolly had abandoned the working class and socialism.

Connolly's response stands in stark contrast to the shameful response of many European socialist parties, who responded to the war by backing their own country in the bloodshed. Connolly was not caving into national chauvinism, as many European socialists did, by participating in a rising to free Ireland: his response was the exact opposite.

For Connolly, like Lenin, it became incumbent on socialists to seek to end the madness by a revolutionary struggle to take power away from their own bloodstained ruling class.

In Connolly's case, this meant, in the first place, overthrowing British rule. Liberating Ireland from British rule would be a concrete blow against British imperialism.

The Irish republic established by a rising may not, in the first instance, be socialist - but it would greatly weaken one of the great capitalist powers, thus assisting international socialist revolution.

Connolly understood instinctively the significance of World War I. He could see empirically that capitalism had reached a highly destructive phase.

He never developed the detailed theoretical explanations for this that Lenin did. Lenin had developed a detailed theory to explain the rise of imperialism in his book 1916 book "Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism".

It argued that capitalism had entered a monopolistic phase, based on a convergence of industrial and financial capital in the imperialist nations.

Fuelling the growth of these nation's capitalist classes required greater and greater expansion, and this drove intense competition between competing imperialist capitalist classes for markets and resources.

This competition led directly to the outbreak of World War I - as competing imperialist powers sought to resolve the question of how to divide up the world between them on the battle field.

Connolly would never get to read Lenin's work. But Connolly responded as a revolutionary to what he could see clearly with his own eyes.

Lenin also explained the way that imperialist super-profits enabled the imperialist ruling classes to buy off a section of the working class — generally the most skilled and organised. This was the labour aristocracy, and it was the crumbs from superprofits going to this sector that explained the horrible chauvinism of much of the official labour movement.

Connolly personally experienced this with the Great Lock-Out in Dublin in 1913. A brutal struggle was provoked by the bosses attempts to smash militant trade unionism in Ireland. The Irish trade unionists, led by Connolly and James Larkin, looked to British workers for solidarity.

Despite many rank-and-file workers being willing to respond with sympathy strikes, their Irish counterparts were betrayed by the leadership of the British union movement that took a "neutral" position.

This helped convince Connolly that the Irish workers could not, in the short term, rely on British workers for support. With the British largely supporting the their nation's war efforts (compared with Ireland where there was strong anti-war sentiment), Connolly decided not to wait for this to change but to move ahead with an Irish revolt.

It was necessary to strike a blow against one of the great powers waging the war. This was the time - there could be no waiting. To be a revolutionary meant striking now.

Connolly was not alone in this thinking. Republicans in the Irish Republican Brotherhood had decided World War I was an opportunity for a fresh Irish rising and had begun working to this end.

Connolly was a leader of the Irish Citizens Army - a workers' militia set up for self-defence against the violence of the bosses in 1913. By threatening to go it alone with the ICA, Connolly forced IRB leaders to include him in their plans.

Connolly was carrying out popular agitation for a rising, but the middle-class republicans in the IRB developed their plans in conspiratorial fashion, behind the population's back.

Connolly initially saw the lack of open agitation by the IRB as a sign of moderation, Greaves said, of moving away from a perspective of an armed rising. In fact, it was a difference in strategy — Connolly believed in the working class leading an open, mass struggle to win national liberation.

The IRB’s strategy weakened the rising and meant, when it occurred, it took Dublin's population by surprise.

Despite this weakness, Connolly led the ICA into the rising anyway. He felt the most important thing was to rise. A blow had to be struck - a blow struck in less than perfect conditions was better than no blow at all.

In lead up to the rising, everything went wrong. A car meant to collect weapons from a boat accidentally drove over a cliff. The conservative leadership of the armed Irish Volunteers (of which the IRB were an internal faction) discovered the IRB's plot and called off crucial armed mobilisations.

As it was due to begin, success in the rising seemed incredibly slim if not not non-existent.

Still, the rebels went out.

Greaves gives an account of Connolly, on the morning of the rising, coming down the stairs of Liberty Hall, where the ICA was based, whistling happily. A comrade asked him how he thought the rising would go. Connolly gave the cheerful reply: "We are all going out to be slaughtered."

For Connolly, the blow had the be struck - even if it meant an immediate defeat. There had to be a rising against the insanity plunging the world into darkness. The banner of revolution had to be raised.

Connolly commanded the Dublin forces in the rising. Various areas were taken, and IRB leader Padraic Pearse read the famous proclamation of an Irish Republic on the steps of the General Post Office.

The British responded immediately and brought in heavy weaponry. "The British huns, with their long range guns, sailed in through the foggy dew", as the song tells it.

Without broader support, the rebels could not win. They held out for a week. Connolly was shot in the ankle, but continued to command the rebels from a stretcher.

Having crushed the rebellion, the British retaliation was as awful as you would expect from a power willing to destroy so many innocent lives at Sulva and Sud-El-Bar.

Thousands of rebels were arrested. Some 15 leaders were executed. Three weeks after the rising, it was Connolly's turn. His ankle was still shattered from the bullet and he couldn't stand. He was strapped to a chair to face the firing squad and shot.

The rising failed, but it became a beacon.

The event had a massive impact in Ireland, sparking fresh struggle for freedom. The Easter Rising lead directly to the Irish war of independence that broke out in 1919.

Easter is still the most important time in Irish republican's calendar.

But the rising was much more than that. The revolutionary banner had been raised internationally, a revolt had occurred against one of he key belligerents in World War I.

Lenin hailed it.

He explained the significance of an anti-colonial blow coming from within Europe itself: "A blow delivered against the power of the English imperialist bourgeoisie by a rebellion in Ireland is a hundred times more significant politically than a blow of equal force delivered in Asia or in Africa."

He argued against socialists who dismissed the rising as a "putsch", or a purely nationalist action. "To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe ... is to repudiate social revolution...

"The socialist revolution in Europe cannot be anything other than an outburst of mass struggle on the part of all and sundry oppressed and discontented elements."

The following year, a spontaneous revolt overthrew the Russian czar in February. In October, Lenin's Bolsheviks lead the world's first successful workers' revolution.

The example of the seizure of power by the workers' and peasants' of Russia with a key aim of ending Russia's involvement in the bloodshed went a long way to ending the Great War. Other imperialist powers feared similar revolutions at home.

Lenin may have succeeded where Connolly and his allies had failed, but the example of the Easter Rising was important internationally. It was part of the same struggle.

Today, for reasons far too long to go into here, the same system still governs internationally. The Russian Revolution, left isolated, ultimately failed as well.

But the struggle against the insane system has never stopped. Nor has it been more urgent.

The system is just as insane and now, the stakes are even higher than in 1916. The very survival of life on Earth is being threatened by the continuation of the profit-driven system.

We need to take the approach of Connolly and Lenin to World War I to the problem of climate change and the threat of eco-destruction. It is the overriding issue facing working people in the world today. The only question is: how can we end this system so that we may have a chance at life.

We can look to Latin America, where popular rebellions are ongoing against the imperialism and capitalism. From there, a call came from Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez for a Fifth Socialist International — to unite those in struggle against capitalism internationally to fight for "socialism or death".

Climate change is "the greatest crisis facing our generation". We need the spirit Connolly - determined at whatever cost to take on the system. We need the determination to find a way to strike a blow against this system with the aim of ending it. This doesn't mean we need a failed, but heroic rising - our aim is to win.

But to win, we need the determination, boldness and heroism that the rebels showed in Dublin in Easter 1916.

When we remember this event, that is the lesson we must take with us wherever we are. It was an example not just for Ireland, but for humanity.

Sinead O'Connor and the Chieftains version of The Foggy Dew.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A song for our times

“Go, go speculator trade up hard if the money's all right. Go, commodity traitor, the blind leads the blind leads the blind leads the blind.”

Angry anarchists from Australia released this song back in 1996, but its lyrics are more relevant than ever.

The album it is from, Power to the Poison People, had some good songs — such as one called International Mother Fuckers.

No prizes to guess what that is about — angry anarchists are not renowned for subtlety.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Venezuela's revolution in its second decade: profile of a people's movement

The video posted below is from a public meeting featureing Australian activists and Socialist Alliance members based in Caracas, Kiraz Janicke and Federico Toronto, Canada on Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution.

Kiraz Janicke is a journalist for Venezuela Analysis, the foremost independent English-language source of news on Venezuela. She is editor of the Peru en Movimiento website and is a member of the Caracas bureau of Green Left Weekly.

Federico Fuentes is an associate of the Centro Internacional Miranda, an independent agency funded by Venezuela’s Ministry of Popular Power for Higher Education in Caracas. Together with Marta Harnecker, he leads two CIM study projects: “Political Instruments for the 21st Century” and “Popular Participation in Public Management”. He maintains the Bolivia Rising blog and is a member of the Caracas bureau of Green Left Weekly.

The meeting was sponsered by POIRG-Toronto; Center for Social Justice (CSJ),; Barrio Nuevo; Hands Off Venezuela/Louis Riel Bolivarian Circle; Latin America Solidarity Network-Toronto; Latin@s Canada; Socialist Project; Venezuela We Are With You Coalition;Toronto Bolivia Solidarity; and Toronto Haiti Action Committee.

The video is taken Socialist Project’s Left Steamed site.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mark Steel radio broadcast about the Russian Revolution

Three-part radio broadcast on the Russian Revolution British socialist and comedian Mark Steel. He has done a number of fascinating and entertaining live shows, radio broadcasts and TV programs on various aspects of history and historical figures.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti: natural and human-made disasters combine

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Americas, has been hit by devastating earthquake that has caused widespread destruction and killed as many as 100,000 people. Registering 7.0 on the Richter scale, it is the worst earthquake to hit the Caribbean half-island for more than 150 years.

Pat Robertson, US televangelist and leader of the US Christian right, offered the view on his TV show The 700 Club that this was due to the fact that Haitian revolutionaries, leading the world's first successful slave revolt and winning their independence from France in 1804, had made a pact with the devil.

Says Robertson: “They said, we will serve you, if you get us free …true story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal’.”

Presumably, African slaves could not possibly liberate themselves from a “civilised” (white) empire built on the miserable practice of enslaving human brings without the helping hand of the Prince of Darkness.

It has to be said, if Robertson is correct, then God is one hell of an arsehole and why anyone would want to follow such a psychopathic mass murderer is beyond me.

This earthquake, after all, follows the catastrophes unleashed on the Haitian people in terrible hurricanes in 2004 and 2008.

Robertson goes further, however, to blame the terrible poverty Haitian people have been condemned to on said deal with the devil.

But there is a much simpler explanation.

The terrible reality is the earthquake and its aftermath are a horrible combination of natural and human-made disasters. It is a natural disaster piled on top of a social disaster created by two centuries of brutal exploitation.

There are few countries in a worse position to cope with the consequences of such an earthquake.

In an opinion piece in the British Guardian, Peter Hallward wrote: “Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone.

“Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.”

Hallward explains the sorry history of a nation subjected to “the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression”.

He points out: “The noble ‘international community’ which is currently scrambling to send its ‘humanitarian aid’ to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce.

“Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti’s people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's phrase) ‘from absolute misery to a dignified poverty’ has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.”

Read his full article, giving a useful overview of how Haiti got to where it is today.

Also, check out this timeline of US oppression in Haiti (1804-2005)

Also, check out this 2008 article from Green Left Weekly on the effects of trade and other economic policies enforced on Haiti: Haiti: Hunger made in the USA

You cal also read this 2008 Green Left review of Randall Robinson’s book An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President, (“the story of a great tragedy of recent times — the violent overthrow of Haiti’s elected president and government on February 29, 2004”).

Right now, Haiti needs immediate assistance. You can help by donating to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Originally formed in 2004, it is a grassroots organisation working with people and organisations on the ground in Haiti and is helping coordinate badly needly relief at this terrible time.

Donations to such organisations are very badly needed, but as you donate, keep in mind Hallward’s conclusion:

“The same storms that killed so many [Haitians] in 2008 hit Cuba just as hard but killed only four people. Cuba has escaped the worst effects of neoliberal ‘reform’, and its government retains a capacity to defend its people from disaster.

“If we are serious about helping Haiti through this latest crisis then we should take this comparative point on board.

“Along with sending emergency relief, we should ask what we can do to facilitate the self-empowerment of Haiti's people and public institutions.

“If we are serious about helping we need to stop ­trying to control Haiti’s government, to pacify its citizens, and to exploit its economy.

“And then we need to start paying for at least some of the damage we've already done.”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Coup threats in Ecuador and Paraguay

Rafael Correa Denounces Honduran Style Coup Attempts in Ecuador

Paraguay: Watch out ... coup in sight

The offensive by US imperialism and the local oligarchic elite in Latin America, aimed at reversing the popular movements that have made important gains in recent years, is clearly continuing in the new year.

Last year was marked by the military coup against the elected government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, with mass resistance and brutal repression still continuing.

Zelaya had introduced popular measures like an increased minimum wage and joined the anti-imperialist political and trading bloc, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).

The US also announced plans for seven new military bases in Colombia, which other South American nations denounced as a serious war threat. Already this year, Venezuela has denounced violations of its airspace by US planes and also a plan by Colombia to manufacture an incident on its Venezuelan border as an excuse to provoke a war.

None of these threats should be taken lightly. Argentinean Marxist Luis Bilbao, working as an advisor to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, explained in a 2008 article what was at stake for imperialism and also for the popular movements.

He argued that the popular movements had grown so strong in consciousness and organisation in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador that they could only be defeated through war.

And this is what we are seeing. The military coup in Honduras is the first shots on this war. The military bases and other threats from Colombia indicate future threats.

And, now we have indications of coup threats from two mopre countries: Ecuador and Paraguay. In both, right-wing political forces have been defeated electorally by forces promising pro-people changes. Ecuador has joined ALBA, while Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has indicated his intention to join.