Tuesday, 24 July 2012

USA: Anaheim community attacked by police—the people fight back

Anaheim community attacked by police—the people fight back

Anaheim community attacked by police—the people fight back

People abandon fear, confront police

JULY 23, 2012

Memorial in front of courtyard where Manuel Diaz was killed, Anaheim, California
Photo: Doug Kauffman

Elizabeth Aguilar lunged to save a baby by hitting the police dog and was shot point blank. Here she shows her injury, Anaheim,July 22
Photo: Doug Kauffman

Protesters took over Anaheim police station for over an hour, July 22.
Photo: Doug Kauffman
The writer was on the scene within fourteen hours of the incident interviewing victims, witnesses, and activists.
For a brief moment on the evening of July 21, the people of a small Latino community in Anaheim, California came together, abandoned their fear of the police and fought back in self-defense.
The bourgeois media has attempted to paint the incident as an “unruly riot” and the crowd as “gang members” but these characterizations could not be further from the truth. A video released by KCAL the night of the incident shows a crowd of working families, mostly women and children, being shot with rubber bullets and bean bags as a vicious dog is unleashed on them by dozens of police officers. Nearly two dozen people were injured and five were arrested during the assault from Anaheim Police.
Manuel Diaz, another victim of police terror
The crowd of families, nearly 100 people, had come out to protest the murder of 24 year-old Manuel Diaz, an unarmed man, by Anaheim police just a few hours before.
Manuel Diaz had grown up in the neighborhood and was visiting his friends’ house to help move some furniture when the incident occurred. Police and media in the initial reports have claimed that Manuel was in an alleyway with two other ‘suspects’ when he fled on foot for over a block before being shot in the front courtyard of an apartment complex on the 700 block of North Anna Drive.
But witnesses have come forward to Liberation News and said that this entire story in the press is a fabrication. Crystal Ventura, whose partner was bit by the dog during the assault, was standing outside with her mother and her sister-in-law and witnessed the incident. Ventura told Liberation News, “Manuel was standing in front of an apartment complex. He hopped the fence to the next building and was shot in the buttocks. Then he fell on his knees and they shot him in the head.”
Another resident, Susan Lopez, said, “He was shot from about 10 feet away. He wasn’t being chased and he wasn’t in an alley, he was just standing here.”
A video released anonymously to the OC Weekly shows officers pushing witnesses back and setting up a perimeter as Diaz was still moving. Not one officer is seen attempting to save his life or provide any type of medical attention, even as neighbors shout “He’s still alive!” at the police. Instead, they handcuffed and searched his pockets as he bled to death from the wound to his head. In the final seconds of the video, officers flip him over. His head was covered in blood visible from over 50 feet away.
Racism is police policy, tactics
The police and media have been careful to repeat the word “suspect” ritualistically. But the fact is that there were not two other “suspects” who “got away” nor was Diaz a “suspect” in any logical sense of the word. This language is intentionally misleading because there was never any crime committed. What the police mean by this word is that Diaz was a young Latino man in a working class neighborhood. His ethnicity and environment made him a target for the harassment that is a daily occurrence in the neighborhood surrounding North Anna Drive in Anaheim. The police acted as judge, jury and executioner.
Another man from the area and a friend of the victim, Danny Arechiga, told Liberation News, “Police in Anaheim, around here, are always racially profiling us because we’re Hispanic. They pull Hispanic men over here all the time because of the way we look. I’ve nearly been shot multiple times by police in Anaheim and Fullerton.”
With young Black and Latino males a majority of those killed by police, and the disproportionate rates of sentencing, incarceration and capital punishment, the “justice” system in the United States should more aptly be named the “genocide” system. This systemic racism starts with the open policy or tacit tactic of racial profiling practiced by every police department in the U.S.
Racism is deeply rooted in the origins of policing in the United States as the first police departments were originally tasked with harassing slaves on plantations or capturing and returning “fugitive” slaves under the Fugitive Slave Act. Not much has changed as police are still heavily concentrated in the poorest communities to prevent open rebellion through constant intimidation.
Susan Lopez told Liberation News she was harassed by Anaheim police after the shooting as she attempted to walk home around the police cordon when a white male officer said to her in a hostile tone, “Hola.” She responded by saying that she could speak English perfectly and the cop simply laughed at her.
And when the system of harassment and intimidation breaks down due to unafraid workers and bereaved loved ones fighting back the cops frequently respond with increased intimidation tactics. One victim who has been very vocal, Yesenia Rojas, told Liberation News, “I know cops are going to come after us. I feel like we need to move because the cops will come back.”
Anaheim fights back
Residents who were tired of constant harassment and outraged at the injustice of Diaz's brutal murder on their block poured into the streets demanding answers from police. Community members were peacefully demonstrating in their front lawns when the police without warning opened fire into the crowd with beanbag shotguns, rubber bullets and pepper-spray bullets.
Junior Lagunas, the young man shown being bitten on the arm by the police dog in the original KCAL footage, described to Liberation News the moments leading up to the confrontation: “One man was walking with his son, a toddler, and was suddenly grabbed from behind by multiple officers. They slammed him against a light pole and then slammed him on the ground and started kicking him. I went to help his son and a few seconds later they started shooting at us without warning and telling us to get down. I had my two year-old son with me and tipped over his stroller and covered him up on the ground. Right after I handed him off to my wife to get him out of there I looked up and had to raise my arm to stop the dog from biting me in the face.” Yesenia Rojas, Lagunas's mother, witnessed the violence, ran toward her son and was shot twice with “less-than-lethal” rounds in her arm and abdomen.
Elizabeth Aguilar, 19, was shot in the arm at close range when she lunged forward to strike the dog that had initially charged toward Susan Lopez’s baby inside a stroller just before latching on to Lagunas's forearm. Aguilar's father was shot three times and had to go to the hospital.
In all, more than 15 people were shot, some multiple times, and many people were hurt from inhaling the pepper spray used on the crowd. Lopez told Liberation News, “About five to six victims were children ranging in age from about 4 to about 13 years old.”
The original footage shows a boy around 12 years old who was carried away by neighbors because he was unable to walk due to a wound to his leg. A young girl under the age of 10 was shot in the face and is believed to have suffered damage to her eye.
Residents at some point responded militantly by lighting a dumpster on fire and throwing an assortment of debris. It is important to understand this response in context however and not to paint what happened as a “riot”. These actions were in self-defense as the community was assaulted by Anaheim police who have had a history of harassing the neighborhood.
It was a momentary glimpse into the inevitable future outcome of the ongoing police brutality epidemic—rebellion. This very same light flickered when Oscar Grant and Manuel Jamines were murdered as well as the recent response from L.A. residents to repression of the Chalk Walk demonstration.
When the naked injustice and brute force of the state becomes obvious during these incidents, the system itself is exposed and the credibility of its enforcers is undermined to such a degree that people abandon their fear and fight back. History has proven this in southern California alone in Watts, Silverlake, and South Central in 1965, 1967, and 1992, respectively.
Attempted cover-up
In order to quell the increasingly inevitable rebellion the police in departments around the country resort to attempted cover-ups and Anaheim is no exception despite the fact that they are arguably the least effective department in recent history.
The Anaheim police bribed residents with money for cell phone footage of the incident in an obvious attempt to prevent the facts from coming to light. Community members refused to hand over the footage and over the next few days we can anticipate finding more videos released that tell the truth.
Anaheim police also visited victims in the hospital. Junior Lagunas told Liberation News, “One of the cops came and tried to tell me that the dog had been let loose on accident but other people from the neighborhood saw them let the dog out of the car.”
All the while, Sgt. Bob Dunn and Chief John Welter of APD have consistently downplayed the facts of the story and recently handed off responsibility for public relations to the District Attorney. This move illustrates clearly that the Anaheim police fear any further self-incrimination.
Getting organized
Members of an ad-hoc coalition of families of those murdered by APD and concerned residents who have held weekly demonstrations in Anaheim were on the scene the night of the incident and invited the community for their regular Sunday demonstration at noon. The ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the Party for Socialism and Liberation mobilized for this demonstration along with members of Kelly’s Army (Kelly Thomas, killed by Fullerton Police Department), Nidas Rydas (Mike Nida, killed by Downey Police Department), Occupy Santa Ana, and other organizations from throughout southern California.
At the July 22 protest, a woman who had been shot with rubber bullets by Anaheim police the day before, and the young sisters of a boy mauled by a police dog, led the demonstration of about 50 people into the police headquarters. With the victims and family members bravely facing off against a line of police, protesters chanted “Cowards, shame on you!” They militantly took over the police station for over an hour.
Another killing follows
In a tragic turn of events, yet another resident was killed by Anaheim police at night on July 22. Witnesses say the victim was already detained when he was shot. The community again responded in protest, with about 200 people rallying until about 4 AM.
More protests are planned in Anaheim in the coming days.
Content may be reprinted with credit to LiberationNews.org.

Friday, 20 July 2012

England's forgotten urban guerilla: Inside the Angry Brigade



Inside the Angry Brigade

Thursday 19 July 2012
In an era when mass protest and activism is again on the increase it's salutary to remember the police's habit of infiltrating rebellious groups.
Papers I've received under the Freedom of Information Act show that one of the leading suspects named by police investigating the Angry Brigade - Britain's bomb-planting urban guerillas of the 1970s - was in fact a police informant.
Gerry Osner was named as an Angry Brigade suspect in 1972, but police documents from 1968 say he was their informant inside the anti-Vietnam war movement.
The Angry Brigade bombing campaign began in 1970. The "angries" planted bombs in what their communiques called "a planned series of attacks on capitalist and government property."
Between 1970 and 1972 their bomb targets included the homes of government ministers and Ford executives.
Their communiques, with the help of a "John Bull" printing set, announced that "we have started to fight back and the war will be won by the organised working class, with bombs."
They also claimed that "organised militant struggle and organised terrorism go side by side."
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a massive international rise in political and industrial struggle, including the anti-Vietnam protests and the 1968 French general strike.
The Angry Brigade were part of a small but significant move towards terrorism on the fringes of this wave. Unlike the Italian Red Brigades or Germany's Baader-Meinhof group, the Angry Brigade didn't kill anyone.
Its bombs were designed to destroy property and create spectacles, not to take lives.
But they certainly played with bloodthirsty ideas - promising that "pig blood will flow in the streets" and claiming to be "the man or woman sitting next to you. They have guns in their pockets and anger in their minds."
A concerted police operation led to the arrest and trial of people accused of the Angry Brigade attacks in 1971 and 1972. The police swoops gathered up both people found to be linked to the bombings and people who were innocent of any crime.
Those arrested included Stuart Christie, who had been freed from a Spanish prison by an international campaign in 1967.
Most of those arrested came from a "new left" background, but Christie was a Scottish anarchist. He travelled to Spain in 1964 to help his Spanish comrades in a plan to kill the country's dictator Francisco Franco.
The attempt to assassinate the fascist leader failed and Christie was jailed for 20 years. After he was freed by the international campaign, Christie lived in London under fairly regular police surveillance.
In December 1972, shortly after the trial of the Stoke Newington Eight led to some convictions and some acquittals, the police announced they were seeking "two people who we are most anxious to interview."
Deputy assistant commissioner Ernest Bond said they were looking for "Gerry Osner and Miss Sarah Poulikakou" in connection with the bombings.
Bond said they were "living abroad," adding that he had asked "Special Branch men in the Republic of Ireland" for help.
Christie - who as the trial showed was not an Angry Brigade member, but did know many of those involved - told me he believed Osner was part of the Stoke Newington Eight Defence Campaign set up to aid the defendants, but was not likely to have taken part in Angry Brigade actions.
But the document in a bundle of papers I received shows that Osner was an informant.
The papers show that the authorities were genuinely very alarmed by the large, angry protests at the US embassy against the Vietnam war and the related growth of the new left.
Panicked reactions included mobilising a "bomb squad" lest protesters use explosives and seriously considering, though ultimately rejecting, the mobilisation of troops to "contain" demonstrators.
They also leaned on the BBC and newspaper editors to be less sympathetic to marchers.
One paper from senior Home Office official F W Merifield refers to a Special Branch report. It says: "Such reports we have on extreme violence come from sources like Jeremy Osner, a student on whom a HOW is being submitted, and are not very credible. Nonetheless there is enough wild talk to give the police considerable cause for concern."
"Jeremy" is almost certainly a mis-spelling of Gerry. His name is correctly cited when he was identified as among the 45 "leaders of the movement" in another Special Branch paper.
An "HOW" is probably a Home Office Warrant allowing police to intercept Osner's post. It seems that Osner was an informant, albeit one not entirely trusted by the police.
He was certainly involved in the 1968 demonstrations. Tariq Ali, one of the key organisers of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC), told me: "I remember Gerry Osner. A few of us always thought he was an agent provocateur. Soon after this was put to him he and his girlfriend disappeared."
Osner retreated from VSC, which organised large, loud, angry and militant protests but always rejected wild calls for individual "terrorism."
He resurfaced around those connected to the Angry Brigade in 1971. He and Poulikakou did indeed flee to Ireland. Poulikakou changed her name to Sue Richardson and went on to be involved in a variety of anarchist and community causes until her death in 2011. Osner's movements are unknown.
There's a strong if circumstantial case to suggest Osner was acting as a police informant in Angry Brigade circles and that the police announcement that they were seeking his arrest was a way of preserving his cover.
It also seems likely that Poulikakou was unaware of this, given her subsequent role as a well respected activist.
The Osner papers show that the police wanted informants in both legal, non-violent and illegal, violent political movements. They did not seem to distinguish between the two.
They also suggest - given Osner's role in VSC - that the police were pretty lax about informants becoming provocateurs.
You can read more from Stuart Christie at www.christiebooks.com
Follow Solomon Hughes on Twitter: @SolHughesWriter
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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

When justifying imperialist intervention "goes wrong"

When justifying imperialist intervention "goes wrong"

When justifying imperialist intervention "goes wrong"

Cruise-missile socialists

JULY 17, 2012
Stop Bombing Libya protest, Washington, D.C., March 26, 2011
A banner that speaks volumes about the Libyan opposition.
The total devastation of Sirte by NATO bombing
A darker-skinned man detained at gun-point by the lynch mob rebels in Tripoli
On July 1, an article titled "Libya and Syria: When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong" was published on the North Star website, signed by "Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp." The article argues that imperialist interventions in Libya and Syria are justified because they are demanded by forces the author calls revolutionary. While claiming to cut against the grain, he formulates what is a common position among liberals, progressives and even some self-proclaimed socialists and anti-imperialists. As such it is important to respond.
When imperialist countries intervene in the affairs of oppressed countries, the justifications do not only emanate from the U.S. government and the corporate media. In each instance, various forces and individuals with liberal and progressive credentials succumb to the imperialist propaganda campaign and put forth pro-intervention arguments, albeit using progressive-sounding analyses and using liberal/left language.
Even if “progressive” arguments for intervention originate far away from the halls of power, and receive no wide audience among the ruling class, they nonetheless play an important role for the imperialist war drives. This is because such arguments address a specific audience: people with anti-war and progressive inclinations who are typically far less susceptible to run-of-the-mill Washington/Wall Street pro-war propaganda. By spreading confusion about the nature of the intervention, and the tasks of the progressive movement, those who would normally be the first responders in the anti-war movement are rendered inactive and passive. This is the value of this kind of propaganda for the ruling class.
In the lead-up and immediate aftermath of each intervention, such forces emerge to explain that while anti-imperialism is good in general and in past scenarios, this time is different. Each time they present their arguments as new and unorthodox. While it is important to refute the specific arguments of the pro-intervention “left,” we must begin with the broad observation that they continue a long and definite political trend in the imperialist countries. In the Iraq invasion, this trend received the name “cruise missile liberalism,” but 100 years ago Lenin referred to it as “social-imperialism.”
All demonstrations and opposition movements not progressive
The basic thrust of Binh’s article is that the Western left must respect the wishes of the Syrian “revolutionaries” for foreign intervention. This, he claims, would constitute real solidarity and support for self-determination. In his entire article, Binh conveniently assumes the very thing that needs to be proven—that the Libyan rebels and the Syrian opposition are revolutionary. This false premise, once accepted, leads to all sorts of false conclusions.
What is the political character of the NTC-led rebels in Libya? What qualified them as revolutionaries? How does Binh determine that the Syrian opposition is revolutionary and the government counter-revolutionary?
When analyzing an opposition movement anywhere in the world, this is the first question that needs to be asked. Just because part of the population of a given country comes to the streets or takes up arms does not mean that they are revolutionary or progressive. This is so even if they are responding to real social and political problems. Right-wing forces routinely mobilize parts of the population —predominantly disaffected elements of the somewhat privileged "middle class" and others—to promote right-wing agendas.
Fascists in Italy and Germany used rallies, marches and militant street actions as effective tactics to eventually take state power. In those cases, the fascists were not the opposition to socialist or otherwise revolutionary governments, but to bourgeois democratic governments that had been forced to grant some concessions to the working class.
In the United States, the Tea Party has staged rallies, including large ones of up to tens of thousands, in opposition to the Obama administration. No liberal, progressive or revolutionary would consider Tea Partiers to be revolutionaries.
In the aftermath of the overthrow of the Soviet Union, the U.S. government embarked upon a series of destabilization campaigns—now often called "color revolutions." Most color revolutions occurred in the former Soviet Republics, such as Georgia's Rose Revolution, Ukraine's Orange Revolution and Kyrgyzstan's Tulip Revolution. But there have also been (successful or attempted) color revolutions in other countries, such as Lebanon's Cedar Revolution in 2005 and Iran's Green Revolution in 2009.
Color revolutions usually include the formation of coherent and unified pro-imperialist political forces, which draw upon public discontent with economic distress, corruption and political coercion. They involve several operations, including the creation of division and disunity in the military and an intense propaganda campaign. The extent to which color revolutions are successful is largely dependent on the level to which the targeted state is already destabilized by the time street protests take place.
Elements who participate in such street protests are often a small part of the population and do not represent the sentiments of the majority of the people, much less the interests of the working class. In fact, many participants in the protests may not support the agenda of the right-wing leadership and its imperialist sponsors. Still, the imperialist propaganda campaign utilizes the protests, however large or small, to promote regime change and the ascension of a client state. The imperialists are not fools to do so; this is precisely what such “democratic” movements produce absent an alternative working-class and anti-imperialist opposition.
To recap: revolutionaries and progressives must stand on principles, and make a political assessment of movements in question. Even if the majority of the population were swept up by a reactionary movement, that movement is not revolutionary. Even if the majority of Libyans supported imperialist intervention—which is highly unlikely—that would not justify support by progressives for imperialist intervention.
Proponents of "humanitarian" intervention clearly do not suffer from a lack of analytical ability. What they lack is revolutionary resolve to stand up to an imperialist demonization campaign that all sectors of the ruling class supported.
What is the political character of the Syrian and Libyan rebels?
The examples of color revolutions, fascist movements, and right-wing mobilizations disprove conclusively the notion that demonstrators, dissidents and opposition forces are revolutionary by default. The Libyan National Transitional Council and the Syrian National Council fall in this category as well. These forces have staked their entire existence on imperialist patronage. Their statements in open support of imperialist intervention, capital penetration, and "free" markets demonstrate the content of their vision, as does their prioritizing of diplomatic relations with the United States and its allies, including the potential normalization of relations with Israel. They leave little doubt about their political and class orientation.
What occurred in Libya, prior to the NATO bombing campaign, had the elements of a neoliberal color revolution, while also drawing upon the traditional fault lines of Libyan society (most significantly, regional competition from the oil-rich east as well as a long-standing trend of Islamic fundamentalism).
In the early stages, the revolt included street protests in Benghazi, the defection of some high-ranking political and military officials (from the government’s neoliberal faction) to the side of the rebels, and the formation of the pro-imperialist National Transitional Council. Immediately after the rebels took control in Benghazi, numerous dark-skinned Libyans and migrant sub-Saharan African workers were lynched in city streets in a wide-scale campaign of terror. Known supporters of Muammar Gaddafi's leadership were summarily executed; for months their bodies were found in ditches in and around Benghazi.
Despite a few initial victories, this rebellion lacked the strength to overthrow the Libyan government on its own, hence the necessity for foreign military intervention.
The NTC invited Republican U.S. Senator John McCain to the "liberated" area of east Libya, giving him a hero's welcome. In a country that had long projected enmity, or an unstable relationship with imperialism, the rebels put up a huge billboard that read: "USA: You have a new ally in North Africa." NTC leaders traveled extensively through the capitals of Europe convincingly promising Western powers that their oil companies would have unrestricted access to Libya's oil. The message was: if we take over, there will be no more of Gaddafi's "economic nationalism."
U.S. leftists adopt confused slogans
What kind of revolutionaries, while quickly earning a reputation for racist violence, would give away their country's resources to imperialist powers and beg them to bomb their country? In the face of these incontrovertible facts, some on the left, anxious to demonstrate their solidarity with the “revolution,” falsely dismissed the NTC as merely a “clique” among a diverse and loose opposition movement. Clouded by their blind hatred for Gaddafi, and bending to the imperialist propaganda, they continued to describe the revolt as a “people’s” or “democratic revolution.”
While Binh writes that the Left has been crippled by “knee-jerk anti-imperialism” with respect to Libya and now Syria, we observe the opposite. With few exceptions, the Left failed to mobilize against the imperialist attack and regime change in Libya, and appears to be heading in the same direction with Syria. Accepting uncritically the “Arab Spring” label and the stories of impending humanitarian catastrophe, even those who claimed to oppose intervention did very little in practice.
Groups like the International Socialist Organization promoted the contradictory and academic slogan of “Yes to the Revolution, No to Intervention,” which only spread confusion in the anti-war movement. After all, the Libyan “Revolution” was the loudest champion of intervention. Its fate, whether it succeeded or failed, was based on the relative successes of the intervention. All the actors in the Libya conflict (the government, the masses who rallied against intervention, the rebels, and the imperialists) understood very quickly that the “revolution” and the intervention had become indissolubly linked. The only ones who denied this reality were groups like the ISO, which believed they could magically separate the two with a rhetorical contrivance.
As the imperialists bombed away, the ISO ignored the masses of Libyans who rallied in defense of national sovereignty against imperialism, since they did not fit the convenient schema, invented by imperialist media outlets, of the “people versus the dictator.” In practice, instead of joining a united front with all those standing up against intervention, they formed an anti-Gaddafi united front with Libyans in exile who championed intervention.
In a recent article, the ISO distinguished their position from the pro-intervention arguments of Binh. But their centrism paved the way for such social-imperialism (socialist in name, imperialist in practice). They accept all the same premises: that the Libyan government had no significant base of support and that the revolt was a popular “revolution” with an “understandable” desire for foreign help.
Moreover, the ISO pioneered the attack on “knee-jerk anti-imperialists” like the Party for Socialism and Liberation, leading the charge against us precisely as the war drums began to beat late last February. While misleading their readers that the U.S and UK “really, really don't want Qadaffi to fall” (Feb. 24, 2011) and downplaying the growing evidence of racist lynchings committed by the rebels, they lashed out dishonestly against anti-imperialists like the PSL.
Even when the bombing had begun, they repeatedly attacked the few anti-war forces taking action around Libya—for having caused a “wedge” with the Libyan “solidarity activists” who urged war. What is an anti-war movement for, if not to cause “wedges” with precisely such pro-war forces?!
The ISO is now attempting to portray themselves as steadfast organizers against intervention, rather than offering self-criticism or reflecting on their own confusions and inactivity during the assault on Libya. (Even now, when the rebel movement’s right-wing political character has been made clear, they still attack the PSL for not supporting the “revolution.”)
Social-imperialists like Binh take the ISO’s senseless centrist position a big step to the right, with a full-throated call to stand behind the NTC and imperialism. He instructs us to accept as a matter of faith that because the Libyan rebels were revolutionary, the NATO bombing was a revolutionary act and the opposition to it “counter-revolutionary”! Binh is not alone as a “leftist” in support of imperialist intervention; Solidarity, a non-Leninist organization that comes out of a similar political tradition as the ISO, published two opposing pro-intervention and anti-intervention positions on Libya.
A hijacked revolution?
Binh writes: "When the going got tough and the F-16s got going over Libya, the revolution’s fair-weather friends in the West disowned it, claiming it had been hijacked by NATO." Some progressive forces first sided with the rebels erroneously, but knew better than to support the NATO bombing. The "hijacked by NATO" position was a way for such forces to gracefully correct their error and rhetorically oppose, or at least not support, imperialist intervention.
But not every political force in the West started out defending the Benghazi rebels. From the very start, the PSL was among a small minority that insisted on analyzing the political character of the opposition, pointing out the nationalist and contradictory elements of the Libyan state, and exposing the imperialist motivations for intervention. Shortly thereafter, as more facts came out of Libya, the PSL and a few others exposed the right-wing character of the opposition movement.
The Libyan rebels were not a revolutionary force that was "hijacked by NATO.” Irrespective of the motivations of individual protesters/rebels, as a political movement defined by its deeds, policies and strategic alliances, the counterrevolutionary thrust of the opposition movement was made quickly apparent. The NTC was a right-wing force even before it served as the ground forces of the NATO invaders. It utilized discontent among parts of the population, much of it with a regional basis, to reverse the remaining elements of the nationalist process initiated by the 1969 progressive coup, also called the Al-Fateh Revolution, led by Gaddafi.
Those who assert the NTC was an unrepresentative clique must face the fact that no progressive leadership ever broke from it (which presumably would happen if a progressive movement were openly “hijacked” by counter-revolutionaries!), nor did any rebels protest the bombing of their country. Even with the inevitable grumblings of discontent or dissent within the opposition rank-and-file against the NTC, this did not change one bit the overall trajectory of the movement towards counter-revolution.
Popular support for Libyan rebels?
Binh writes: "NATO’s air campaign had mass support among revolutionary Libyans." Near-unanimous popular support for the opposition is another unproven assumption of apologists for imperialist intervention in Libya, as well as Syria. The NTC did not enjoy the support of the entire Libyan population—nor does the SNC enjoy the support of the entire Syrian population. There is overwhelming evidence refuting such claims. On July 1, 2011, in the midst of the massive NATO bombing, hundreds of thousands—perhaps as many as a million people—rallied in Tripoli against NATO. The corporate media gave the protest scant coverage. Demonstrations of this size in a country of only six million people smashes the myth that the opposition had the support of all the people.
It is an uncontroversial fact that Libya, under Gaddafi's leadership, had a very small, almost negligible, military. After the NATO bombing started, the Libyan leadership opened up arms depots in Tripoli to the population, urging everyone to defend the country against foreign attackers. This is clear proof that, at least in Tripoli, the government enjoyed considerable popularity. Otherwise, why would an "unpopular dictator" arm the masses who would likely use the arms to fight against the state?
Binh suggests that the rebels were the key actors in overthrowing Gaddafi. But when, at the insistence of imperialist powers, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 was adopted on March 17, 2011, the Libyan rebels were on the verge of complete defeat. Forces loyal to Gaddafi had been gaining control and rapidly moving towards Benghazi, having already made it past Brega. All of these are established facts acknowledged even by the pro-war imperialist media.
In fact, the rebels' imminent collapse was the reason the United States and its junior partners frantically rushed the resolution past the UNSC. If NATO had not started its merciless bombing campaign, the rebels would have lost all their remaining territory.
NATO carried out thousands of bombings and sorties over the course of seven months, delivering blows too severe for the Libyan state to overcome. NATO did not take its leadership from a ragtag group of NTC rebels that NATO itself saved from annihilation. On the contrary, during the months of the bombing campaign, the Libyan rebels did not just receive military training and advice, but functioned under the operational command of NATO. In a coordinated fashion, NATO provided aerial support – that is, murdering pro-Gaddafi forces by bombing—which cleared the way for the rebels to move on the ground. The final siege of Tripoli was planned and operated by U.S. and European special forces units. Is this not evidence that the imperialist powers, not the NTC rebels, were in control?
Binh even praises "NTC's stand against foreign invasion and for foreign airstrikes." While NATO did not deploy ground troops in its military campaign in Libya this was not due to NATO's respect for the wishes of the Libyan rebels. To the extent possible, imperialists always attempt to minimize their casualties by using part of the population of the country they are invading/occupying/bombing to do the fighting on their behalf. This is what Nixon's "Vietnamization policy" was designed to achieve.
The author correctly refers to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq as "transparent empire-building exercises." Yet, the United States did not land forces on Afghan soil until after the Taliban forces were already defeated by a combination of heavy U.S. bombardment and the U.S.-supported "Northern Alliance" Afghan forces on the ground. The preferences of the NTC in the case of Libya, or the Northern Alliance in the case of Afghanistan, were insignificant to imperialist plans. Imperialists want to minimize casualties, not because they care about the loss of life of their military personnel but to minimize the possibility of the growth of the anti-war movement at home.
In his zeal to attack anti-imperialists, Binh offers another apology for the NATO bombing campaign: "NATO’s methods and the war’s outcome were totally at odds with what the anti-interventionists envisioned: There was no massive NATO bombardment of civilian targets, there was no Libyan highway of death, no Black Hawk Down, no Wikileaks-style Helicopter gunship atrocities." While accurate information is hard to come by, it is difficult to imagine 10,000 bombings in a country of 6 million did not cause wide-scale civilian casualties. The pictures of the destroyed city of Sirte are worth a thousand more words than Binh’s reassurances.
The meaning of self-determination
Some assume that civilian casualties, inevitable in all such bombing campaigns, are the only or the main reason why anti-imperialists oppose intervention. Even if not a single civilian were killed in a given imperialist bombing campaign, (a virtual impossibility), it is still unjust.
Revolutionaries and progressives must not only stand with civilians, but recognize the ultimate justice of those fighting for their country's independence against imperialist attackers. The crowds in support of the Libyan government swelled once the imperialist bombing began, a testament to their sense of national dignity. They did not deserve to die. But in Binh's mind, those Libyans who risked and lost their lives to defend their country's independence against NATO and the rebels under their command were fair game.
Binh writes: "The moment the Syrian and Libyan revolutions demanded imperialist airstrikes and arms to neutralize the military advantage enjoyed by governments over revolutionary peoples, anti-interventionism became counter-revolutionary because it meant opposing aid to the revolution." According to this bizarre rationale, the right of self determination, a right all progressives uphold at least in words, means nothing less than support for imperialist military intervention.
In the imperialist era, the right to self-determination has been bound together with the “national-colonial question,” that is the specific global division of power between imperialist oppressor and oppressed nations. This has long been a cardinal question for revolutionaries inside the imperialist countries: what attitude they will take towards their own ruling class’s imperialist plans, and towards the independence movements among the oppressed nations. Lenin, the Russian Revolution and the early Communist International recognized that these independence movements weakened imperialism and could hasten its downfall. They offered a united front, although not necessarily political support, to independence movements in the struggle against imperialism. This is the specific meaning of self-determination in the era of imperialism.
Regardless of one’s political differences with or opposition to the Libyan government, those carrying the green flag became an independence movement when the imperialists started providing material support for the rebels, and eventually attacked.
Imperialism is a system
Binh makes no attempt to explain why, in the case of Libya and Syria, imperialist powers happen to be on the “good side.” Why would the imperialists unanimously support, not just diplomatically but militarily, genuine revolutionary movements?
Apparently, for those like Binh, imperialism is just a bad policy choice that can be reversed by good ones. In reality, it is a system that seeks world domination in order to secure its control of markets and capture of resources. It pursues the overthrow of independent states, even ones that only partly block the penetration and profit realization of oil giants and other profit-seeking corporations. This pursuit of markets and resources is the motivation for a rational and murderous set of policies, not subject to fundamental change by this or that politician, or this or that set of circumstances.
Real anti-imperialists oppose all tactics imperialism uses to subjugate oppressed peoples, whether they are outright invasions, occupations and bombings, or sanctions, coups, assassinations, funding and organizing pro-imperialist opposition forces, propaganda campaigns, and so on.
It is possible for one imperialist country, or a grouping of imperialist countries, to temporarily aid independence movements in the oppressed world in order to weaken the hold of their imperialist rivals in a different country. This happened on occasion prior to World War II, when different imperialist powers were engaged in an intense struggle to expand their spheres of influence at the expense of others. At the end of WWII, U.S. imperialism became the dominant imperialist force. The other imperialist countries, both the victors and the defeated, were relegated to the role of junior partners to U.S. imperialism. In today's U.S.-dominated imperialist world, it is highly unlikely that one imperialist power will support a genuine revolutionary movement. It would be impossible for all imperialist powers to support and fund a genuine revolutionary movement. It would defy the logic of the imperialist system to do so.
The case of Libya was not about inter-imperialist competition, with one power supporting a liberation movement in hopes of making gains against their rivals. All the imperialist powers supported the rebels and have already benefited from the ascension of a client state. Hugely profitable oil contracts have already been signed, and are continuing to be granted by the generosity of the new Libyan government towards the oil giants. U.S. oil companies ConocoPhillips, Marathon and Hess Energy, France's Total, Italy's Eni, British Petroleum and other oil giants are each grabbing part of the spoils. The Libyan neoliberals, who had to compete with the nationalist-oriented forces inside the previous Libyan government, are firmly in control.
Binh considers what happened in Libya "a step forward," overlooking the racist lynchings and the wholesale betrayal of the Libyan nation to imperialism.
Standing against imperialist demonization is not easy
In its essence, this is not a theoretical issue. Binh and other proponents of "humanitarian" intervention clearly do not suffer from a lack of analytical ability. What they lack is the revolutionary resolve to stand up to an imperialist demonization campaign that all sectors of the ruling class supported. By comparison, siding with imperialist intervention is the easy thing to do; it is the path of least resistance to make a more “mainstream” and “respectable” left.
Binh correctly condemns U.S. interventions in Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans, as well as the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. But anyone can oppose past imperialist interventions as questions of academic and historical debate. When those interventions don't go well, even some ruling class politicians are critical.
The Binhs of the future will undoubtedly look back and condemn the Libya intervention as a historic crime, only to justify the next imperialist intervention. Revolutionaries, anti-imperialist by definition, struggle against imperialist interventions, not just in historical perspective, but more critically, in the here and now.
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Monday, 16 July 2012

Parliamentary coup in Paraguay - Lugo's removal: a political setback in Latin America

Parliamentary coup in Paraguay

Parliamentary coup in Paraguay

Lugo's removal: a political setback in Latin America

JULY 15, 2012
"No to the parliamentary coup!" Paraguayans protest in the streets.
The Paraguayan oligarchy—subservient to transnational interests and supported directly by the U.S. government—used a crisis that occurred in the city of Curuguaty as a pretext to remove President Fernando Lugo from office. It was carried out by a lightning-quick impeachment process in the Paraguayan Senate that lasted 24 hours and gave Lugo only two hours for his defense.
By 39 votes in favor, two abstentions and four against, the Senate members ratified their spurious charge of “poor performance” of Lugo’s presidential functions. They also accused him of generating a “constant confrontation and struggle of social classes” and “instigating poor farmers to occupy land.”
On June 15 in Curuguaty, near the Brazilian border, a dozen farmers and six policemen were killed during an attempted eviction of landless peasants occupying an area belonging to a ​​major landowner in the country.
The overwhelming vote against Lugo was only possible because the parliament is dominated by the right-wing Colorado (Red) Party. Lugo’s allies had abandoned him in the days leading up to the impeachment.
The class struggle in Paraguay is not a product of Lugo as an individual, but is instead caused by the extreme gap between rich and poor. According to the World Bank, an astounding 85 percent of the country’s land—more than 70 million acres—is owned by 2 percent of the population.
U.S. agribusiness giants like Cargill and Monsanto have extensive ownership of land and are spreading the cultivation of their transgenic crops of soy and corn across the country. A main protagonist of the coup, Aldo Zucolillo, is owner of the influential right-wing newspaper ABC Color and is closely associated with Cargill and acts on its behalf.
Paraguay is a landlocked country with only the Paraguay River as a water outlet. Because of the virtual monopoly of land ownership by a tiny minority, with Cargill and Monsanto at the forefront along with the Paraguayan oligarchy, the super-rich have more easily exercised power through loyal politicians to maximize their profits at the expense of the Paraguayan people.
Although in his four years of administration very few of Lugo’s promises actually materialized, the mere suggestion of greater social justice and the heightened expectations among the people that his presidency brought was sufficient reason for the right wing to overthrow Lugo.
WikiLeaks cables expose coup plans in 2009
The powerful land-based oligarchy, which has dominated through fraudulent elections and martial law for decades, was eager to get rid of Lugo since he was democratically elected in 2008. From 1954 to 1989, General Alfredo Stroessner ruled by a permanent state of siege, and any opposition to his rule was met with severe repression.
An astounding set of U.S. Embassy cables from Asunción, Paraguay, in 2009—released by WikiLeaks—exposes the U.S. government’s knowledge of plots to oust Lugo in order to reinstall the right-wing politicians who would favor the oligarchy.
One such cable to the U.S. State Department dated March 28, 2009, says: “Rumors persist that discredited General and UNACE party leader Lino Oviedo and ex-president Nicanor Duarte Frutos are now working together to assume power via (mostly) legal means should President Lugo stumble in coming months. Their goal: capitalize on any Lugo missteps to break the political deadlock in Congress, impeach Lugo and assure their own political supremacy.”
With the passing of three years since those plot plans were first formulated, the individuals have changed but the powers-that-be remain in control.
With Lugo’s destitution, his vice-president, Federico Franco, went along with the parliamentary coup and assumed the presidency with the Paraguayan Senate’s backing. He has assured the United States that the Paraguayan Senate will vote against the entry of Venezuela to MERCOSUR, the South Common Market (with members Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).
But Franco's promises were thwarted by the emerging cooperation in Latin America seeking a path independent of Washington’s dictates. Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay recalled their ambassadors from Paraguay. On June 29, MERCOSUR temporarily suspended Paraguay’s membership. In that gathering, Venezuela was also admitted as a full member, to take effect on July 31.
Immediately afterwards, UNASUR, the South American Union of Nations, suspended Paraguay from membership.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff declared earlier, “The Paraguayan right wing, the conservative sectors carried out a true coup d’etat, removing a president who was elected in a sovereign and democratic manner by the people.” At a military parade in Caracas, President Hugo Chávez announced that Venezuela's subsidized oil shipments to Paraguay would be immediately stopped.
The coup in Paraguay and the coup that took place three years ago in Honduras have common goals: reverse the social achievements of progressive or liberal governments in Latin America, destabilize the region, and if need be, facilitate direct military intervention by the United States.
Even while the impeachment was still being carried out against Lugo, Paraguayan deputies were meeting with U.S. military officials to negotiate the installation of a military base in Chaco. Paraguay has a geo-strategic importance to the United States, since it is bordered by Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina—other countries the U.S empire seeks to dominate.
Many of the countries of the region such as Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia and Cuba repudiate the coup and some have withdrawn their ambassadors, while Germany, Spain and the Vatican have already recognized the new president.
The class struggle is not an invention of Lugo but is a direct result of the capitalist system based on the exploitation of labor. It is only through resistance and struggle that the Paraguayan people will define their future.
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