30 Sept 2006

Charles Sullivan: Fighting Capitalism One Essay at a Time

Charles Sullivan: Fighting Capitalism One Essay at a Time
by Angie Tibbs Saturday, Sep. 16, 2006 at 8:17 PM

“No one is more effectively enslaved than those who think they are free”. Charles Sullivan

Meet Charles Sullivan, social activist, writer, and photographer from the hinterland of West Virginia, whose ongoing battle against capitalism and its inherent evils is a shining inspiration to all of us who are fighting for the very existence of humankind and the betterment of our world.

Angie: Over the past year your voice has become one of the most passionate and consistent in the fight against capitalism and its accompanying evils. What prompted you to rail against the "status quo"?

Charles: Even as a child growing up in typical small town America, the things that I was taught about America, things that are widely accepted because they are repeated so often, did not make sense to me. For example, we are always told that America is a Democracy, and nearly everyone believes that. How many people even ponder the question or think critically about it? From cradle to grave we are told that America is the greatest Democracy in the history of civilization. The statement is accepted at face value; it is repeated over and over, despite all evidence to the contrary; and it becomes ingrained in the public mind as a great enduring truth. But what is the evidence for that view?

What never made sense to me was the fact that the original inhabitants of Turtle Island (North America) were eradicated by the newly established federal government -- this so called Democracy. Today we might call it ethnic cleansing. Then there was the issue of chattel slavery, and the fact that women could not vote or hold office in government.

When I was young and went to the movies with my sisters, black people were segregated from the white. Black people sat in the balcony, which was the worst seats in the house; and the whites always got the best seats. Public schools were segregated too -- the blacks always getting the worst of it.

None of this made sense to me within the construct of a Democracy. So it occurred to me that it must be something else. As I matured and began to explore American history on my own, things never quite added up for me. I was always suspicious of authority, and rarely, if ever, gave my allegiance to it. That is called critical thinking, and it is fast becoming a lost art in my country.

Many years later I came upon historian, Howard Zinn, who presented American history from an entirely different perspective -- that of the Indians, the slaves, workers, women, and other oppressed people. Zinn's, "A People's History of the United States" is a wonderful narrative that contradicts the 'official' version of events, which I have since discovered was based on some kind of self-serving mythology. The beauty and genius of Zinn's book is that it is in the people's own voices, and from their unique perspectives. It told a very different story than the one I was taught in school. It got me interested in labor history, which is a topic that is dear to my heart; and which I continue to pursue to this day. Now I understand that there are many reasons for the ‘official’ authors of history to suppress or distort the facts and to deny all contrarian views.

It is about controlling people's perceptions not only about their government but of themselves as a people. The critical discoveries that came out of my explorations of history are that we live in a society divided by socio-economic class, race and sex; and that the upper class have always preyed upon the lower classes and exploited them for selfish purposes; and they still do. So I learned that we live in a Plutocracy rather than a Democracy. I have always sympathized with the oppressed and despised the oppressor. Of course, my views have never enamored me with the status quo; and that is fine with me. If they did, I would think I was doing something wrong.

Angie: You have written on more than one occasion about the plight of American workers, their fight for benefits, decent wages, and unionized work places. What is the labour situation like in the United States today vis a vis even ten years ago? What effect is outsourcing and cheap labour having on the working class, and how effective are the unions in protecting their workers?

Charles: Union membership has continued to decline during the past decade as part of a longer trend. Some of that decline is the fault of the unions, themselves. Many unions are soft and capitulate to business; in other words, they are in bed with business, and fail to fight for the workers. Some of them are probably on the take. Unions, like individuals, need to be strong and uncompromising in things that matter.

In the old days we had revolutionary unions that did not compromise worker's rights, and railed against the class divisions that have always characterized America. Not only did they fight for the workers, they sought to remake America in the image of the working people rather than the Plutocratic elite. Those unions sought to bring Democracy to America and all of them were met with violent opposition. Early on workers risked their lives to form unions and to win many of the freedoms we take for granted today.

Those unions were militant and the corporations feared them. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a good example of that kind of unionism. The IWW not only fought for the working class, they sought to put the economic engines of production into the hands of the workers and to end the private ownership of industrial production. They understood that if an individual or a corporate entity controls another's ability to earn a living, that person is, in essence, the property of her/his employer — a slave. That is a lesson that has been forgotten today as unions have sought to curry favor with business.

Though no longer what it once was, the IWW still exists and is one of the few unions that continues to grow membership.

A worker could change jobs a hundred times, but the situation would always be the same; and it still is. That is why the IWW correctly labeled the capital system “Industrial Slavery” or “Wage Slavery”, and sought to abolish it by any means. The idea was to form One Big Union the world over, and I still think that is the way to go. This was visionary thinking, in my view, and it was revolutionary in that it sought to remake society.

Fight-back unions recognize that the system - in our case capitalism - is the root of the problem. Workers will control their own destiny only by doing away with capitalism and replacing it with a more equitable and just system. That is why unions must be revolutionary in nature if they are going to be an effective tool for the workers.

Angie: It is, indeed, visionary thinking, and, for sure, revolutionary, its aims for a just and equitable society honorable, but just how do you see it becoming a reality?

Charles: Corporate Globalization must be met with global worker solidarity. Otherwise, jobs will continue to be outsourced as capital seeks the cheapest labor with the least amount of regulation. The result is that corporate profits will continue to rise, more jobs will be outsourced, worker will compete against worker in the new world economy, and wages will be driven down. And that is exactly what has been happening, even as productivity has sharply increased.

Today's workers are mostly 'at will' employees. They have no representation and few rights in the work place; they can be terminated without reason at the whim of an employer. I know this from experience -- it has happened to me multiple times for attempting to organize the work place. Take-home wages have been declining since 1974, while CEO salaries have skyrocketed. Workers are losing benefits that were once guaranteed to them such as affordable health insurance, paid vacations, sick leave, and now even pensions.

Wal-Mart, the largest corporation on earth, does not pay its workers a living wage, provides few, if any, benefits to its employees, and encourages its workers to seek medical coverage through government assistance. Why? Because the less money that is paid to the workers, including benefits, the more wealth that accrues to the corporation and its CEO.

The Wobblies used to say, "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common." They also stated, "An injury to one is an injury to all." That is a credo that all working people should live by. Exorbitant CEO salaries and huge corporate profits come at the expense of the working class. Billions of tax-payer dollars are annually doled out in the form of corporate welfare to companies like Wal-Mart, while the poor are neglected and are forced to work for subsistence wages. Since capital is privately owned, nearly all of the wealth remains at the top of the economic food chain. Every one below is left to fend for themselves.

In essence, this is the trickle down economics popularized by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Thus, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I call it 'predatory capitalism.'

Angie: And predatory capitalism covers it aptly!!

Charles: It makes no difference if you are a working class conservative or a progressive, Democrat or Republican. In the capital system the working class is parasitized by those at the top. So you can see that workers must organize as a class against The New World Order—corporate globalization.

Let us not forget that the work day in America used to be twelve to sixteen hours long, and the work week was six or seven days; there was no weekend, and no paid vacation; and even children labored under deplorable conditions in factories and coal mines beside their parents. These conditions were vividly portrayed in Upton Sinclair’s novel, “The Jungle.” It was unions that changed all of that. The same conditions exist in other parts of the world that used to be the norm here. That is what the New World Order means to working class people, and that is what free trade agreements are really about. It is also about turning back the hands of time.

Angie: Capitalism has not helped the working class, and now as globalization threatens to take over our planet, the promotion of workers’ needs is a diminishing consideration. To adhere to the "free trade" ideal, countries are forfeiting retirement programmes and benefits, are unconcerned about worker safety, and are putting the environment at risk. Surely there is a better way?

Charles: Free trade is a very misleading term. When that term is evoked it does not refer to human freedoms or democracy; it refers to unfettered access to markets by global corporations. Free Trade Agreements provide corporations the means to operate without regulation. In fact, free trade is nothing more than the spread of capitalism in its most virulent form. The effects of capitalism are the same everywhere, as you have pointed out, including environmental degradation and destruction; reduced wages and worker benefits.

The real purpose of the Bush Agenda in the Middle East is about corporate globalization, war profiteering, and brokering FTAs. It has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or Iran's nuclear capabilities. Those are simply marketing strategies used on the American people as a pretext for war. Prior to the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraqi oil was nationalized. Proceeds from its sale provided free health care to the Iraqi people, as well as higher education to anyone who wanted it. All of that changed with the occupation. Since then Iraqi oil was privatized and open to foreign investors. U.S. oil companies like Exxon-Mobil have realized record profits; and the Iraqi people get nothing but abject poverty and misery.

What could be farther from Democracy?

We have never had socialized health care and tuition-free higher education in America because we spend our tax dollars invading and occupying other nations and other forms of overt militarization. We take care of the corporate bottom line by neglecting the needs of the people.

Angie: We've seen the results of capitalism and its manifest evils globally. It is obviously not the solution. Do we embrace progressivism? Is that the answer? Part of the answer? If so, how does the everyday person begin a metamorphosis?

Charles: Progressivism is a start, and I like what I see happening in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is doing wonderful things for the people of Venezuela, which the capitalists to the north must find troubling. Let us not forget either that a revolution is under way in Mexico. The masses have awakened. They are organized, they are militant; and they are on the march. Populist movements are taking shape to the south, while the U.S. military is bogged down in the Middle East. The spirit of revolution is alive and moving forward. Let us hope that it spreads north of the border.

Angie: There is also Brazil’s very effective Landless Workers Movement, or in Portuguese, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST), which is the largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members organized in 23 out of 27 states, and its huge successes lie in its ability to organize and educate. Would educating the masses be a good first step?

Charles: Absolutely. Nothing can happen until the people understand what is being done to them. That is the primary difference between Latin America and the USA. South of the border the people are aware whereas here they are indoctrinated and controlled. Things are happening in Latin America while the people here are watching Survivor and trying to get out of debt. But the people are slowly (much too slowly) awakening here too, and that is a good sign for Democracy.

Angie: One of your most frequent criticisms of the US is the incredulous disparity between rich nd poor. The percentages are staggering. What is the cause for this ever widening chasm? Do you see it changing, and, if so, how?

Charles: Your point is illustrated by some recent statistics. The top 1% of the American population averages $15 million in net worth. Middle class holdings are $81,000. 30% of households have less than $10,000 in holdings, and 17% of households have a negative net worth. And this is said to be the wealthiest nation on earth!

What we have in America is the ideology of Robin Hood in reverse. The rich are robbing the poor. No one should be permitted to get rich on the misery of others. In Venezuela people matter more than corporate profits. If the Plutocracy could bring back chattel slavery, I am quite certain that they would do so. Think about all that productivity without having to pay wages or benefits! But, of course, the people might rebel against that.

Angie: In your article, Victims of Creeping Fascism, your focus centered on " the demise of the American experiment" wherein you describe "the dreams of democracy, justice, peace, and hope" as "receding into the dim recesses of ever more distant memory" [1]. Elaborate on what you see as America's fall into fascism. Is it already too late? If not, what do you see happening next?

Charles: In addition to its long-standing Plutocracy, we are witnessing the emergence of the Gestapo state -- the police state -- in America. Our hard won freedoms and civil liberties are quickly eroding. The NSA, the FBI, and the Pentagon are spying on law-abiding citizens, including religious groups like the Quakers. People are being sent to prison without being charged with crimes. They can be held indefinitely without legal counsel, and placed on trial before military tribunals, and even executed.

So if you speak out against war or any other injustice, the president may be able to imprison you indefinitely by classifying you as a terrorist. Speaking truth to power is becoming an act of sedition. This follows the historical pattern. Eugene Debs, a union leader and a socialist, was repeatedly imprisoned for speaking out against war early in the twentieth century. Then there was the era of McCarthyism in the 50s.

Now the neo-conservatives are in control of everything, including the commercial media. The people are so indoctrinated by the media that they are nearly comatose, and, hence, useless as citizens. They have little intellectual curiosity about the world, and they believe what they are told. The majority of the people do not have a clue about what is happening to them. The world is laughing at us. Why are Americans so damned obedient and gullible? Their minds are programmed by the most sophisticated propaganda apparatus ever devised, and they are much too obedient to authority.

Elections are rigged and capital orchestrates the entire process, rendering the vote null and void. These are dangerous times. I fear that things are likely to get much worse, after which one of two things will occur: America will descend into the depths of hell or the people will awaken and revolution will erupt. That is why I write -- to awaken the slumbering masses.

Angie: The United States has a curious government structure with seemingly no real difference existing between Democrats and Republicans. If the current administration were removed from power, it would be replaced by another with a different name but with the same mindset. The US government reminds me of a house rotting from within. If it is not dismantled and rebuilt from the ground up, it will disintegrate because it is the system, itself, that is at fault here, a system that allows for lost votes, stolen elections, and a shameful lack of democratic process. You once described this as a fault that lies in the unfounded belief that a poison tree can bear edible fruit. Can it be fixed, and, if so, how?

Charles: Your perceptions are quite accurate. No, the system cannot be reformed. It must be dismantled and built anew as a Democratic institution. The system is riddled with malignancy. The electoral process is controlled by special interest money. It is little more than a legalized form of bribery -- a sham that should never be mistaken for Democracy. That is why I get so frustrated when people think they are going to change the system through the vote alone.

We have a situation where industry is writing the regulations it is supposed to abide by. Washington is swarming with corporate lobbyists like flies around a pile of dung. The government is infested with Dung Beetles, and that cannot be good.

Even on the local level the process is controlled by special interest money. In Morgan County here in West Virginia it is the construction industry and developers who place their people in control of the county government. The result is that our rural county is slated for extensive development, despite widespread public opposition.

America did not achieve emancipation from England by voting. Understand I am not saying that people should not vote, but they must understand that voting can at best bring about only minor reform, not the kind of sweeping change that is needed. Capital will not allow it. The poison tree can bear only poison fruit. When capital controls every aspect of the electoral process, it also controls the outcome of the elections. So the working class people have no real representation in government. If they ever figure that out, things will change and probably very quickly.

Voting serves the interest of the people only where Democracy already exits; and that is not what we have here. We must change the capital system in order to make voting meaningful again. Non-violent revolution is the only cure I see for what ails this nation, and we are nowhere near that stage. So we must continue to grow the resistance; to educate and cajole.

Angie: And how do you visualize a growth in resistance? To make a difference against almost insurmountable odds, what must the ordinary citizen do?

Charles: Regardless of the outcome, it is important to fight the fight. Resistance to tyranny is all that keeps hope alive, whereas capitulation, apathy and indifference assure its continuation, and seals our fate as a people and as a nation.

It is important for people to know that individuals can, and must, resist injustice. Resistance to wrong-doing makes justice possible. Without it there is no hope, no possibility of change, and the descent into fascism will be swift and complete.

Ordinary people fighting back was how civil rights were won. There must be a willingness to step outside of the system, to disobey unjust laws, and to undermine illegitimate government. That is what brought about the merciful end to the Viet Nam War.

Progressives and Socialists must stop behaving as if they are ashamed of who, and what, they are. I am proud to call myself a socialist. I like what Socialism stands for. But too many of my colleagues are afraid to publicly state that they are socialists for fear of being stigmatized. What chance do we have of convincing other people of our arguments if act we like we are ashamed of who we are? Let our works speak for themselves, and let the world compare the results to all that capitalism has wrought.

It is a country’s dissidents that make a nation great, not its obedient conformists who always play it safe and obey authority. A stubborn refusal to follow the crowd, coupled with the ability to think for oneself, to question authority, and to challenge its very premise is the underpinning of any just civil society. Without these you have a nation of obedient sheep, mere automatons who have given up their humanity and sold their souls. Who would want to exist in such a place?

Mediocrity in government is always preceded by mediocrity in citizenship. Conversely, good government is the direct result of good citizenship. It is simply cause and effect. Output is proportional to input.

Angie: With the United States continuing its illegal, immoral, and unjustified occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and threatening other nations; i.e. Iran, Syria, North Korea, I am somewhat overwhelmed by the monumental double standards we see/read about, the rhetoric loud, constant, and mendacious. Young men and women are being sent to kill, and be killed, in distant lands whilst the craven excuses for humanity who send them are safely out of harm's way. The US has always operated in an imperialistic foreign policy mode, but in recent years, it has been virtually unstoppable with death, torture, destruction the only game being played. What is behind this war everlasting? Who is profiting from it, and, in the same breath, let me ask you how can its global terrorist onslaught be halted before the world, as we know it, is eradicated?

Charles: The impetus behind current U.S. foreign policy is the same as it has always been, only it is becoming more overt. That impetus is, of course, privatized profit and insensate greed. Capitalists care about one thing — capital. And they do not care who they have to kill to get it. They did not hesitate to kill thousands of American workers in the strikes of the 1800-1900s. So why would they think twice about sending our soldiers to die in the Middle East or anywhere else?

Militarism is the iron fist of capitalism. You can think of our Middle East policies as a way of socializing costs and privatizing profits because that is exactly what they do. The socialized cost is born by those who fight and die, while those who lobby for war - the chicken hawks and their corporate brethren - are raking in billions. I guess that makes the dead the cost of doing business.

In essence, war is the most insidious form of corporate welfare ever devised by the human imagination. As General Smedley Butler said in the 1930s, "War is a racket." Also I think there is a racist element to current Middle East policy and perhaps an ideological one as well. I know no other way of explaining the torture and humiliation of other human beings. I see it as a continuation of the same Manifest Destiny that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the American Indian. Either the world will unite and put a stop to this madness or the planet will soon be rendered almost uninhabitable.

The real terrorists are in the White House, in Congress, and the corporate boardrooms of America.

Angie: Much has been said and written recently about the Jewish lobby in America and its influence on American foreign policy; and, in fact, its domestic policy. When we look at US politicians we are left with the unpleasant impression that House and Congress alike are quicker to profess allegiance to the terrorist state of Israel than to their own constituents and to their own country. A week or so ago, for instance, former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was in New York telling an audience that Bush is "preparing to ditch the United Nations to take on Iran alone and that American politicians of all parties would do well to stop squabbling about Iraq and join the president in focusing on threat from Tehran". [2] It boggles the mind that a foreign politician would be in the United States telling your government what to do. I've begun calling your country the United States of Israel. Are the American people aware of this unprecedented interference in your government’s foreign policy?

Charles: I doubt whether they are. The people know all about American Idol, but nothing of governmental policy. Clearly there is a strong Zionist element influencing U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. There are Zionists in high places in the government. It is no coincidence that the United States and Israel are the two greatest terrorist states on earth. Both nations have histories of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Benjamin Netanyahu and George Bush are war criminals and some day they will be tried as such. Those who carry out their policies must take care not to implicate themselves in the war crimes initiated by their leaders. However, I believe that it is important to make a distinction between a government and the people. This government does not represent the interest of the people, and the same may be true of the Israeli government. How could it be in the public interest to carry out such criminal and atrocious policies?

Angie: US policies today are hardly in the public interests of the American people; in fact, the only country benefiting from US policies is the terrorist state of Israel. People, and not just those in the US, are propagandized to the point where they are incapable of independent thought. Thus, it’s quite easy to hoodwink them into believing what governments want them to believe and to keep them living in a constant state of fear, all the more easy to manipulate them. And, of course, you have the corporate media dutifully pushing the government’s agenda as “news”. Do you see a “search for the truth” movement emerging wherein governments will be held accountable by those who they purport to represent?

Charles: In this age of corporate globalization geopolitical boundaries no longer have the same meaning they used to. Corrupt government will do its utmost to conceal truth from the people because there is a clear conflict of interest involved. If the people knew the truth, they might be moved to do something about it. That is why they are propagandized.

If truth ever becomes widely known, the people would clearly be able to discern the criminality of corrupt government and not many would continue to support it. There would be revolt and perhaps even revolution.

Corrupt governments fear ordinary citizens. They realize that if the people are armed with truth, if they educate themselves, and organize and mobilize, that government will lose its power over them. It will lose control. Informed people are not susceptible to lies and deception. They are able to connect the dots and see the historical patterns of abuse.

It is ironic that so many individuals fail to realize how much power they actually have. The government knows they have power. People marginalize themselves by thinking they are powerless. That power is amplified when the people organize and mobilize against injustice.

That is why whenever dissidents emerge and successfully organize the masses, they are either imprisoned or assassinated. Thousands of courageous men and women in organized labor were assassinated in this country: Frank Little, Joe Hill, Albert Parsons and August Spies—the list is a long one; and of course the names of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm-X come to mind.

Truth is a thing that is carefully guarded by corrupt power. It must be kept from the people at all cost. Of course, any government whose operation is not transparent is a house of cards that cannot long stand. It is not worthy of our respect or our allegiance.

Angie: One last question. I've mentioned the US war OF terror currently causing death, destruction, and poverty in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon and elsewhere. People who pay attention are familiar with the neoconservative document sinisterly titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century”. What that title doesn’t reveal, however, is how closely “rebuilding America’s defenses” is intertwined with those of the terrorist state of Israel, and how warmongers, such as Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bolton, Rice, and others are determined to pursue their imperialist ambitions regardless of how much blood, as long as it is someone else’s, is spilled. Global terror under the guise of so-called “freedom”, fake “democracies”, bullying, threatening, lying, and double standards – this is the United States that the world sees, and it is not a pretty sight. What will it take to allow the nations of the world their right to govern and conduct their lives without US interference, threats, and blackmail? No one is safe unless kowtowing the US of Israel line. How did it get to this point, and, more importantly, how has it been allowed to continue?

Charles: I believe that people must ultimately take responsibility for what their governments do, but nothing can happen until enough people care, pay attention to the issues, educate themselves about them, and take informed action. As things are now the only way the world will know peace is by capitulating to America and her allies — by becoming capitalists and taking orders from the global Plutocracy. All people have a right to form governments of their own choosing, and that right needs to be respected and protected.

What America is trying to do is rule the world by military force and economic policy. That is the wrong thing to do, and I doubt whether the majority of the people really support such imperialistic doctrine. Empire and Democracy are mutually exclusive.

We have become a rogue nation that does not respect international law or treaties.

I do not believe that this issue can be resolved at the polls. It is going to require massive citizen involvement, serious economic disruption, boycotts, general strikes, and acts of civil disobedience over a long period of time. We must throw our bodies on to the gears and levers of the machine and make it stop. The war makers must be driven from office, regardless of their political stripes. I doubt whether they will leave of their own accord. The same thing must occur not only in the U.S. but around the world.

It is important to understand that men like George Bush, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu and all the others are products of the capitalist system. They are the fruit of the poison tree. You cannot change the result until you change the system that produces the result. Otherwise you are only treating symptoms as the disease continues to progress.

I see Socialism as a far better alternative. Power and wealth should never be concentrated in the hands of a few people. It must be equally dispersed among the many and decentralized. That is how Democracy works. Concentrated power is corrupt power, and concentrated wealth is ill-gotten wealth.

Things got so out of hand because people became complacent and they are misinformed. Everyone in America knows the political system is corrupt, and many have dropped out of it for that reason. We still have to participate in order to fulfill our role as citizens. If we do not, our political enemies will carry forth their agenda unopposed, but we must never accept that voting is enough.

If enough people who care and know the issues do not come forward and demand an end to this madness, dissent will be criminalized. We are at a critical crossroads in our civilization. We have a responsibility to future generations to do better, and time is running out.

A lifetime of propaganda is not easy to overcome; yet that is our task. We must establish our own media: printed word, web-based content, including video (streaming and DVD), and audio, in order to counter the lies purveyed in the commercial media. We must support net neutrality and keep the Internet a free and democratic medium. We must provide places where truth can still be heard. We need more free speech radio like the Pacifica Network, and more alternative newspapers and other print media willing to challenge the status quo.

People must understand that the world is being run by a very small clique of the wealthiest people. It is run to accrue wealth to them by exploiting the rest of us. Their intention is to rule the world through the establishment of the New World Order, and overt militarization. They are a tiny fraction of one percent of the global population, and they intend to lord power over all and to subjugate.

The Plutocratic elite have enormous wealth, and they have access to high-tech weapons with the awesome power to destroy. They are driven by insensate greed and lust for power. They are incredibly selfish and violent people, and they want it all.

On the other hand, we have superior numbers; well over 99.9% of the population. Ours’ is a just cause, theirs is not. We are builders; they are destroyers. But we must be willing to struggle; we must organize and mobilize, and forge a viable global solidarity movement. We must be willing to stand up for our beliefs and to fight for them. It may be necessary for some of us to sacrifice our freedoms and our lives. Otherwise we will end up with a global Plutocracy run by corporations and distinguished by two classes: master and slave.

Angie: Thank you, Charles, for your time and your honesty. It’s been a learning experience speaking with you.

Charles: Thank you, Angie, for your thoughtful questions, and for providing me a platform to state my views. It has been a pleasure.


[1] Fruit of the Poison Tree by Charles Sullivan, Information Clearing House, 21 May 2006

[2] U.S. Politicians Should Focus On Tehran, Netanyahu Says; The New York Sun, 8 Sept 06

Charles Sullivan is a frequent contributor to Information Clearing House, OpEd News, and other progressive newsletters. He can be reached at: csullivan@phreego.com

Angie Tibbs is an activist/writer living on Canada’s east coast. She welcomes your comments at: fightingoppression@nl.rogers.com

29 Sept 2006

Rainforests and economics

The economic system proposed by the Green Party of Iran is neither a free market nor command based system since both are based on unlimited economic expansion and consumption. We believe that a new economic system should be created - one that is in harmony with the environment in addition to working for the social well being of people. Since economies grow while ecosystems do not, a growing economy is a threat to the long-term health and well being of a society. In fact, in industrialized countries, large corporations seeking increased revenues are often the main perpetrators of environmental destruction. Although Iranian economic growth is less than growth in industrialized countries, Iran is still faced with difficult problems because of its fundamentalist regime. In fact, in addition to environmental destruction caused by profit seeking corporations, the ineffectiveness and corruption of the reactionary Islamic regime has caused much of the ecological devastation plaguing Iran today. http://www.iran-e-sabz.org/program/program.html

In response to a parliamentary question labour government minister Barry Gardiner stated

'Trade in illegal timber is unacceptable. As the world’s fourth biggest net wood product importer, the UK recognises that it can play an important role in influencing timber markets. The Government are committed to tackling illegal logging and its associated trade.'

I was shocked to find the House of Commons uses timber logged from the disappearing rainforests of Papua New Guinea....the solution to ecological crisis is not just about tightening up regulation it is about changing the economy.

The economy that only works if it grows, if we produce and consume more, is the root of the ecological crisis. This understanding fuels me and fuels the Green Economics Institute which is very important body promoting a new green economics, please support it.

With an ever increasing gap between rich and poor, and the increasing number of people living below a minimum standard of living, there is a need for new solutions and a complete reassessment of the problems and what really counts.

The Green Economics Institute has therefore been formed to bring together thinkers, activists, practioners, academics and policy makers, business people (where suitable), economists and campaigners, writers and opinion formers in order to educate and exchange information and ideas and to provide the tools for beneficial change to occur.

The Green Economics Institute will undertake and encourage and support research into Green Economics issues, perspectives, methods, tools and instruments, economic theoretical discourses and disciplines in order to facilitate change in the way people are affected by the economy and their relationship to it. It will seek out and encourage best practise and innovation in Fair Trade and sustainability and exchange ideas and examples and cases.

The aim is that as a result more people enjoy a better quality of life. There will be focus on corporate activities and the globalisation process and their impacts on a range of stakeholders including indigenous peoples, minorities, women, people in less developed countries and non human species and the biosphere and also the conventional wisdoms of trickle down theories, growth and development.

The culture of consumerism will be critically assessed and the Institute will aim to underpin an economic discipline which serves more people's needs than simple discussions of supply and demand. Green Tools and Instruments including the role of the citizens income, land value tax, local production for local needs, will be presented and thoroughly analysed and discussed from a variety of perspectives.

Current events and conferences

Conference: Green Economics for Campaigning.Sat 7th October 2006 10.00am - 6.00pm, Caxton House, London N19

Please pre-book and register. Registration form on the left of this page. £30 all in. Celebrate The First 10 years of Green Economics Conference with free wine and cakes at a conference on Sat 7th October 2006 10.00am - 6.00pm, Caxton House, London N19

Learn about economics with Professor Jack Reardan, Dr Derek Wall, Volker Heinemann, Victor Anderson, Dr Fatima Ferreiro University of Lisbon, Dr Josef Baum from Austria,

John Stewart Head of Transport 2000 talks about Green Economics and Aviation Reduction

Supply chain experts

David Rabey Procurement Director DEFRA

Jenny Jones GLA.Fomer Deputy Mayor of London, Geoff Tansey Rowntree Visionary and Food Writer

Alan Fenwick FMCIPS Fellow of the Institute of Purchasing and Supply, looks at Supply Chain Vulnerability

Laura de Macedo Head of ICLEI Brazil, talks about Ecoprocurement and sustainable cities

Food supply issues:

Jenny Jones Greater London Assemby Member, Recent Deputy Lord Mayor of London and London Food Commission

Geoff Tansey Rowntree Visionary and Food Writer

Rose Bridger Food campaigner and writer

Liza Griffin Lecturer discusses The price of Fish

Ian Chambers business and social studies expert talks about the distinctive aspects of Green Economics and life planning for the planet

10 years of green economics party Introduced by Peg Alexander, Dr Richard Lawson, Brian Leslie,

Bookings now open £30 including lunch and continuous tea, coffee and biscuits all day, if prebooked which guarantees a place and £35 on the day. Please send cheques to the Green Economics Institute, 6 Strachey Close,Tidmarsh,Reading RG8 8EP or email : greeneconomicsinstitute@yahoo.com to reserve a place

Philosopy of Green Economics Conference Lancaster UK on Saturday 18th November 2006 £15 Please pre register on the forms on the left hand green tab .Also see there the list of speakers

Oxford University 2nd ever Green Economics Conference April 2nd 3rd 4th 2007- Call for papers Themes include global networking, global campaigning, feminist and green economics, innovation,sustainable cities Special day featuring China and the attempt to be clean and green with China specialists and transport

28 Sept 2006

Green Mars/Blue Mars: Interview with Mat Sellwood

Here another Another Green World interview, this time with Councillor Matt Sellwood, an Oxford Councillor and former member of the Green Party Executive.

1. How did you come to join the Green Party?

I joined the Green Party in 2001, as I arrived at university in Oxford. I had been considering what the best route 'electorally progressive' route was for a while before that, and had come to the conclusion that the Greens were the party for me - but it seemed pointless to join the year before, as I was to move to a new city that was a hotspot of Green activity. I soon got 'stuck in' as the joint co-ordinator of Oxford Green Party Students and was elected to my Student Union Council as a Green. The obvious big inspirations to me at that time were the Green councillors for Oxford city centre (the late Mike Woodin and Paul Ingram, who was Co-Leader of the City Council at the time) and Caroline Lucas. Listening to a speech by Caroline on the linkages between global justice and sustainability was the 'tipping point'for my decision to join the Party.

2. Why do you think the Green Party is so strong in Oxford, do you have any tips for how other local parties can succeed?

Rather prosaicly, I think it mostly has to do with a lot of hard work and graft. Obviously Oxford can be a receptive place to Green ideas, particularly our 'fortress' of East Oxford, with its multicultural atmosphere and strong activist scene - but you still have to do the work. People like Mike, Caroline, Craig Simmons and Elise Benjamin worked for years before I arrived to establish the base for our success. We're now taken seriously as the 'third major party' in the City - to the detriment of the Tories. It's a good place to work.

3. What is your greatest achievement as a councillor?

There have been lots, but I think probably Oxford's Climate Change Action Plan. It's the thing for which I can take the most 'single' credit, I think - our lack of one was the subject of my very first question to Council, and I pursued it through council and the budget process (utilising the Green Group's 'balance of power' in those negotiations) until now, when we have a fully fledged Climate Change Action Team, with a large budget and lots of activity. That has been very satisfying.

4. I have the impression that you have been involved with the global justice movement, anti-capitalist movement, can you tell me more?

Yes - that is where my political roots lie. During my time at University, my electoral efforts were really quite secondary to my grassroots organising - I co-founded Oxford University 'Switch to Green' Coalition (which succeeded in getting the University to change 100% of its energy supplies to renewable energy), founded Oxford Students Stop the War, and helped to create the Oxford Students Activist Network. I was also co-chair of OU People and planet and various other things. I got well known as an activist in the University (my first term I was arrested with Tommy Sheridan MSP at Faslane) and did lots of stuff around DSEI, the war etc. Probably my most memorable activities were around the Evian G8 summit, when I helped organise a massive samba bloc in Lausanne, the roots of which came from my affinity group in
Oxford. I've tried to keep those roots now that I am a 'part time' politician, which can be a challenge, but is very important. Probably my greatest frustration is that even when I proactively try to use the political process/power of the Council to assist activist groups and create political space for them to operate, the efforts of the Greens are often dismissed as 'refomist'. Obviously they are, but if someone is offering help and is in a position of power, I reckon you take it.

I also work next to Corporate Watch and so on, so I guess I can keep up to date with whats going on in the activist world just by having lunch with people.

5. You are a Buddhist, as some one who practices zen, can you tell me more about how this fits with your green commitement?

Well, I'm not a Zen Buddhist - I'm one of those awful people who nicks stuff from all kinds of traditions and fashions it into something that suits them. The main body
of my practice is from Thai Therevada, but as an anti-authoritarian I have big problems with their hierarchical church structure, so I'm not really 'part' of it in any meaningful way. Another big part of my practice is meditation on Kuan Yin (Chinese Boddhisattva of Infinite Compassion), and obviously that fits into my political work prettywell. I wouldn't do what I do unless I tried to have compassion and empathy for people - I'd join most of the rest of my mates from school and Uni and work in the city! My practice provides the moral underpinning for what I do politically, and why I do it.

6. Green Left? Ecosocialism? Why is social justice and anti-capitalism important to green politics in your view?

Green politics *is* social justice and anti-capitalism, and cannot be anything else. I don't want to live in a world that is sustainable but fascistic - nor do I think it is logically possible to live in a world that is sustainable and yet practices an economic creed that preaches infinite economic growth and exploitation of natural resources/people. I often wish that I *didn't* think these things - taking a Porrit like approach would be much easier! - but it would also be pointless, as ultimately it wouldn't get us anywhere. Green politics should not, and cannot, be about simply
fitting a few more solar panels to peoples roofs. Its about a fundamental shift in our social and economic paradigm. Which is why its so bloody hard!

7. Favourite film?

Hmm - I have quite a few. I'm a big fan of 'Land and Freedom' by Ken Loach - also think that 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' is great. Ultimately though, I have to submit to my inner geek and admit that the Lord of the Rings trilogy is probably my favourite.

8. Favourite book?

Even harder question! Novel wise it is a straight tie between 'Anna Karenina' by Tolstoy, and the 'Mars Trilogy' (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars) by Kim Stanley Robinson. Poetry wise, its anything by Gary Snyder, and non-fiction? Probably 'Defeat Into Victory' by Field Marshall the Viscount Slim (weren't expecting that, were you)! That'll teach you to stereotype greens!

27 Sept 2006

Neither Geras nor Galloway: Green thoughts on the Middle East

Very happy to be invited to talk to LINE, the London Islamic environmental network and I am off to a Muslim ecology event tonight at Birkbeck! So reposting these thoughts!

The Euston Manifesto, written primarily by Norman Geras and others, is a manifesto of Centre-Left intellectuals who are hostile to opponents of the war in Iraq and critical of the construction of political links between the Left and Islam.

While I am a strong opponent of the Iraq war, which has led to huge destruction and facilitated the growth of the most destructive tendencies in Islam, and while I work closely with Muslim activists, I find much of it unobjectionable.

However, I think it fails to build the case for involvement with the majority of Muslims who have a tolerant view of politics. There has to be a middle position between Islamphobia and uncritical tolerance of fundamentalist Salifism. Lets face it: there are many Muslim political activists with sound politics, as well as Muslim groups like the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES) who do a good job, and the Left have long worked with religious people and organisations, including Christians (think of the history of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). The old slogan 'Neither Washington nor Moscow' should be changed to 'Neither Geras nor Galloway'.

I think some tough talking towards Muslims is necessary, especially around sexual politics; OutRage! (the LGBT campaigning NGO) have campaigned strongly against attacks by some Muslim leaders on homosexuality. Nonetheless, the recent statement against homophobia from the Muslim Council of Britain is a small step in the right direction.

The Manifesto is the usual centre ground mush and does not go far enough. Take their comments on Open Source:

"As part of the free exchange of ideas, and in the interests of encouraging joint intellectual endeavour, we support the open development of software and other creative works and oppose the patenting of genes, algorithms and facts of nature. We oppose the retrospective extension of intellectual property laws in the financial interests of corporate copyright holders. The open source model is collective and competitive, collaborative and meritocratic. It is not a theoretical ideal, but a tested reality that has created common goods whose power and robustness have been proved over decades. Indeed, the best collegiate ideals of the scientific research community that gave rise to open source collaboration have served human progress for centuries."

While I welcome such comments on Open Source, Open Source is about a new world based on the commons - it isn't just about Guardian-esque intellectuals having the freedom to publish.

Environmental sustainability gets a mention along with a call for 'nice globalisation' but the difficult issue of the ecology is ignored. Can a growing capitalist economy really deliver true sustainability? I think Islam, despite its reactionary fringes and my problems with some aspects of the faith, has a lot more to say than Norman Geras and friends.

Environmental problems pretty firmly put socialism back on the agenda, whereas the Geras generation of socialists seem to be forgetting their Marx (which is odd considering that Geras is a renowned Marxist scholar!).

Ecological crises are likely to accelerate global conflict and demand not just a manifesto but also some serious action through building links, while rejecting intolerance, with faith communities. None of this is going to be easy but the task of building links between people like Peter Tatchell (pictured above) and Muslim activists is going to be difficult, exciting and necessary!

Ultimately, people (at least in the UK) are going to be hearing more from the 1,294 Green Party candidates in the Local Elections than from Norman and friends.

Derek Wall

Link to the Euston Manifesto: http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/content/view/12/41/

26 Sept 2006

Empire's Workshop:Interview with Greg Grandin

Greg Grandin (shown left) is an Assistant Professor of History at New York University, where he specialises in US foreign policy in Latin America. His most recent work, Empire's Workshop: Latin America, The United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism, is an excellent book on the US attempts to build an empire in Latin America, and the parallels between the policy once adopted in Central America and the US foreign stance on the Middle-East today. Below is the interview I recently conducted with Greg, as well as an exclusive extract from Empire's Workshop!

You are known as a specialist in Guatemala politics. Can you tell me how you came to study the country and its relationship with the US?

I got involved in Central American solidarity work in the late 1980s, at the height of Reagan's Central American wars. It was toward the end of the Cold War, and opposing the Contras and US funding of death squad states in Guatemala and El Salvador, along with the South African anti-Apartheid and nuclear freeze movement, was one of the most important Left causes of the time. I actually thought I would do my dissertation on Nicaragua or El Salvador, since by the time I had entered graduate school those wars were winding down. But from the first time I entered Guatemala, over land from Mexico, I fell in love with the country.

Do you think US foreign policy is driven by corporations? For example, did the 1954 coup in Guatemala occur because “they grow fruit”? Was it a United Fruit Company coup or is that too simple?

I don't think that is simplistic at all, but I do think that US foreign policy is over determined to a degree by its economic and political interests as well as its ideological self-understanding of itself as a purpose-driven nation. There is a way in which foreign policy elites universalize the particular interests of the US to believe that they are acting in the name of the common good, either of the nation, or now increasingly, of humanity. What I try to do in Empire's Workshop is lay out the interplay of ideology, economics, and geopolitics. The neo-conservative and theo-conservative ideology of war, which I argued was forged in Central America in the 1980s, needs to be taken as seriously, I think, as objective interests in trying to figure out what drives US foreign policy.

Do you think Che Guevara became a socialist because of the 1954 coup in Guatemala?

Well, I think Che Guevara, who was in Guatemala working as a doctor in the indigenous highlands, had already developed a heightened political consciousness prior to the coup. His travels throughout Latin America, recently popularized in the Motorcycle Diaries, sharpened his internationalism, his work in the Andes and Guatemala deepened his commitment to the marginalized, and his witnessing first hand the US-backed coup deepened his anti-imperialism.

You argue that the neo-conservative policy in the Middle East is rooted in the US experience in Latin America rather than being something that is really ‘new’.

I argue in Empire's Workshop that it was in Central America, and Latin America more broadly, where an insurgent New Right first coalesced, as conservative activists used the region to respond to the crisis of the 1970s, a crisis provoked not only by America's defeat in Vietnam but by a deep economic recession and a culture of skeptical antimilitarism and political dissent that spread in the war's wake. Reagan's Central American wars can best be understood as a dress rehearsal for what is going on now in the Middle East, the place where the coalition made up of neoconservatives, Christian evangelicals, free marketeers, and nationalists that today stands behind George W. Bush's expansive foreign policy first came together. There they had near free rein to bring the full power of the US against a much weaker enemy in order to exorcise the ghost of Vietnam – and, in so doing, begin the transformation of America's foreign policy and domestic culture. A critical element of that transformation entailed shifting the rationale of American diplomacy away from containment to rollback, from one primarily justified in terms of national defense to one charged with advancing what Bush likes to call a "global democratic revolution". The domestic fight over how to respond to revolutionary nationalism in Central America allowed conservative ideologues to remoralize both American diplomacy and capitalism, to counteract the cynicism that had seeped into both popular culture and political establishment regarding the deployment of US power in the world. Thus they pushed the Republican Party away from its foreign-policy pragmatism to the idealism that now defines the "War on Terror" as a world crusade of free-market nation building.

I was interested in your discussion of how 'soft power' (or propaganda) has been used by the US in Latin America. How is it now being used to remove Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro?

Well, just today it was reported that the US government had paid at least ten Miami journalists up to $174,000 to print propaganda on Cuba. So much for a free and independent press. And just a few weeks ago it was reported that the National Endowment for Democracy, a quasi private group funded by public money, channelled millions of dollars to Venezuelan "pro-democracy" organizations. To get a better sense of how all this plays out in Venezuela, I would recommend checking out Philip Agee's take on it, which can be found on Venezuelan Analysis. Agee of course is the former CIA agent who broke with the Agency in the late 1960s, so he knows whereof he speaks.

My readers who tend to be ecosocialists would be fascinated in your account of how Henry Ford in 1928 tried to establish a rubber plantation with a model village in Brazil. It seems like a story from One Hundred Years of Solitude!

I use the story of ‘Fordlandia’ as a parable of imperial hubris - but it could easily be read as a parable of ecological arrogance. The idea was to cultivate rubber for use in the automobile industry and to override the British monopoly on the crop. Henry Ford's agents took no heed of the ecological complexity of the Amazon, believing they could impose on it Ford-style mass production. They refused to cultivate disease-resistant clones or to follow the advice of Brazilian botanists who warned that rubber trees needed to be scattered at safe distances throughout the jungle in order to prevent the spread of South American leaf blight. They cultivated seedlings in tight, well-ordered rows. Within a few years, microcuclus ulei had spread from tree to tree and destroyed the plantation. The same kind of heavy-handedness guided Fordlandia's labor relations, and the plantation suffered from chronic labor conflicts. Seventeen years and twenty million dollars later, Henry Ford II sold the property to the Brazilian government for a pittance.

Iraq has failed as a project in the same way you argue US attempts to create 'democracy' in Latin America have failed. Where next for Bush, the neo-cons and US foreign policy?

Whenever the US fails in a global bid for hegemony, it turns back to Latin America. After the global economic crisis of the 1930s, the New Deal state regrouped in Latin America, working out strategies of extra-territorial rule associated with "soft power" - multilateral treaties, alliances, concessions to economic nationalists, etc. After getting kicked out of Southeast Asia in the 1970s, Washington turned to Latin America to rehabilitate "hard power" militarism, of the kind I described above and in the book. So the question is: as its power erodes not just in the Middle East but in Asia and elsewhere, will it once again return to Latin America and, more critically, what will that return look like? Will it be to rehabilitate the techniques of soft power or to intensify militarism. If it is the latter, watch out.

Do you see the British Labour and Conservative parties as automatic allies of the neo-cons?

Blair went a long way in legitimating to liberals the war in Iraq as some kind of noble fight in the name of pluralism and tolerance. He of course came off more much more articulate than Bush did, but ultimately he, and not Bush, was the fool. Blair thought he could manage, and perhaps dampen, the unilateral, radically anti-Democratic and militarist tendencies with the US, perhaps nudge Washington to, say, sign on to Kyoto or accept the International Criminal Court. But to believe that you can junior-partner with the US radical right, as led by George Bush, was an act of supreme idiocy, and will be Blair's legacy. We'll see if Gordon Brown is any better, but I imagine the "special relationship" will continue unchanged.

Finally, the US Greens, such as Howie Hawkins, in seeking to challenge not just Bush but Bushism, have a difficult task. Any thoughts on how US progressives can best promote multi-party democracy in the USA?

Over the last two decades, changes within the social structure of the United States have fused the Republican Party and its more radical militant conservative base. There is now an organic relationship between the New Right and its electoral vehicle, the Republicans. The Democratic Party, in contrast, continues to run away from its base. If you look at polls even at the height of the jingoism leading up to the Iraq War - and during those initial weeks when it seemed like the invasion was going to be a success – something like 35 to 40 per cent of the population continued to oppose the war. This is a significant, if not majority, anti-militarist base. But the Democrats - instead of taking that moral core of 35 per cent and building on it, and being willing to embrace it and expand it – they distanced themselves from it. The Democrats were not willing to lose on the Iraq issue and make that loss something meaningful like the way the Republicans did with Barry Goldwater in 1964. Goldwater lost big time, but he was able to change the debate. Democrats aren't willing to do that, so they constantly try to hive off and quarantine that 35 or 40 percent of the population that is anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. And hide them away, because the Democrats also have strong ties to America's corporate structure and because they want to prove their legitimacy in terms of being able to wage war. I don't know what the answer is, but it clearly isn't the Democrats.

Extract from Empire's Workshop - Chapter One: How Latin America Saved the United States from Itself

For over two centuries, Latin America has been caught in the crosswinds of empire, buffeted by the United States's revolutionary ambition and battered by its counterrevolutionary cruelty. Take the case of the Ford Motor Company. In the late 1920s, Henry Ford, on the advice of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, set out to build a rubber plantation on the banks of the Tapajós River in the Amazon rain forest in order to break the high-priced British latex monopoly. Combining fancy and expedience, the project represented more than an effort to bring rubber production under Ford's direct control. "We would revolutionize the world," said National City Bank president Frank Vanderlip in 1918 of the global aspirations of early-twentieth-century, pre-Depression American industrialists, financiers, and politicians. Fordlandia, as Ford's jungle adventure came to be called, was an effort to do just that.

Ford planted rubber trees on a plantation three times the size of Rhode Island, equipped with state-of-the-art processing facilities intended to replicate the kind of mechanized industrial production he had pioneered in Detroit. The town that arose on the property soon housed four thousand workers, making it the third-largest city in the Amazon. But unlike those other rough-and-tumble settlements, this one sported concrete sidewalks, fire hydrants, a fully equipped hospital, modest bungalows for workers, larger homes for administrators, grass lawns, and white picket fences. "Shades of Tarzan!" ran a caption under a photograph of smiling plantation worker kids in a promotional brochure. "You'd never guess these bright, happy, healthy school children lived in a jungle city that didn't even exist a few years ago."3 Churches, a golf course, a movie house, swimming pools, and weekly square dances simulated the customs and conventions of an American factory town, especially Ford's own Highland Park and River Rouge complexes. Just as Ford paid five dollars a day to American workers to create a disciplined working class with middle-class values and consumption habits, Fordlandia hoped to attract a steady labor force with a decent wage, free education, and health care.

The enterprise was doomed from the start. Swindled by a Brazilian con artist, Ford paid much more than the start-up land was worth. The terrain was hilly, which made it impossible to deploy the kind of large-scale mechanization Ford had envisioned. Its sandy soil leached out nutrients, a problem made worse by seasonal heavy rain. Chronic labor shortages and conflicts crippled production, while good pay and health care couldn't compete with the allure of industrializing cities like Rio or São Paulo. Rubber tappers, accustomed to having more control over their lives and work routines, protested the rigidity of the plantation's rules, the segregation of tasks according to race, and the abuse of administrators, who ranked Brazilians on a spectrum ranging from "savagery" to "tameness," much as they would livestock. They also balked at attempts to regulate their social life, diet, and drinking habits. Riots frequently broke out, with workers destroying the time clocks and whistles used to organize the workday. Managers responded with mass firings, which led to more clashes.

Ford had a reputation as a pioneer of applied industrial science, yet for the first five years of Fordlandia's operation he employed not one expert with experience in either tropical agriculture or rubber planting. Plantation managers refused to cultivate disease-resistant clones or to follow the advice of Brazilian botanists who warned that rubber trees needed to be scattered at safe distances throughout the jungle in order to prevent the spread of South American leaf blight. Mimicking the regimentation Ford imposed on his River Rouge factory floor, they instead stubbornly planted trees in tight, well-ordered rows. By 1934, Microcuclus ulei had spread from tree to tree, laying waste to the fledgling plantation. But Ford refused to give up. From his office in Detroit, he ordered the whole operation, dance hall and all, moved downriver. This effort, alas, failed too. After seventeen years, an investment of twenty million dollars, and the plantingof more than three million trees, hardly any Fordlandia latex found its way into a Ford tire. In 1945, Henry Ford II sold the property to the Brazilian government for $250,000, abandoning the town and its manicured lawns-along with his father's dream of leading a peaceful cultural revolution in Latin America-to the jungle.

Fast-forward three decades: Ford Motor Company had not, of course, deserted Latin America. Far from it, as its factories rolled out cars and trucks for sale throughout the continent. But America's corporate and political leaders were no longer sponsoring revolution but counterrevolution.

Latin American reformers, democrats, and nationalists, along with working-class and peasant allies, had begun to take seriously the twin promises of democracy and development held out by the United States since the 1930s, pressing for both an extension of political rights and a more equitable distribution of national wealth. But their efforts were repeatedly thwarted by their respective nations' ruling classes, made up of military officers, Catholic conservatives, and economic elites. Politics became polarized throughout the continent, as one side increasingly saw revolution as the only way to give birth to a new world and the other embraced terror as the only way to abort it. Washington, by this time more concerned with confronting the Soviet Union than advancing democracy in Latin America, threw in with the forces of order, sponsoring coups, championing death-squad states, and embracing dictators.

Neither did American business stay neutral. In the mid-1960s, executives from thirty-seven corporations organized themselves into the Business Group for Latin America, made up of delegates from Ford, U.S. Steel, DuPont, Standard Oil, Anaconda Copper, International Telephone and Telegraph, United Fruit, and Chase Manhattan Bank. David Rockefeller, whose family had extensive holdings in Latin America going back to the nineteenth century coordinated the group's activities and served as its liaison with the White House. The idea was both to influence Washington's hemispheric policy and to apply direct pressure at the source, funding the campaigns of friendly Latin American politicians, helping allies hold down prices, and providing financial guidance to cooperative regimes. When lobbying proved insufficient, members of the group, either individually or in concert, worked with the CIA to foment coups, as they did in Brazil in 1964 and Chile in 1973.

Some went further. A number of multinational corporations, including Ford, Coca-Cola, Del Monte, and Mercedes-Benz have been accused in recent years of working closely with Latin American death squads-responsible for hundreds of thousands of killings throughout the hemisphere in the 1970s and 1980s-to counter labor organizing. In Argentina, Ford provided the squads with a fleet of greenish gray Falcons they used in their kidnapping and established on the premises of its manufacturing plant outside Buenos Aires a detention center where union activists were held.8 Henry Ford's vision may have died in the jungle, but the discipline of his work rules remained: the Ford factory fired kidnapped workers, at least those lucky enough to have survived, because of absenteeism.

As a parable of empire, Fordlandia captures well the experience of the United States in Latin America. The quixotic faith that led Ford to try to remake the Amazon in an American image-a truly utopian endeavor considering that he never set foot in Brazil-reflects a broader belief that the United States offers a universal, and universally acknowledged, model for the rest of humanity. In turn, Ford Motor Company's subsequent support of death-squad regimes demonstrates how that kind of evangelicalism easily gives way to brute coercion.

This chapter follows the long history of the United States in Latin America, swinging as it has between reform and reaction. It makes the case for the region's unacknowledged importance to the development of America's truly exceptional empire, unlike any that have come (and gone) before it. For over a century, Latin Americans resisted, often violently, both the United States's self-assigned mission to reform humanity, of the sort that drove Ford to the Amazon, and the militarism that such a mission inevitably generated. In doing so, they forced the United States, often against the worst impulses of its leaders, to develop more pragmatic and flexible imperial strategies, strategies that proved indispensable in its postwar rise to global superpower.

25 Sept 2006

Join the Greens: Life after Hove

Well, usual Green party conference fun and games, what is new is that it has been blogged I think for the first time in some depth. Good to meet lots of fellow Green Party bloggers such as Peter Sanderson and my friend Jim Jepps at Hove, the event has promoted Green political blogging. I was wondering how Jim would cope with his first conference, they are odd beasts...went to my first in Malvern when it was the Ecology Party in 1980?, EP Thompson was awesome.

More from Sian here Didn't get to talk to Natalie Bennett who looks likely to be on green party exectutive and a proud user of the word 'feminist'...nice posts including the information we are all Basques (or is that the Basques were all European's in the age of Avebury)

The constitution debates were as usual the sticky ones and I will not repeat the arguments over the SOC.

Some good bits of policy and emergency motions were passed. The nightlife was good...although I didn't party much, having lost my voice due to flu I conserved it and powered up for my three conference speeches on Saturday.

Green Left was well received and our rally with yours truly, Peter Tatchell, Miriam Kennett and Penny Kemp was a big success, 100-150 people in the council chamber and no negative comment. 'Soft left'green according to some, but class struggle, anti-capitalism, justice and free lightbulbs all got a plug.

At present fingers crossed the GL culture seems pretty different from the far left...Cllr Richard Mallender who is chair of the Green Party Executive chaired the GL rally, where else would that happen. Jim's account is above and here is Peter's article.

Green Left launch: Reds, go Green

The launch of the Green Left shows that the Green Party is now well
and truly the best hope for left politics in the UK

By Peter Tatchell

The Guardian - Comment Is Free - 22 September 2006

weekend's Green Party annual conference in Hove will host the launch
of the Green Left, a group of party activists committed to building
stronger links with the wider left and the trade union movement. Our
aim is a synthesis of red and green, combining anti-capitalism with
ecological sustainability.

The Green Party is already well to the left of Labour and the Lib
Dems, with its radical agenda for grassroots democracy, social
justice, human rights, global equity, environmental protection, peace
and internationalism.

The objective of the Green Left is to build on this progressive agenda
and nudge the Greens further leftwards.

In our view, green is the new red: an empowering political paradigm
for human liberation which offers the most credible alternative to
Labour and the best hope for radical left advance.

Recognising the productivist, growth-driven limitations of traditional
socialism, we are not a left-wing trojan horse within the Greens.
Quality of life and fair shares for all are more important than the
left’s often simplistic agenda of spending more on health and

The Green Left believes government needs to radically rethink basic
premises, like shifting the focus in the NHS from curative medicine to
preventative care. Our aim should be policies to help ensure that many
fewer people get sick in the first place, rather than merely throwing
more money at people once they get ill.

In other words, we are of the left and open to the left, but we also
realise the left has to change, in order to meet people’s needs and to
ensure the survival of life on this planet. Old style socialist
politics need to give way to new style eco-socialism: green

This is crunch time for progressive politics. Labour has lost its
heart and soul. The party leadership has sacrificed socialist values
and policies for short-term political gain. It has pandered to
prejudice and irrationality on issues like asylum, drugs, terrorism,
Europe and crime. Principles have been abandoned for the sake of a few
more sympathetic headlines in the Daily Mail and for another session
of tea and sympathy from Rupert Murdoch.

There is no possibility of undoing Blair’s right-wing coup. Internal
party democracy has been extinguished. Ordinary Labour members have no
say. Everything important is decided by The Dear Leader and his
acolytes in 10 Downing Street. This is autocracy, not democracy. Party
members have been reduced to cheer-leaders and envelope stuffers at
election time. They are neutered by powerless policy forums and by an
annual conference that is stage managed to function as a rubber stamp
for decisions taken by Blair and his inner circle. Gordon Brown, or
any other likely Labour successor, will be no different.

I left Labour in 2000. After 22 years membership, it was a
gut-wrenching decision. My reason? Labour has abandoned both socialism
and democracy. It is no longer committed to the redistribution of
wealth and power. Tony Blair spends more time with millionaire
businessmen than trade union leaders. The gap between rich and poor
has widened since 1997. Civil liberties have been under ceaseless
attack from successive Labour Home Secretaries. In the name of the
‘war on terror,’ our government is curtailing freedom, in order to
supposedly defend it.

No political party lasts forever. Even the most progressive party
eventually decays or turns reactionary. Labour’s great, historic
achievement was the creation of the Welfare State. The current party
leadership is in the process of privatising it.

I joined Labour because I wanted social justice and human rights for
all. My values and aspirations remain the same. Labour’s have changed
fundamentally and irreversibly – rightwards and for the worse.
Reclaiming Labour for socialism is a fine aspiration, but about as
likely as winning the German SPD back to the Marxism it ditched in the

Leaving Labour does not mean giving up the battle for a fair and just
society. There is an alternative option. It is not the Liberal
Democrats. Like the other two establishment parties, Labour and the
Conservatives, the Lib Dems offer no serious challenge to the
corporate, free market interests that are destroying our green and
pleasant land.

The real radical alternative is now the Greens. After two decades of
moving from right to left, the Green Party now occupies the
progressive political space once held by left-wing Labour; with the
added bonus of a far-sighted agenda to save the planet from ecological
catastrophes like climate change. The Greens offer the most credible
alternative to Labour’s pro-war, pro-big business and pro-Bush

The Green Party’s Manifesto for a Sustainable Society
incorporates key socialist values. It rejects privatisation, free
market economics and globalisation; and includes commitments to public
ownership, worker’s rights, economic democracy, progressive taxation,
and the redistribution of wealth and power.

Greens put the common good before corporate greed, and the public
interest before private profit. This red-green synthesis integrates
policies for social justice and human rights with policies for
tackling the life-threatening dangers posed by global warming,
environmental pollution, resource depletion and species extinction. It
sounds like socialism to me.

Unlike the traditional left, with its superficial environmentalism,
Greens understand there is no point campaigning for social justice if
we don’t have a planet capable of sustaining life. Ecological
sustainability is the precondition for a just society.

The Greens also recognise that preventing environmental disaster
requires constraints on the power of big corporations. Profiteering
and free trade has to be subordinated to policies for the survival of
humanity. Can any socialist disagree with that?

Some left-wing critics complain that the Greens are not a pure
socialist party and are not working class-based. But look at the
implications of what the Greens say. Their goals and policies are
often similar to the left’s - without the left-wing jargon. Despite a
different way of expressing things, what the Greens advocate is, in
essence, socialistic.

The Greens may have few links to organised labour. But that is
changing too. Green conferences and public meetings increasingly
feature trade union activists. With more pressure from left-wingers
inside the party, the Greens are likely to strengthen their ties to
the labour movement.

Working with the Greens, the Australian trade unions have enforced
‘green bans’ on environmentally-destructive developments. This shows
the potential for workers and greens to cooperate for the betterment
of all.

There are now lots of radical socialists who, like me, have joined the
Greens and enhanced our left-wing politics with an ecological agenda.
We get a sympathetic hearing too. The party is moving left.

Although the Greens are not perfect (is any party perfect?), its
implicitly anti-capitalist agenda gives practical expression to
socialist ideas. Very importantly, ordinary members are empowered to
decide policy. The Greens are a grassroots democratic party, where
activism is encouraged and where members with ideals and principles
are valued.

Moreover, unlike tiny left parties, such as Respect, Greens have a
proven record of success at the ballot box, with candidates elected in
the London, Scottish, local and European elections. These elected
Greens are a force for social progress, well to the left of Labour and
the Lib Dems on all issues. They are also more radical than George
Galloway’s left-wing party, Respect, on questions like women’s and gay
rights, health care, animal welfare, the environment and justice for
the developing world.

Respect is neither grassroots nor democratic. It is run on the same
democratic centralist lines as the Blairite Labour party, with an
authoritarian, command-style leadership. All major decisions are taken
at the top. It is dominated by the Socialist Workers Party, which is
notorious for packing meetings and organising secret slates to secure
the election of its people to key positions.

Respect is seriously politically compromised. Its leaders have
declared it is not a socialist party and they want to retain the
monarchy. Compounding this rightward drift, Respect has made
opportunistic alliances with reactionary movements like the Muslim
Association of Britain. It endorses ‘the resistance’ in Iraq, which is
now, in a escalating bloodfest of sectarian terrorism, mostly killing
fellow Iraqis – not coalition occupiers.

There is a credible anti-capitalist party – the Greens. They already
have seats and could win many more if left-wingers and progressive
social movements united together in the Green Party. The Greens have
plenty of potential to become an influential electoral force. A
substantial Green vote would pressure Labour and the Lib Dems to adopt
more left-leaning policies. Perhaps, one day, the Greens might even
hold the balance of power. They already punch above their weight in
the London Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.

The great virtue of the Green Party is that it is a grassroots
democratic party, controlled by the ordinary membership and with no
power elite or embedded hierarchy. It is not a top-down, centralist
party like Labour. Members are sovereign. The party conference is
supreme. This means the Greens are open to further radicalisation in a
socialist direction, and this will happen if more left-wingers join.

Thousands of socialists like me have left Labour in disgust. Many have
already joined the Greens; helping accelerate the leftward trajectory.
If more socialists joined, the Green Party would move even further

Unlike Labour, the Greens value idealism and principles. They have a
vision of a radically different kind of society, which makes them
receptive to left alternatives.

For all these reasons, the most effective way to advance socialism is
to join the Greens. Fusing together the best of the red and the green
would strengthen progressive politics; offering a powerful, united
challenge to neo-liberal orthodoxy.

Unity is strength. I saw the potential for eco-socialist advance when
I stood as a independent Green Left candidate for the London Assembly
in 2000. Although I did not win, I was encouraged by the poll result
in the PR list section: 11% for the Greens and 5% for the various left
slates. This total of 16% was 2% more than the Lib Dems, making
red-green the third strongest political force in London. The potential
is there. Seize it. Now is the time for reds to go green.

21 Sept 2006

Greenhouse gases mean we need a new economy

The Tyndale centre says we have 4 years to cut co2 by 60%, the permafrost is melting releasing tons of methane (a much more potent climate change chemical than co2).

No doubt by putting up solar panels we can have a real effect, environmental problems such as the greenhouse effect show that the economy cannot grow for ever.

I live in Berkshire, down the road is the Ascot race course, rebuilt, reopened...it is trying to get more people to come to the races, consuming more resources...in our economy if we sell more stuff we obviously prosper....we need to move to an economy where we share more, where we have libraries for all sorts of things, where goods last longer, where repairing goods makes sense.

Constantly increasing GDP can be based on cleaner technology but lets get our prosperity without throwing away more and more and rushing around in ever faster circles.

20 Sept 2006

Sian Berry blogs Party conference for Greens

Hi Folks,

Off the train 7.39 tomorrow Brighton after work, swift cycle to Hove Town Hall for conference.

Could be sparky, motions on everything from Iraq to small shops...always fun honest..come an observe or if you are member come and make policy (could you do this in labour or the Conservatives?) (or the SWP).

I am speaking at Green Economics Institute friday 1pm council chamber, Green Left saturday with Peter Tatchell, Penny Kemp and Miriam Kennet 3pm council chamber (cheers Richard for booking!), After the Crash sunday 12pm....any way you don't read this to find out about me...so lets move on.

Sian Berry is running for female principal speaker, she may win as there are no other candidates!

She is a great campaigner, works hard on 4 by 4 action and mobilised us for climate change, she has been supportative of Green Left but I would have thought has pretty wide appeal in the party.

Here is her blog...here is the press statement about here from Party office.

Green Party conference (Hove actually)

lib dems in Brighton, we are in Hove....see you there, I am speaking at Green left meeting on saturday, 3.20 council chamber and two green economics institute events, so high quality heckling please!

>From the office of South-East England’s Green MEP Caroline Lucas

September 19th,

Photocall… Media Invitation… Photocall… Media Invitation …



Event: Green MEP hosts public meeting on ‘Peak Oil and Climate
Place: Hove Town Hall, Norton Road, Hove
Time: Friday, September 22nd, 8pm

GREEN Party Euro-MP Caroline Lucas is to host a public meeting on climate
change and ‘peak oil’ during a four-day visit to Brighton and Hove for the
Green Party’s annual conference, which takes place at Hove Town Hall from
Thursday (September 21st) through to Sunday (September 24th)

The city’s Green MEP – and the Party’s Principal Speaker – will also launch
reports into bird ‘flu, the region’s economy and the effect of dwindling oil
reserves on our food systems, as well as delivering a keynote speech at
10.30am on Saturday (September 23rd).

“I am delighted the Green Party is holding its conference in Brighton and
Hove again – it’s a wonderful city, with one of the highest Green votes in
the country, and it is right in the heart of my South-East England
constituency.” said Dr Lucas.

“Most of the events, speeches and discussions are open to public ‘observers’
and I am looking forward to meeting local activists and campaigners both
from within and beyond the Green Party.”

“Brighton and Hove has become a regular host of party political conferences,
not only injecting a boost to the local economy but giving the city’s
residents a chance to really engage with the political process. As a Green,
I warmly welcome this, as we know that our vote share increases dramatically
when voters get a chance to meet us and discuss our policies on peace,
freedom , social justice and sustainability.”

The public meeting, with Roger Cray-Osborne and Brighton resident Stephen
Watson from peak oil campaign group Powerswitch speaking alongside Dr Lucas,
is free – and open to all. It will discuss the problem of dwindling oil and
gas reserves alongside the urgency of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to
stave off the worst impacts of climate change – and observe that the answer
to each problem is the same: reverse our dependence on fossil fuels.

The conference itself is based around two themes: social enterprise and


Notes to Editors:

1. A full conference timetable and agenda is available for journalists and
delegates at http://www.greenparty.org.uk/nextconference
2. Accredited journalists are welcome to meet Caroline and other prominent
Green Party members at a press breakfast at Hove Town Hall at 9am on Friday,
September 22nd. Contact the Green Party Press Office on 020 7561 0282 for
3. For more information on any conference event, or to request media passes,
contact the Green Party Press Office on 020 7561 0282
4. For more information on Caroline Lucas’s timetable in Brighton, or to
arrange photographs / interviews with Dr Lucas, please contact Ben Duncan by
email or on any number below.

More details on the march and rally can be found at:

For more information please contact Ben on 01273 671946, 07973 823358 or


Ben Duncan
Media Officer to Caroline Lucas MEP
01273 671946 (office)
07973 823358 (mobile)

17 Sept 2006

Headcorn Sustainability

Headcorn Sustainability

Penny Kemp, co-founder of Headcorn Sustainability, said: "A typical Sunday dinner travels 49,000 miles to get on your plate.

"At the same time it emits 37 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

"You can actually see the difference that would be made if it's only travelled 12 or 20 miles."

As well as the day job (s), the kids and ecosocialismo,
I am also on the council of Headcorn Sustainability, which is run by Penny Kemp, one of the patrons is one Caroline Lucas (I believe she is a famous Euro MP).

With the sustainability barn, farmers market and lots of advice on sustainable living plus the biofuel car (don't worry George Monbiot, this is run on waste oil from Sarah's pub the George and Dragon not the rainforests).

All in all Headcorn sustainability makes a difference, why not start your own sustainabilty group.

And Vic Reeves is a member (don't know whether I am allowed to tell you this), shame that Tom Baker doesn't live in Headcorn any more, though.

Headcorn a little rural oasis of green practice!

Here is some detail from the BBCFood group's 'buy local' message

Headcorn Sustainability supports farmers' markets and local shops
A fresh food campaign group from Kent is hoping to spread its message and ideas across the UK.
Headcorn Sustainability, based in the village of Headcorn between Ashford and Maidstone, strongly supports the buying of locally-produced food.

It is backing new research in the Food Policy journal, which says farmers' markets and community shops can help the economy and the environment.

The report on "food miles" suggests £4bn could be saved by buying locally.

National campaign

Penny Kemp, co-founder of Headcorn Sustainability, said: "A typical Sunday dinner travels 49,000 miles to get on your plate.

"At the same time it emits 37 kg of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

"You can actually see the difference that would be made if it's only travelled 12 or 20 miles."

She added that Headcorn Sustainability is not just about food-buying habits in Kent and the South East.

"It is a national campaign but one of the things that often happens is that the information doesn't reach those that are living in rural areas," she said.

"One of the reasons Headcorn Sustainability was started was because when we did some surveying at one of our farmers' markets, we found that people wanted environmental information and choices."

the shop stocks all of the following, the local veg at the moment is particulary impressive bought some very nice mushrooms and cooked risotto yesterday, they were grown in Ashford.
In the shop...
As well as our rang of teas, preserves, local produce we have:


Free light bulb anyone

Free Lightbulbs
You could qualify for up to 4 free energy efficient light bulbs, or one sensor light bulb each lasting up to 12 years! Are you in receipt of one or more of the following benefits?

Income support
housing benefit
council tax benefit
income based jobseekers allowance
attendance allowance
disability living allowance
disablement pension benefit
war disablement pension
pension credit
child tax credit (income £14500 or less)
working tax credit (income £14500 or less)
Come and claim your free light bulbs at Una’s Barn, 29 High Street, Headcorn, (behind the George and Dragon) OPEN Tuesday – Saturday 9.30-3.30 OR PHONE PENNY ON 01622 890601

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