It first occurred to me to title this article: “What is to be Done?,” but that is already a famous title used by a man who was much more intelligent than I am. His name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin. I sympathize so much with Cindy Sheehan’s disenchantment about the lack of effect of demonstrations against the wars; three wars now the ruling class of the US has created, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. I was going to state it was the most I could remember the US ruling class had instigated together, but then I remembered Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I remember being in demonstrations in the 1960s so large that one could look back and see nothing but solid people for miles and never could see the end of the demonstrations. The Port Chicago vigil tried to do what Mario Savio suggested and put oneself on the gears of the machine. We tried to talk the workers out of delivering weapons to Vietnam and we chained ourselves to the trucks delivering weapons through the gates of the weapons facility. We had a permanent presence just outside the gates of the plant where weapons were loaded on ships for Vietnam. Every once in a while, at night,a few people on the vigil would get beat up by either plant workers or local thugs.
I believe we had something then, which is lacking now, and that is a counterculture. Activists or hippies were extremely generous and would pick one up hitch-hiking and offer one things like food, marijuana or a place to sleep for the night. I don’t feel the solidarity, generosity and love in this movement that I felt in the 1960s. There was Timothy Leary with his famous statement: “Turn on, Tune in and Drop Out.” He thought if he could just get the CEOs and capitalists to try LSD, they would see the great beauty and preciousness of life and end the war. Needless to say, he was greatly disillusioned. There were two figures who tried to introduce a comedic criticism of the war. They were called the Yippies-Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Jerry Rubin turned into a businessman, but Abbie Hoffman remained true to the cause to the end of his life. Years later they traveled around the country giving debates with Abbie Hoffman always arguing for socialism. In the latter stages, the movement turned more violent, not that it didn’t have sufficient reason with the killings of students at Kent State and Jackson State by the National Guard. The Weather Underground, a more militant offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society arose, as well as the Symbionese Liberation Army. Then, bombings occurred and banks were robbed. Most people remember the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the very fiery shootout and burning of the house in Los Angeles, where most members of the SLA stayed.
The members of the American Indian Movement and Black Panthers carried guns, but were defensive organizations, rather than offensive ones. They were considered great threats by the CIA and FBI and a great amount of energy went into destroying them. The battle at Wounded Knee is a very good example. The American Indian Movement decided to occupy Wounded Knee as a symbolic action because of the massacre of old men, women and children by the US cavalry many decades earlier at this very spot. The US government reacted by sending in the FBI with expert snipers and even armored personnel carriers.There were deaths on both sides, but the goon squads of the tribal sheriff Dick Wilson caused the most arson and carnage. Leonard Peltier was picked out as a convenient scapegoat for the death of one FBI agent. He has spent decades in prison. The FBI and Chicago police conspired to kill Black Panther Fred Hampton in his sleep because Fred Hampton was a great organizer and excellent orator against capitalism.
I have stated the above admittedly incomplete synopsis of some of the events of the 1960s and early 1970s because they may contain information as to guide us at the present time. The ruling class do not usually react to symbolic actions, but only out of fear either to their persons or to their great wealth and power. That is shown clearly by the power of a strike. A strike hits the capitalists in their pocketbooks, and this can sometimes cause them enough pain to relinquish to the demands of the strikers. However, if a corporation is large enough, they are often so disdainful and hateful towards the working class that they will sustain substantial losses in order to outlast the strikers and win the strike. The European nobility were generally complacent and unconcerned with the welfare of workers or peasants, until the English and French revolutions forced their attention. The 19th century in Europe was one of socialist and nationalist revolutions and such countries as Italy and Greece became unified. The charismatic adventurer Garibaldi was involved in both socialist and nationalist revolutions in Italy. However, I am not advocating anything as radical as revolution in the US at the present time. The US government has been preparing for domestic unrest for decades and has well organized police and military units with the most modern weapons and crowd control devices. Against a disorganized left as we have now, it would be like slaughtering sheep. Civil disobedience or alternative lifestyles which impact profits are options, though. Gandhi used such methods against the British in India. As I remember, he taught his followers to make salt from sea water and to weave their own clothes on hand looms.
Another action would be to support all that we can the developing socialism in South America. This is the first time in my memory that so many socialist states have existed in South America and have tried to form their own trading bloc and their own bank for development projects. Once a socialist revolution succeeds, they are in still somewhat of a dilemma because the Western banks have all the capital for any construction projects, invariably needed after a devastating war. How did Western banks get all this capital? They obtained it through centuries of stealing the wealth of the Third World. If a socialist country goes to a Western bank, the bank can deny any loans until the socialist country turns back in a capitalist direction. The IMF can deny any loans until their agricultural crops are oriented toward consumption by the rich capitalist nations- that is, beef, strawberries, asparagus, etc. instead of the more inexpensive and nutritious beans, corn and rice for domestic consumption. The World Bank can demand that no domestic industries can compete effectively against the giant multinational corporations. In other words, the socialist country which has just won a revolution can by financial pressures alone be driven back toward a colonial state. One has to admire Cuba greatly. In spite of having a severe embargo against it and the loss of aid from the Soviet Union, Cuba has still survived as a socialist country. That is a remarkable achievement.
The continued wins by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is another very optimistic event. Chavez can use Venezuela’s great oil wealth to offset any needs for borrowing from Western banks and he can use that oil wealth to help the poor not only in Venezuela, but the poor of other socialist states like Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. He can barter the oil with Cuba for the use of Cuban doctors in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez even provides cheap heating oil for the poor in the United States. He has started ALBA, which is a trade association among the socialist countries, but unlike capitalist associations like NAFTA, it benefits the poor and not rich corporations from foreign countries. The oil companies as well as many other corporations have been nationalized in Venezuela. All of these things aggravate the ruling class of the United States intensely and are a threat by example to world capitalism.
In my opinion, that is the reason for the attempted coup against Chavez in 2002 and the recent obviously planned rollback of socialism in South America with the fascist coup in Honduras and the installation of seven new US military bases in Colombia. There is a plan for the destruction of socialism in Bolivia, Ecuador and particularly Venezuela, whether by financial pressure, infiltration and sabotage, coups or actual military action. From watching Michael Moore’s movie Capitalism: A Love Affair, I believe he insinuates near the end that Obama may be the next FDR. He is not. He is a very intelligent and ardent imperialist. The US ruling class is patient. It took them approximately 60 years to destroy socialism in the Soviet Union and dismantle it into a group of more easily manageable capitalist client states. The same process was used in Yugoslavia, but they had to bomb Serbia relentlessly from the air to achieve that abomination. When Yeltsin bombarded the Parliament building in Russia with tanks and attacked the building with special forces, I could not understand how Gorbachev could be so naive as to think America was really concerned with building democracies. The United States was certainly not about democracy when Hamas fairly won the Palestinian election and they were not thrilled when Allende won in Chile. The United States is about the advancement of capitalism and empire, not democracy.
Both the Colombian and Honduran armed forces have been trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia and they are stone-cold remorseless killers. I know this from the history of similar armed forces that have been trained at the School of the Americas. In the wars in Central America in the 1980s, forces like the Atlacatl battalion in El Salvador, trained at the School of the Americas, committed some of the worst atrocities in history, and the same can be said for the armed forces in Honduras and Guatemala. I will not mention the horrific torture techniques employed by these murderers here, as I have described them in other articles, and they are nauseating to repeat. These soldiers have had it relentlessly drilled into their heads that the most evil people on Earth are socialists and communists. Their excuse for killing priests and nuns is that they are sympathetic to the poor people. Already death squad leaders like Billy Joya have returned to Honduras, and there have been disappearances and executions of activists. The United States is secretly overjoyed by the coup in Honduras. To maintain their fictitious stance as proponents of democracy, the State Department needs to condemn the coup in the media.
The fact that Colombian armed forces are trained by the United States, have experience fighting the FARC guerrillas and would probably be supported from the air and sea by the US in any invasion of Venezuela, and the fact they are remorseless killers makes them a formidable enemy. That is the reason Hugo Chavez has needed to buy a lot of Russian weapons and has in addition to his regular army, a militia of nearly a million people from the poor barrios armed with Kalashnikov rifles that the Russians provided, and the Russians, also, built a factory which produces them in Venezuela. They have also provided modern tanks, antiaircraft missiles and fighter jets to Venezuela. One Russian fighter jet in the Sukhoi series is able to slow radically, turn vertically, let pursuing aircraft pass and then fall in behind to fire missiles at the enemy jet. Of course, Venezuelan pilots would require rigorous training in all these techniques. The reason I mention it is because the United States dislikes greatly taking significant battlefield casualties and also, losses of sophisticated military equipment. It is unlikely the United States would attack Venezuela in the near future because the world economy is in such a fragile state, and Venezuela supplies a lot of oil to the United States. However, the more distant future is an entirely different matter. One only need remember the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba or the Contra war against Nicaragua, and the intense desire of American capitalists to destroy socialism in South America.
What can be done by US citizens to support Venezuela, Bolivia or Ecuador? Anytime the war drums start beating vigorously in the corporate media for war, one can demonstrate or devise places and methods of civil disobedience. One can buy Citgo gas, which is the Venezuelan national gas company. I never seem to be able to find their stations, a deliberate action, I assume.
What can be done in the United States as far as destroying the capitalist system is concerned? If demonstrations and strikes are large enough, they can be effective. Every time they try to ram a neoliberal proposal down the throats of the French people, there are huge demonstrations in all major cities and often a general strike occurs, and these actions are usually successful for the French people. How about sit-down strikes or occupying factories that have gone bankrupt and put them under worker management? That was done in Argentina when the IMF reforms destroyed that country’s economy.
All leftists can agree on the need to destroy capitalism before it destroys us and the environment. Therefore, another thing that can be done is to stop arguing about minute points of difference among different groups and unite together for a common purpose.
Finally, as the recent world economic crisis has illustrated, capitalism is collapsing itself of its own internal contradictions. I just hope Americans can see the glaring object lesson before their eyes and do not blame it on asinine ideas like immigrants. We need to educate and organize!
To end on an optimistic note, I have always loved this stanza from the Internationale:
“Arise ye prisoners of starvation
Arise ye toilers of the earth
For reason thunders new creation
Tis a better world in birth.”
http://www.citgo.com/Home.jsp (There is a street locator box on the lefthand side of their home page)