Saturday, March 8, 2008

el participante, volume 1 issue 3

Read this doc on Scribd: elparticipante-1-3


Malena Arnaud Participantes, Not Spectators
Paco Martin Del Campo The Wire
Thai Jones Yanqui, Go Home
Neha Nimmagudda Post-Apartheid African Politics

the core Huey P. Newton, 10 Point Program of the Black Panther Party


MALENA ARNAUD is the secretary of Lucha. She is a first-year at Barnard considering majoring in anthropology. ILIANA FÉLIZ is the vice president of Lucha and the secretary of the Chicano Caucus. She stud-ies political science and anthropology.

DANIELA GARCÍA is the treasurer of Lucha. She is a first-year at Columbia College considering majoring in philosophy and political science.

DAVID JUDD is a member of the International Socialist Organization and Columbia Coalition Against the War. He studies computer science at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

THAI JONES is a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department. His research focuses on early twentieth-century radical movements. Thai is the author of A Radical Line: From the Labor
Movement to the Weather Underground, One Family’s Century of Conscience

NEHA NIMMAGUDDA studies Sociology and Political Science at Columbia College. She is currently in South Africa studying the politics of recognition, resistance, and representation.

PACO MARTIN DEL CAMPO is the campus liason for Lucha, and political chair of the Chicano Caucus. He is a first-year at Columbia College and considering majoring in history and anthropology.

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el participante, volume 1 issue 3

Post-Apartheid South African Politics

Many charismatic leaders emerged out of the fifty-year struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. African National Congress (ANC) icon Nelson Mandela is perhaps the best known, but student leader Steven Bantu Biko, Walter Sisulu of the ANC, Pan-African Congress party leader Robert Sobukwe, and South African Communist Party secretary-general Chris Hani were equally important in the anti-apartheid movement. Over the four trying years that immediately followed the end of apartheid, these leaders of the former liberation movement and their groups, particularly the ANC, achieved decisive political ascendancy.

Ever since its victory in the 1994 elections, the ANC has been relatively unchallenged. It has been able to maintain this success is largely due to the nature of its “historic compromise.” Once in power, the ANC immediately sought to institutionalize the political voice of its partners in the anti-apartheid struggle, creating an alliance between itself, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and the South African Communist Party (SACP). The Tripartite Alliance has generally endorsed the ANC candidates in national elections, thereby consolidating the vote of the left and internalizing political debate.

The Alliance’s early successes rested on an extremely progressive Constitution and the Labour Relations Act, which established a high level of worker’s rights, although it did not provide for centralized bargaining across industries and sectors. The subsequent passage of the Redistribution and Development Programme similarly affirmed the social democratic spirit of the Alliance. Popularly seen as the “people’s programme,” it guaranteed redistribution first and set forth a model of a developmental state, with an extensive social “safety net” based on its people-centered and “basic needs” approach.

Soon after its victory in 1994, however, the ANC began to rethink its economic policy. It inherited a state facing increasing debt, unemployment, high interest rates, and a tradition of protectionism. South Africa was a new nation in an increasingly hostile international environment of globalization. Fearing capital flight from South Africa, and eager to sooth the concerns of foreign investors, the ANC made an economic policy shift. The social democracy that had been at the heart of the anti-apartheid movement and the Alliance quickly eroded with the adoption of a new macroeconomic policy, Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR).

The ANC thus began to concentrate on externally driven, globally competitive growth through a neo-liberal agenda that stressed macroeconomic stability rather than internal development. It was a self-imposed structural adjustment program, similar to those imposed on developing nations by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. GEAR was supposed to create up to 270,000 new jobs, however it actually resulted in the loss of 125,000 jobs. Although strong labor laws have made it difficult for employers to hire and fire workers, the major winner of this shift was big business. Nationally, the GEAR policy has lowered the budget deficit, public debt, and inflation. It has also increased poverty and inequality and limited foreign direct investment.

This new capitalist agenda championed by the ANC have led to high growth rates but have also further entrenched the class divides in the post-apartheid state. Mandela left office in 1999 after one term with most promises of the ANC unfulfilled, including rights to free education, free housing, and access to basic services, problems which persist today. South Africans wait years for government housing and students protest the expensive fees and mounting debts for their education.

Today, South Africa ranks as one of the most unequal societies in the world, right behind Brazil. High growth rates of GDP have been accompanied by even higher unemployment, resulting in a “jobless growth.” The primary benefactors of the shift to majority rule has been the black middle class, yet what remained in the wake of an incredible political transformation was an extremely economically and socially divided society. This exacerbated the existing conditions of violent crime, HIV/AIDS and lack of access to basic services such as water and electricity for a large percentage of the country’s population—especially those in rural areas.

Consequently, frustration and disillusionment, especially among those who have remained in poverty through the transition, have permeated the national mood and created internal rifts within the ANC and the Tripartite Alliance. In the past, the COSATU and SACP—whose class-consciousness and mobilization of the black working class was crucial to the large-scale social change that the anti-apartheid movement created—had often encouraged the sloganeering of the ANC and supported the Mbeki administration in order to maintain broad support. However, after GEAR the two groups became increasingly critical of the ANC, particularly when Mbeki excavated his socialist rhetoric when it was politically advantageous.

Many members of the ANC became similarly disillusioned with Mbeki and his standard aloofness. These tensions erupted last December, when the ANC elected Jacob Zuma over incumbent South African President Thabo Mbeki as its party leader, and thus the most likely ANC presidential candidate in the April 2009 elections.

Well before the December vote, Mbeki had gathered a reputation for being an alienating figure, within the ANC and within the country more generally—never able to emulate the charisma of his predecessor. His peculiar stance on the HIV/AIDS pandemic—that HIV does not lead to AIDS—has elicited debates in a country that faces some of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world. Furthermore, Mbeki has staffed his cabinet and ministries with supporters of his brand of denialism. Critics accuse him of corruption and centralization within his administration. He has sharply dissented with his left-wing allies in SACP, antagonizing its current leader Blade Nzimande, and the workers of the COSATU. They have in turn thrown their weight behind Zuma.

Zuma is the only significant opposition candidate. Many news outlets have focused on the personality of Zuma in their coverage of the December election. A former houseboy, Zuma rose through the ranks of the anti-apartheid movement, eventually making a name for himself as a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed branch of the ANC. The former secretariat of the COSATU, Zuma has campaigned on guaranteed incomes for the poor and advocated the nationalization of basic industries. Zuma has garnered support from the COSATU, the SACP, and also the youth and womens’ leagues. Zuma has amassed considerable support in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, a traditional Zulu stronghold. Zuma is an ethnic Zulu himself, yet many argue that people from Kwa-Zulu Natal identify more with his populist message and similar background, growing up in poor rural area, than with his ethnicity.

Zuma has portrayed himself as distinctly anti-Mbeki. His populism contrasts significantly with the elite intellectual image of Mbeki. This populist image, however, contradicts his previously moderate stance within the ANC. There is no evidence to suggest that he intends to actually implement his populist agenda. He has called himself a socialist at times, but he has also moved to ensure the protection of foreign investments, even going so far as to meet with Western and Asian donors to allay their worries.

Zuma, like Mbeki, has also courted controversy. Mbeki himself dismissed Zuma from his position as Vice President, after charges of corruption and bribery (for which he was convicted), and rape (for which he was later acquitted). In that highly publicized trial, he was ridiculed for his odd views on sex, which included assertions that he did not contract HIV because he showered after unprotected intercourse with an HIV-positive woman. Regarding Zuma, Mbeki has argued that “the ANC must not elect someone the country will be ashamed of.”

Almost as soon as his victory was announced in December, Zuma was hit eighteen charges of corruption for a $4 billion weapons deal. The maneuver is seen by many in government as Mbeki’s last attempt to deter Zuma’s candidacy in next year’s general elections and to hold rank.

The constitutionality of these charges are currently being assessed by the country’s highest court. If they are affirmed and he faces trial and is convicted, Zuma’s ability to stand as ANC candidate for presidency will evaporate. Zuma’s conviction—which seems more than likely, given the fact that Zuma’s financial advisor has already been convicted—would seem to augur the end of the Tripartite Alliance, as SACP and COSATU would almost undoubtedly endorse another candidate. Having been so far exemplar of one-party politics, it appears that after fourteen years, young South Africa is finally witnessing the first real test of its democracy.

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el participante, volume 1 issue 3

Yanqui, Go Home

I arrived in Cuba with a guilty conscience. When I landed at the Havana airport, I was the only passenger detained by security. This was fine, I knew I had it coming to me. Two hostile guards rifled my bags, watching me with the suspicious glares that I deserved – I was a representative, after all, of the great Imperialist peril to the North. These sentries could not be expected to know how sympathetic I was to their nation’s achievements. I was more than happy to allow them this speck of revenge.

I celebrated New Year’s Eve with a family of exiled Basque separatists. In their kitchen, we smoked romeo y julieta cigars, drank anejo rum, and debated revolutionary theory until long past midnight. Then, the conversation stopped and the singing began. We sang epics from the Basque lands, peasant hymns, and anarchist fight songs. The older generation knew the verses. The rest of us shouted the refrains, beating our glasses on the table. When the last one ended I stood and offered a song of my own: a ballad about Americans who had fought in the Spanish Civil War. I remembered most of the words, and everyone joined in for the chorus. Singing about the Abraham Lincoln Brigades to Basque revolutionaries in the socialist capital of the world—this was a superabundance of forbidden political delights. If only the airport guards could have seen me then.

This was six years ago. Like most American leftists, I had been raised to idealize the Cuban revolution. Fearing that Castro would not be around much longer, I wanted to see a socialist state when I had the chance. Last week, after fifty years in power, Fidel, 81, transferred authority to his brother, Raul, who is 76. Though this was just a half-step toward a post-Castro Cuba, the change renewed concerns about the consequences of that eventual transition.

Cuba’s fate is not a recent concern for American leftists. My family’s involvement is typical of the connection many have felt with the island. My grandparents visited the country just one year after the revolution. They returned home to found the Brooklyn chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Then, when Fidel came to New York in 1960, they wrote to Havana and asked him to stay with them in their house near Prospect Park. The Cubans thanked my grandparents for their “generous offer,” but said they had made other arrangements. In 1969, my mother traveled to Havana with a group of SDS activists. She met with Cubans, as well as South Vietnamese guerrillas, to coordinate a global strategy for the antiwar movement. The Vietnamese were quiet and awe-inspiring; some had walked for weeks along the Ho Chi Minh Trail before flying to the conference.

For fifty years, Cuba has embodied American leftists’ dreams and frustrations about their own country. Before Castro’s revolution, the Soviets had served this purpose. In the 1920s and 1930s, radical students in the United States saw their own ambitions in the successes of Lenin and Stalin. Long after the Soviet reality had destroyed its initial possibilities, American leftists clung to its example. Stalin’s reputation among leftists here survived better than it did among his own citizens.

Critics might see this as a sign of radical naiveté, but in fact the idealization of the Soviet Union was perfectly practical. In order to reform the United States, leftists needed to find a model with which to compare it. The Russia of their imagination had nothing to do with Stalinist realities. Instead, it symbolized their hopes for their own country. As such it was a powerful ally to invoke in domestic struggles. In the 1930s and 1940s, American leftists continually compared U.S. government policies—on racism and the rights of labor—with their imagined conception of how the Russians behaved. When the evil of Stalinism became impossible to ignore, many pinned their hopes on China. In the 1960s, Vietnam and Cuba became the beacons for American radical ambition.

Only Cuba retains a system that can be construed as really existing socialism. This is partly because Cuba had no choice. It has none of the explosive potential of the Asian nations, and thus investors have had less of an incentive to interfere in its economy. Likewise, the US government’s hostility to the Castro administration plays a significant role. The embargo, as well as continuous diplomatic tension, has prevented Cuba from loosening its domestic policies. It is the United States, ironically, that keeps Cuba socialist.

The island, to be sure, is not completely isolated. It participates in the global economy, but does not trade with the United States. These days, the cars in Havana are equally divided between the classic Detroit models for which the nation is famous, Polskis, Ladas, and other Soviet-bloc imports, and late-model Japanese or European imports. Of all Cuba’s exports, the most important is its people. Several generations have been trained and brought up by the Revolution—they are its greatest achievement. But these educated professionals have no opportunity to pursue their careers at home. In recent years, they have been forced to leave the country to find work in Canada or Spain.

The American Left is not the only group concerned with Cuba’s future. Its hope that the revolution will continue to serve as the last redoubt for fading twentieth-century ideologies may be a bit self-involved, but it is positively altruistic compared with the vulturine ambitions of the White House, or the anti-Castro lobby in Miami. In the next few years, things will change, and the only constituency that really matters is the Cuban people. They neither want to serve as sacrifices to the sentimentality of American leftists, nor do they want to usher in the inequities of unalloyed capitalism, as happened in China or Russia. They want to maintain the gains of the revolution, and to improve upon them. They want the ability to travel and stay in hotels, to have internet access and cable TV. If Cubans can achieve these concessions, and find the opportunities they seek at home, then the Revolution will no longer be an abstraction onto which foreigners can inscribe their hopes and fears. It will once again be a model of a global alternative to capitalism.

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el participante, volume 1 issue 3

The Wire

“It all matters,” Sergeant Ellis Carver says in season 5 of The Wire. “I know we thought it didn’t, but it does.”

Sergeant Ellis Carver’s observation about institutional neglect speaks to the success that the series has enjoyed. The Wire isn’t getting the attention at the Emmy’s or in the Nielson ratings, but critics are hailing it as the best show in television history this side of Roots. More importantly, it is very popular among the demographic it depicts: residents of the inner-city. Low ratings and accolades aside, the resonance of The Wire among urban-dwellers reveals that the gritty realism of the show captures something elemental about the violent, corrupt, and conflict ridden life of American cities.

The Wire’s low ratings indicate a disturbing truth in America. “Reality” television remains popular, but a program that portrays the harsh realities of our country is not what people seem to want to see. As The Wire demonstrates, we are all individually woven into a complex social fabric. The visceral nature of The Wire throws mainstream America’s complacent cognitive dissonance back in its face, and apparently most Americans would rather ignore systems of oppression that implicate themselves as participants. Sergeant Carver’s quote could be applied to privileged America’s overall attitude of willful neglect of “the other America.” It does indeed matter, but the media, political leaders and infrastructure, and “middle-class” Americans all act as if they think it doesn’t.

The Wire began its first season as a deceivingly simple cops-and-robbers narrative. It traced the efforts of Baltimore city detectives to infiltrate the West Baltimore drug trade monopoly using telephone-surveillance, or a wiretap, hence the series’ name. However, this was never a typical one-dimensional cops and robbers story. Avon Barksdale, the drug kingpin, was portrayed as a modern-day black “Godfather,” a family-man who simultaneously was ruthless and provided support for his entourage. Two detectives, Bunk and McNulty, are alcoholic womanizers, especially McNulty, who is a belligerent and irresponsible father and husband. Some cops commit blatant police brutality. One of the most popular characters of the show, Omar, makes a living by robbing drug-pushers and generally creating chaos for narco-traffickers. He is also homosexual. These are only a few examples of the ways that every character in The Wire is humanized and quite multifaceted.

Each subsequent season expanded in focus, incorporating other elements of the American city beyond the narrow drugs and detectives storyline. Season two incorporated the longshoremen’s unions and the dock-workers, portraying the cruelties of modern capitalistic enterprise and its detriments to the working-class. Season three brought in city politics, depicting how the mayor and city council’s personal political ambitions trump actual reduction of crime in the city. Season four dealt with the failing school system, with specific emphasis on schools’ blatant refusal to acknowledge the traumatic socialization facing black males. Season five, the current and last season, depicts the inner-workings and pitfalls of the media, as represented by The Baltimore Sun. The “wire,” then, was no longer a simple reference to wiretapping, but became a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all these institutions and how they affect and relate to each other.

There are too many complex themes in The Wire to fully discuss, but a few specific themes can help explain the show’s popularity among both critics and certain dedicated viewers. Painful relationships, such as a teenage boy who has to keep the DSS (welfare) card from his crack-addicted mother, strike a chord with anyone who has known a “crack baby.” Indeed, the line “I’m not paying you to be my mother,” is at once powerful and heartbreaking. The effects of repressive conditions on the human psyche are another common theme. A silent foster child, traumatized in ways left only to our imagination, stares blankly with no recognition of his social surroundings. His silence speaks to the silence imposed on the oppressed every day. The homeless veteran of the Iraq War, recounting the story of watching his commander lose his hands and laugh insanely during an attack in Fallujah (“It’s the laughing that I can’t stand. No hands: whatever”) speaks to the insanity war, both in foreign countries and the more intimate war on the streets of Baltimore. All these resonate deeply with those who have seen and lived these tragic circumstances.

Of course, the critics’ adoration of The Wire has more to do with the observations that the series makes about the structural failures of city infrastructure. When the schools are failing, the mayor takes money from crime-fighting units to compensate, but he, along with the rest of us, will ignore them again as soon as the media no longer has a story to put on the front page. Budget distribution is a teeter-totter of lies, pandering momentarily to the political winds, only to be taken the moment people stop caring. Perception and power are two other themes that are very prominent in The Wire. Political ambitions, whether they are to become a city prosecutor or the governor, dictate every action. Politicians and careerists are only concerned with public perception.

Even the drug traffickers are conscious of perception. If he (they are mostly men) shows any weakness or doubt, he opens the door for insubordination and competition, usually coming in the form of gun shots. So drug dealers must be cruel and heartless in their actions. Seasons four and five deal with this theme explicitly, observing a well-intentioned city councilman running for mayor with the earnest intention of changing Baltimore who, one year later, is “juking the crime stats”—altering the statistics so the are misleading, emphasizing quantity of arrests over quality—in hopes of a gubernatorial bid. Officials wielding political power do so for personal gain, not for the greater good of Baltimore. Even when a corrupt official is prosecuted, he becomes a pariah that falls to preserve the system, not end it.

But The Wire does more than observe the structural problems facing American cities. It also raises interesting questions, such as who actually has power. The police commissioner has direct control over investigations and resource distribution, and the mayor is mostly just briefed about crime-fighting. Careerist bureaucrats, more interested in numerous low-level arrests than the few leaders of the crime organizations, decide how crime is fought. It’s not just about who has the power in the political systems. The local drug lords have much more influence over youth than any local leaders or law enforcement, and young, intelligent black males (and some females) are more likely to end up on the corner, working for the drug kingpins, than in college (or even high school for that matter). Drug dealers hold sway over urban youth far more so than any political organization or detective unit. The drug trade is depicted as more efficient and rational than the bureaucratic mess downtown. They make more money, and even provide more money for youth in Baltimore, than the police can even conceptualize. The drug-pushers are, of course, ruthless, oppressive, and dehumanizing on their own and are not to be emulated, but The Wire suggests that the political, economic, and educational institutions in power hold less influence over the hearts and minds of urban denizens than the drug dealers they label as criminals. Those social institutions are simultaneously enforcing the dehumanizing conditions and are almost powerless to stop it.

The creators of The Wire, David Simon and Ed Burns, know the city of Baltimore quite intimately. Simon was a police reporter for The Baltimore Sun, and Burns is a former police detective and teacher in Baltimore. Most of the events and themes in The Wire are based on their own experiences working in Baltimore, and Baltimore is indeed the heart of the show. The language and culture in The Wire is uniquely “B-More,” but the themes of The Wire are universally shared by urban communities, and the series provides a powerful argument for why American cities remain poor, corrupt, and dehumanizing places for their residents.

The themes in The Wire touch on problems that face every American city plagued by racist political and economic systems, the stark inequality of the post-industrial economy, and institutional failures to meet these crises. Creator David Simon himself said that The Wire is about how we are subject to institutions—political, educational, governmental, media, narcotic—that consistently fail us. There probably has never been a fictional show with more sociological and political significance than The Wire. Despite American’s preference for the farce of “reality” television, The Wire’s unprecedented broadcast on a popular network like HBO enables a large audience to finally see the inequities of American life and what is happening our cities. Perhaps more importantly, it gives a voice to people who have been silenced in America, like the foster child, the corner boys, the single mothers, crack babies, and everyone else on the block.

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el participante, volume 1 issue 3

Participantes, not Spectators

As participantes, we are the ones who are willing to work and struggle for change. In order to achieve equality, one has to leave the comfort of a protected classroom or the complacency of “objective” journalism and move into the reality of the outside world. In a world divided, in which conflict between the powerful the oppressed, the owners and the workers, to be “objective” is to implicitly accept the legitimacy of the structures of domination, exploitation, and privilege. To be a “spectator” in the context of struggle and conflict makes it impossible to actually comprehend and engage our society. The spectator is hardly apolitical; it is the politics of the status quo.

Our intention must be to start a movement through mass mobilization. While we are building coalitions and movements, we must also step back and analyze our actions and ideas as organizers and activists. el participante provides the space for those discussions as a strong visible forum for those who feel discontent to connect with and support the movement. Only mass mobilization gives voice and power to those who are structurally silenced, thereby forcing change in politics, the economy and society. Spectators just watch what happens. They talk about the results the next day, but they did not have any part in building the movement. When it is convenient, the opportunistic Spectator jumps on popular issues, criticizing and offering useless rhetoric. When a movement is created it has to move past discourse and discussion that is isolated from the concrete struggles. As participantes we embrace the unity of theory and practice: thought without action is sterile and irrelevant—action without directionless and undisciplined. Without action, a cause will remain theoretical, unrealized.

As a publication of the left, el participante strives to be the place for thought and debate so that concrete political struggles on and off campus can be addressed in a more coherent manner. In a world divided, we must take sides. We are not “objective” Spectators, sycophants of the status-quo. We are partisans, Luchistas and participantes.

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el participante, volume 1 issue 3

Women and Private Property

Last February, Lucha held an educational on sexism with guest speaker Monica Somocurcio. The discussion-based event addressed attendees’ opinions on gender inequality and women’s oppression and emphasized the historical basis for the sexism rampant in society today.

The educational sought to dispel oversimplified understandings of the subjugation of women. Music videos that portray women as sexual objects, the common use of demeaning language to refer to females, and other cultural practices are usually given as the root of the inequality between the genders. If only the rappers would change their diction, if only video games would do away with scantily clad females, pundits claim, the road to equality would be free of obstacles. However, these manifestations are not the cause of sexism, but the effects of a much more complicated relationship between society and the family.

Somocurcio explored this relationship through her discussion of the rise of the father’s rights over the mother’s rights. When hunter-gatherer societies become more “civilized,” producing surpluses and allowing for a greater division of labor, the role of women shifts drastically from a productive decision-making partner to an inferior, a piece of reproductive property owned by the patriarch. After asking students why they believed this was, Somocurcio argued that with the advent of private property, women are relegated to the household to make sure that they produce offspring that can continue the wealth and line of the family. If women are allowed to stray from home, bloodline becomes more dubious, and the system inheritance untenable.

The ramifications of private property on the family and treatment of females is further examined by Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Engels uses Morgan’s stages of savagery, barbarity, and civilization, which correlate to group marriage, paired marriage, and monogamy, to signify the changes in partnerships between men and women. Of course, the evolution of human interactions can hardly be explained so easily, but Engels uses these distinctions to show how gender inequality is not an inherent problem of mankind, but in fact lies within the creation of the family as the “economic unit of society.” In the “savage” stage, “group marriage” is actually “a loose form of monogamous marriage, here and there polygamy, and occasional infidelities.” Women and men are allowed to explore sexually, with little or no repercussions. The “pairing marriage” stage in “barbarity” comes with more restrictions to the couple, but the biggest difference is the communal responsibilities. Women play a role in hunting, mediating, innovation and almost all aspects of life. In fact, it is only with the rise of monogamy that women become dependent on men for their livelihood.

Women are treated unequally not because of biological differences, nor due to men’s supposed aggressive need to dominate, nor because of the setbacks that pregnancy can cause. Instead, Engels proposes that in a private property society where men do most of the work that is socially recognized as productive, the increased importance of wealth makes “the man’s position in the family more important than the woman’s...and create[s] an impulse to exploit this strengthened position in order to overthrow, in favor of his children, the traditional order of inheritance.”

It is important, however, to note that whenever a theory offers the complete answer to complicated issues, there is usually missing information somewhere. Engels three stage model is mechanistic and simplistic in its own way. However, by emphasizing the importance of history and the interconnections among property systems, gender roles, and family structure, Engels helps us ask important questions about the origins of women’s oppression and the possibilities of a feminist liberation. Lucha holds educationals to inform the attendees of current states of affairs and radical perspectives on social problems, and encourages self-reflection and critical debate on these complicated issues. In this case, the educational left all questioning the state of women’s “world historical defeat.”

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el participante, volume 1 issue 3

Report Back: "Race and the Democratic Party"

On March 4, Lucha joined cultural groups like SOL, Chicano Caucus and AAA in a discussion with the College Democrats entitled “Race and the Democratic Party.” The questions posed by the moderator, Lucha member Malena Arnaud, focused on policies and procedures that disenfranchise groups, and on whether or not the Democratic Party is politically viable for people of color. However, the conversation really became a discussion about the Democrats’ effectiveness and accountability in carrying out policies that their campaigns are built upon. The College Democrats seemed to share some of the same frustrations that activist and cultural groups on campus have towards the apparent laxity of the party.

Disagreement arose when tactics on how to achieve progress despite the political stagnation were proposed. While the College Democrats stressed the importance of working within the system, activist groups like Lucha have a more grassroots approach. Despite the disagreement, the dialogue broke ground, creating new awareness of the necessity for campus groups to understand where ideologies and tactics diverge. Although the discussion did not completely focus on the intended theme, the conversation was fruitful in that all groups understood that now, more than ever, we need to be united and dedicated in order to move forward.

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el participante, volume 1 issue 3

CCAW Reorganized as a Coalition


The Columbia Coalition Against the War, which ended the Fall 2007 semester in bad shape, has been re-launched and re-energized.

When it was first created, a year ago, CCAW operated as a coalition of campus groups, which came together to organize buses to a January 27 antiwar protest in DC and then to organize a February 15 student strike. Over the next several months, however, CCAW stopped functioning as this kind of coalition and most former member groups ceased sending representatives. CCAW focused last semester on a divestment campaign, which, in the face of a declining national antiwar movement, did not gather as much momentum as had been hoped, and whose proposal was quietly rejected by Columbia.

At the beginning of the present semester, CCAW was refounded in a meeting with representatives from a number of campus groups and unaligned individuals. Though CCAW’s shift away from a broad coalition was not the primary cause of the group’s trouble, its members thought returning to its original structure could give it renewed momentum. CCAW is now a coalition consisting, usually, of Lucha, Students for Justice in the Middle East, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, the International Socialist Organization, and Students for a Democratic Society. A number of other groups have been represented at meetings, and others have expressed interest in joining.

CCAW has also implemented new voting procedures, after a discussion of problems with past ones. Decisions are now made with one vote per group represented at a meeting. Any group wanting to contribute to the antiwar movement is encouraged to send a representative.
CCAW is planning an antiwar flyering campaign over the next few weeks, culminating in a week of film screenings after Spring Break that will commemorate the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Tuesday, March 11: Middle East Event

5 Years of Occupation: U.S. Policy in the Middle East
Rashid Khalidi & Anthony Arnove
7:30pm, Tuesday March 11
301 Fayerweather Hall, Columbia University

As we approach the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, conflicts grow across the Middle East. Despite the "troop surge", sectarian violence and anti-occupation resistance in Iraq show no signs of ending. Israel steps up its siege of Gaza with a series of bloody raids. U.S. outrages in Afghanistan coincide with a resurgence of the Taliban. Talk of civil war in Lebanon grows louder, as does Bush administration bluster against Iran. How do these events fit together? What is needed to stem the tide of violence?

Please join Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and Director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, and Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, for a discussion of these crucial issues. Sponsored by Lucha, Students for Justice in the Middle East, Muslims for Social Justice, the International Socialist Organization, and the Undergraduate History Council. For more information, contact or

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New Labor Forum Event:

Is This A Watershed Moment in U.S. Politics?

Brought to you by the New Labor Forum.

* Katrina vanden Heuvel Editor and Publisher, The Nation

* Bill Fletcher, Jr. Author, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice

* Mae Ngai Author, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

* Juan Gonzalez Columnist, The New York Daily News

Special Posthumous Award Presentation by Roger Toussaint, President, TWU Local 100 to Marvin Franklin, painter, member TWU Local 100

Friday, March 14th -- 12:30 - 2:30 p.m. The Murphy Institute, CUNY 25 West 43rd Street - 18th Floor New York, NY 10036

Ticket Prices include an annual subscription to New Labor Forum.

For more information go to
or contact Jeannette Gabriel at or 212-827-0200.

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New SDS Blog:

Check out the snazzy new blog that SDS has put together. Very impressive, with very good book reviews and discussions of activism, theory, history. Good work all around.

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Vote on Crimes of the Labor Department Against Workers

American Rights At Work has a new campaign targeting the secretary of labor:

What's her worst deed? There are so many choices – we're undecided. Can you help us choose?

Take our poll right now to pick your top three misdeeds!

So which do you think is worse?

  • Pushing to cut 8 million workers' overtime pay.
  • Actively campaigning against bipartisan legislation that restores the rights of workers to freely and fairly form unions.
  • Failing to issue fines for more than 4,000 mine safety violations.
  • Covering up mine safety failures and obstructing Congressional investigations into mining disasters.
  • Using tax dollars to create Chao-themed gold coins, lanyards, and fleece blankets for giveaways.
  • Refusing to enforce rules requiring employers to pay for safety gear – contributing to 400,000 workers injured and 50 dead.
  • Forcing longshoremen back to work without a contract, when their walkout could have cost her family's shipping company millions of dollars.

Outraged? Wait until you see the full list. Once we've narrowed our list down to the three "worst of the worst," we'll release it to the media and bloggers and expose just how much damage Elaine has done.

Voting ends Friday, March 14, so click here to see the list and vote now.

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International Women's Day March Against the War

Saturday, March 8, 6pm-8pm
Washington Square Park
West 4th St., one block east of 6th Ave.
Called by Gabnet and the Mariposa Alliance

Open Declaration for March 8th Against the War (from Gabnet and the Mariposal Alliance):

International Women's Day arose from the upsurge of women's activism on both national and international politics. 1913 was a watershed for the women's movement. On March 8th, women led peace rallies in Europe, in protest against the looming threat of a world war. In Russia, the women went on strike, calling for "peace and bread," thereby starting the cresting of a revolutionary wave until the 1917 October revolution. In the US, Ida Wells-Barnett, an African-American journalist, broke segregation laws by marching with her white colleagues, calling for the women's right to vote. Indeed, the 20th century was replete with instances of women challenging national and international politics, culminating in rallies, pickets, demonstrations on March 8th.

Since then March 8th has been co-opted and turned into a so-called commemoration of women's achievements, as though there were no more need for further achievements. It is time to return March 8th to its historic role as the day women challenge government decisions and policies inimical to peace, justice and the preservation of the human species. It is time for March 8th to be known as the day when women unite and march against state policies dangerous to the health and safety of the nation.

In the year 2008, we issue the call to all women to transform March 8th into a historic protest against the war in Iraq. Despite the majority opprobrium against this war, it continues, sucking up resources needed for education, health and social services. Despite majority opposition to the war, it continues, funneling hundreds of billions of taxpayers' money into the maws of war-profiteers and war-racketeers. Despite majority disgust with the war, it continues, killing one US youth after another, nearly 4,000 now; killing nearly 2 million Iraqis; the endless carnage justified by hollow assertions of "victory" and "it's working."

The March 8th Against the War Committee call on all women to use this day of international activism to protest the war, call for its end, and for US troops to return to US soil. The March 8th Against the War Committee invokes the memory of Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai, of the European women and the Russian women who opposed imperialist wars. May their likes walk with us again, in the 21st century!

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Monday, March 3, 2008

"Even Handed"? Pattern of Zionist Bias at Spectator

A recent article brought in Spectator covering a Zionist event sponsored by the College Republicans, LionPac, Hasbara Fellowship, Israel Alliance, Pro-Israel Progressives featured a correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and Palestinian Affairs producer for NBC.

Who ever wrote the headline for this article needs to be fired for atrocious journalism.

The headline:
Journalist Takes Even Handed to the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Let's just take the headline first. We'll move onto the content of this man's propaganda next. Why is this called the "Arab-Israeli" rather than the "Palestinian-Israeli" conflict? Seems innocuous enough right? No. Israel has systematically denied the nationhood and nationality of the Palestinian people. They have claimed they are just Arabs, and thus the refugees driven from their homeland by the Zionist state should just assimilate into the surrounding Arab states, since all Arabs are the same anyways.

"Even Handed"? What this event most resembles were the "ex-terrorists" turned neo-conservatives the Republicans brought to warn us all about the dangers of Islamo-fascism. This is how Spec itself reports the content of this man's speech:

“People ask, ‘When did you become a Zionist Arab? What’s your story?’” Toameh said. “I have no story. I’m a journalist. As a journalist, I have no problem working for any newspaper that provides me a platform and that doesn’t interfere with my writing.”

In his discussion Toameh refuted two major assumptions about the Israeli media: that it would censor Arab journalists and that Arab sources would not trust it.

“I’ve interviewed all the Hamas terrorists and leaders, and almost every Palestinian is open [to talking to the Israeli media], because this is the only way to get your message to the Israeli people,” he said.

[...Supports peace process, homelands for Palestinians along South African model labeled with the euphemism of great moderation, "I believe in the two state solution"]

“Palestinian politics] is not a power struggle between good guys and bad guys,” Toameh said. “It is a struggle between bad guys and bad guys. I wish they were fighting over the future of the peace process, what is the best government for the Palestinians ... but they’re only fighting over money and power.”

And while Toameh mentioned many things the international community can do to improve the situation, he is not optimistic.

“It’s not a very promising picture,” he said. “We’ve raised an entire generation of Palestinians on glorification of martyrdom ... I don’t see a moderate force emerging.”

So the Palestinians who resist the criminal Israeli occupation and who fight for self-determination and national liberation - they're simply deluded by a "glorification of martyrdom."

This follows on article about the Gaza Panel put on by the Arab Student Association that blatantly misrepresented Professor Rashid Khalidi's views by focusing on his criticism of the Palestinian leadership and ignoring his basic critique of Israel and the criminal occupation.

This was accompanied by an opinion piece by Jordan Hirsch, published the day after the Arab Student Association event, which clearly violated Spectator's own procedures about editing and review. Normally, Spectator opinion pieces need to be written and submitted for editing at least two days before they run. In his piece, however, Hirsch comments on the content of the Arab Student Association event. If the normal procedures had been followed, there is no way that Hirsch could have included, at the last minute, this reference to the speakers at the panel. He was allowed to cheat and circumvent the rules of the system.

LionPac, of course, is perfectly happy that Spectator has become an orthodox organ of Zionist propaganda. So much for "even handed" journalists. The irony.


Editor in Chief Tom Faure (212) 854-9546

News Editor, City Melissa Repko (212) 854-9555
News Editor, Campus Jacob Schneider
Opinion Editor Miriam Krule (212) 854-9547

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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Israel Continues to Terrorize Gaza

It seems like a sickening encore to the systematic terrorism Israel unleashed on the people of Lebanon in the summer of 2006. From today's New York Times:

More than 70 Palestinians have died since fighting surged on Wednesday; one Israeli died in Sderot from a rocket, and six Israelis were wounded on Saturday from rocket strikes in Ashkelon.

The fighting brought harsh criticism from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who reportedly threatened to call off negotiations with Israel over a peace treaty. “We tell the world: watch and judge what’s happening, and judge who is committing international terrorism,” Mr. Abbas said in Ramallah, on the West Bank.

And it keeps getting uglier. The story is here. This is what Deputy Israeli Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said:

"The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger holocaust because we will use all our might to defend ourselves," Vilnai told Army Radio.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said of Vilnai's comments: "We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people."

Some Analysis From Outside the Bubble:

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