Sunday, 29 January 2017

Shooter of unarmed anti-racist walks free; Authorities silent.

An update on the shooter of the Seattle Anti Fascist.
From the Twin Cities GDC

 A pdf version of this press release may be downloaded here: gdc14-2017-01-25-seattlepr2

Victim still in Harborview Hospital; Shooter is well-known right wing gun activist.
SEATTLE, WA, January 25, 2017 — Social media activists claim to have identified the person who shot an anti-racist organizer on the University of Washington’s Seattle (UW-Seattle) campus on Friday, January 20, 2017, as a well-known right-wing gun activist attending white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos’ event with his wife, also a gun activist. Although the shooter shot a person in a protest situation, University of Washington Police have refused to make an arrest, and released the shooter and the person who accompanied them to turn themselves into the police early Saturday morning. King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg has not indicated any plan to pursue prosecution. Local politicians have remained ominously quiet.

The victim is an anti-racist and anti-fascist activist, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and the IWW General Defense Committee (GDC). His lawyer has confirmed that he was there to protest Milo Yiannopoulos’ hateful speech and violent incitement. He had been seen de-escalating conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters before he was shot. He remains in Harborview Hospital.

Social media activists allege the shooter is a well-known local right-wing gun activist who sent Yiannopoulous multiple Facebook messages that evening. This person claimed in those messages that a protester had stolen a beloved “Make America Great Again” hat, and requested a new, autographed one from Yiannopoulos. In these messages he claimed a protester had ‘sucker punched’ them.
Multiple witnesses have reported that this person appeared drunk that evening, and had aggressively and repeatedly sought confrontations with protesters. This behavior can be seen on videos released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and others. Media sources have reported that the suspect has claimed they shot in self-defense and that they originally thought that the person they shot was a ‘white supremacist,’ but UWPD deny these reports. The reporting of these sorts of unsubstantiated claims has clouded the facts, and allowed undue credence for the right-wing narrative of fear.
People have questioned the University of Washington administration’s handling of this situation. UW administrators justified the event on the basis of the principle of freedom of speech; it is unclear however that the administration would permit self-proclaimed nazis to speak on campus and encourage the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the United States. We question why the administration permits people who have merely rebranded themselves as members of the alt-right to encourage similar violence against our fellow humans. UW President Cauce’s statement denied administration responsibility, and offered no support, condemning ‘violence’ in general and reaffirming support for the event’s approval, as well as the police handling of the situation.
Multiple press accounts from witnesses indicate that the police made no serious attempts at crowd control that evening, and were unprepared for the event. At the same time, observers have questioned the prosecutor’s unwillingness to charge the shooter, even after they turned themselves in. Our comrade has expressed his empathy for the shooter and his desire to engage in a restorative justice process rather than cooperating with a criminal prosecution. This indicates his deep opposition to the violence of the police and the state. The police’s complicity with the shooter indicates their willingness to protect those who create violence.

There is a double-standard for violence in America: right-wing activists may shoot protesters with impunity. We appear to be in a period when the right wing can murder unarmed protesters and claim self-defense. This was the supposed defense of the white supremacists who shot five people in Minneapolis at a protest against police murder. These violent right wing activists will even call us the ‘nazis.’ As they have done in this case, the media will collaborate unintentionally.
Finally, we are disturbed by the total silence from Seattle’s political establishment. We expect conservatives to ignore or even celebrate violence against us. However, the silence and lack of support from liberal, progressive, and radical members of the city council – especially socialist Kshama Sawant – is damning.

Our comrade continues to recover, and we are deeply grateful for the support shown him by generous people all over the world. His pain and sacrifice should not be in vain: we call on all people opposed to fascism and racism to demand accountability from the UW, the police, and the politicians. While we hold them accountable, we must also take responsibility for our own collective safety. It is clear that the police and the politicians have no interest in our safety.

Americans often like to say ‘there is no room for racism.’ It is past time to move beyond statements, and make it a truth.

Those who wish to financial support this member’s recovery may donate at this link.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Yankie Gun Nuts and the Myth of the Passive Victim

I started writing this many moons ago and ran out of steam, but today is Holocaust Memorial day and recent events have made me rather annoyed so I decided to dust it off. 

A prominent spokesmen for the National Rifle Association and known for bigoted rhetoric shockingly has issues with the Jews. I am of course talking about Ted Nugent. Ted isn't one of those right wing pundits whose particularly known in Britain like Glenn Beck who got clips shown on television, or Alex Jones who managed to cadge an interview. But I'm familiar with him, I discovered him wayback when I was still in school doing a project on Gun rights groups. As a result my ears prick up whenever I hear the name.

Apparently Ted's comments about Jew's have landed him in hot water, for me the standout is this facebook meme and commentary calling Holocaust victims "soul less sheep".

She shouldn't really surprise anyone, antisemitism is a pernicious strain of bigotry that pops up in many places but often finds fertile soil mixed in with other ugly ideas. So I'm not really going to talk about Ted any further. I mean what's the point? He's not being ambiguous even if he denies it. No instead I'd like to turn lemons into lemonade here by using this opportunity to tackle the bigger issue, namely the idea that Jews (and the other groups mark for Nazi persecution, exploitation and extermination) submitted meekly to their fate.

I think its important to do this not just for accuracy sake, but because its become a rather nasty blank in many anti semitic platforms. Some use the supposed passivity to deny the Holocaust itself, they point to the supposed absurdity of millions of people just meekly going to their deaths as a means to paint the whole operation as absurd by proxy. Others still use this to try and cement their argument that the Holocaust was part of a fiendish ploy by the Jews to gain the sympathy of the world. And some bring this up for reasons I can't even fathom.

Not only are these arguments repugnant they are also dishonest, I am going to list a series of acts of resistance taken by Jews against the Nazi regime in Germany from 1933-1945. It is important to note that this is not a complete list, merely the acts I am familiar with.

Violent Resistance 

1943  Warsaw Ghetto uprising (not to be confused with the Warsaw uprising of 1944)

This one's rather famous, though people have a tendency to confuse it with the uprising of Warsaw in 1944. 

The uprising involved several resistance groups, most well known was the Jewish Fighting Organisation or Zydowska Organizacja Bojowa (ZOB). The fighting lasted for about a month and around 300 German soldiers were killed or wounded. In addition a system of bunkers and tunnels constructed by the resistance forced the German army to level much of the ghetto entirely. They razed the streets because the resistance was so determined. A group of around seven hundred and fifty armed with smuggled guns and blackmarket ammunition managed to stall the most efficient and brutal war machine on the planet for twenty seven days.


Treblinka was an extermination camp, its sole purpose for existing was the murder of those who went there.  On the second of August 1943 inmates staged a revolt and mass break out.

A great commotion broke out. All the time people kept coming back and reported that they were beating them, and they would certainly reveal information – perhaps they had already done so – and if that was the case, there was nothing to lose, we should start right away. But most of the people had been advised that the revolt was to begin at four. However, as I ascertained - we were told this afterwards, Rudek fired at the SS man who was beating these two young men, and subsequently a grenade was thrown.


Group photo of survivors of the revolt

Sobibor was another death camp whose prisoners formed an underground group to stage a revolt. The revolt happened in October 1943. They set fire to the camp, seized a number of fire arms from their guards and escaped into the countryside. Many were killed but some survived (around 47 at the end of WWII) and joined the Polish underground.

They devised a daring plan. SS officers would be lured into storehouses on the pretext that they were to be given new coats and boots. Once inside – aided by the bold efforts of Thomas (Tuvia) Blatt—they would be attacked by the prisoners and killed with axes and knives. Nazi weapons were to be seized, and at roll call the camp would be set ablaze. All prisoners would have a chance to bolt for freedom. Once outside Sobibór’s gates, they would all be on their own.
At 4:00 p.m. on October 14, 1943, the first SS soldier was killed with an axe. Ten more SS men were killed, as were several Ukrainian guards. Telephone wires and electricity lines were cut. Within an hour, the camp was burning, guns were aimed at the guard towers, and the first group of prisoners fled across the German mine fields surrounding the facility.
By dusk more than half the prisoners—about 300 people—had escaped. Most were killed by their Nazi pursuers or died crossing the minefields. After the revolt, some joined partisan units; others found shelter among sympathetic Poles. It is estimated that just 50 of the escapees survived the war.
After the uprising, the Germans destroyed all traces of Sobibór. By the end of 1943, the death camp was plowed under and crops were planted to cover the place, where, between March 1942 and October 1943, at least 167,000 people were killed. Virtually all of the victims were Jews.

Auschwitz is well known its probably the most  famous camp network in the Holocaust program. Less well known is that even there the prisoners managed to resist the Nazi regime. A group of Sonderkommando and Soviet POW's had been stockpile explosives and other tools for awhile before starting their revolt on the 7th of October 1944.

Then Chaim Neuhof, a Jew from Sosnowice, who had been a member of the Sonderkommando since 1942, approached SS Staff Sergeant Busch and after a brief exchange, yelled the password “Hurrah” and struck the SS man with a hammer.

"They showed an immense courage refusing to budge from the spot. They set up a loud shout, hurled themselves upon the guards with hammers and axes, wounded some of them, the rest they beat with what they could get at, they pelted them with stones without further ado.

It is easy to imagine what was the upshot of this. Few moments had passed when a whole detachment of SS men drove in, armed with machine guns and grenades. There were so many of them that each had two machine guns for one prisoner. Even such an army was mobilised against them.”
 In addition to wounding the SS guards they used their smuggled explosives to blow up Crematorium IV, some managed to cut the wire and escape into the woods. Another group of Sonderkommando also revolted and managed to break out before SS reinforcements could lock down the camp. Unfortunately both groups of escapees were hunted down though we know that atleast three SS guards were killed and a dozen wounded. The three casualties:
  • Rudolf Erler – SS Corporal born on 31 August 1904 – 5th SS Stormtroopers
  • Willi Preeze – SS Corporal born on 30 September 1921 – 2nd SS Stormtroopers
  • Jozef Purke – SS Corporal born on 28 February 1903 – 1st SS Stormtroopers

  • Partisans

    Bielski partisans. The group of escaped Jews in western Belarus that grew into a safe haven and partisan army based in the Naliboki forest has become quite famous due to Defiance the film starring Daniel Craig. At its peak the community held over 1,200 Jewish individuals and the group was active in fighting the German military and its auxiliaries. The Bielski's became such a thorn that the German military offered a reward of 100,000 Reichmarks for information leading to Tuvia Bielski’s capture. And the group started receiving weapons from the Soviet military in 1944.

    Some of the fighters in Bielski's group

    The Baum Group

    On the 18th of May 1942 a mostly Jewish group of resistors set fire to the "Soviet Paradise" display, an anticommunist and anti-Semitic propaganda display designed by Goebbels in Berlin.  In retaliation hundreds of Jewish Berliners were executed including members of the Baum group (named after their main leaders Herbert and Marianne Baum).

    The United Partisan Organisation

    The  Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (FPO) was an alliance between Zionist and Communist Jewish militants in the Vilna ghetto of Lithuania. The FPO had established a small militia in the ghetto and was trying to incite the ghetto to revolt with them. However they were betrayed by the Judenrat (council put in charge of the ghettoes by the Nazis) and the camps leader the right win Jacob Gens. Both Gens and the Judenrat feared that resistance would mean immediate liquidation of the ghetto. Of course the liquidation happened anyway in 1943 with the FPO unable to mount a serious defence they retreated into the woods.

    The FPO did however remain active and was able to link up with Soviet Partisans. Members of the FPO took part in the liberation of Vilna in July 1944.

    The Jewish Brigade

    In 1944 the British army established a force of 5,000 Jews from the mandate of Palestine. The Brigade fought in the Italian campaign. The Brigade fought on the frontlines of the Spring offensive of 1945. The Brigade also fought against the German 4th Parachute division sucessfully crossing the Senio river, and established beachead. After the operations in Northern Italy the brigade was stationed in Tarvisio on the border with Yugoslavia and Austria. There the Brigade searched for holocaust survivors and gave them much needed aid.

    Overall, in the course of World War II, the Jewish Brigade's casualties were 83 killed in action or died of wounds and 200 wounded.  Another 78 of the brigade's soldiers were mentioned in dispatches, and 20 received military decorations (7 Military Medals, 7 Order of the British Empire medals, 4 Military Crosses, and 2 US awards).

    This is just a small sample of the Jewish militants who took up arms to fight against the Nazi regime, it is not comprehensive, not every group or significant action is mentioned and it doesn't include the thousands of Jews in the ranks of the Allied armies or general resistance movement. Nevertheless this should be enough to put to rest the myth of passivity in the Holocaust.

    Sunday, 22 January 2017

    Fellow Worker and GDC Member Shot at anti-fascist protest in Seattle

    Edit: 24/1/2017 added additional information and corrections at the bottom of the article.

    Reposted from the Industrial Workers of the World

    On the evening of Friday, January 20th, a comrade of ours was shot in the stomach in the most public place on the University of Washington’s campus in Seattle – a place called “Red Square” for the color of its bricks rather than its politics.
    This Fellow Worker (what members of the IWW call ourselves) and Defender (for GDC members) is a longtime anti-fascist and dedicated activist, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the General Defense Committee of the IWW. He’s currently in critical condition at Harborview Hospital in Seattle. They have a Level One Trauma center, so it’s likely he is receiving the best quality care available, for which we are deeply grateful.
    Click here to go to the official IWW General Defense Committee fundraiser for this fellow worker.

    How do we respond? We are building an expanded anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-fascist presence in Seattle, and this person was spearheading that effort. Are others willing step up and replace his effort while he heals? Our response will help determine that.
    There is a limited amount of time for us to make clear to the world what is clear to us: we are under armed attack. The fascist right knows where to find us – protests such as anti-Donald Trump events, or actions against police brutality. In the Twin Cities, the trial has just begun of Allen Scarsella, one of the white supremacists who came to the Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis in November, 2015 and opened fire, shooting multiple people.
    We don’t have confirmation that the person who shot our comrade was a counter-protester angry at those protesting Milo’s hateful white nationalist misogyny. We do know that he turned himself into the police several hours later, claiming ‘self-defense.’ This, of course, is exactly what Scarsella did as well.
    Our friend will have enormous hospital bills and undoubtedly some legal costs as well. There will be a significant loss of income. Let’s raise him so much that he won’t have to worry about that angle of things. Please give. All money will be controlled directly by them and their partner; none will go to any other cause, excepting any fees associated with the fundraising service used.
    Click here to go to the official IWW General Defense Committee fundraiser for this fellow worker.
    Please don’t just give; please tell your friends and families and organizations to give. That may sound daunting, but here’s why they should:
    • This isn’t just about one guy. Your friends and families know that the situation has changed dramatically. They know that things are changing fast, and have heard the word fascism a lot since Trump was elected. They may even suspect that the breakneck pace of media revelations and executive decisions is intended to distract them and make them feel helpless.
    • This is about protecting those who have already been putting themselves on the line protecting us. Who have been organizing for us and got there even before Donald Trump was elected. This is about protecting them. This is about emboldening OUR side to organized to protect ourselves, rather than simply beg for protection from fascists and racists. Some of whom are now in political power.
    • We need to ensure widespread support for them, and we need to do it in the name of organized anti-fascism. We must demonstrate that no matter our own political analysis or identity – progressive, liberal, leftist, radical, etc. – we support anti-fascism, and we support antifascists. We will not leave our own behind. We will support antifascist efforts, most of all because they are needed more than ever, and not supporting them at this crucial point would be a disaster.
    Thank you for reading all the way to the end. It’s hard to hear that a comrade has been shot. We may not have expressed everything in the most organized or best way above, and if that is the case, please accept our apologies.
    We hope you will consider making a contribution, and perhaps writing letters or calling to the President of the University of Washington and expressing support for the victim of the shooting and the protesters, and criticism of the UW administration for permitting an event they knew was going to promote violence against minority groups. Now they’ve gotten what they should have known was coming. Call or write the County Attorney and demand aggressive prosecution. Call Seattle City Councilors and ask them to issue a public statement of condemnation of violent attacks on anti-racist and antifascist protesters, and support of our Fellow Worker.
    Tell your neighbors the truth. Change the narrative that they will try to spin on the media.

    For Immediate Release

    Contact: Sam Wagner, IWW General Defense Committee

    PO Box 15573

    Pittsburgh, PA 15244

    Phone: (763) 439 3886


    Date: January 23, 2017 - UPDATE

    UW-Seattle Shooting Victim Was Anti-Racist Organizer
    Victim was de-escalating conflict at protest when shot.

    SEATTLE, WA, January 22, 2017 – The victim of the shooting at University of Washington’s Seattle

    Campus (UW-Seattle) on Friday, January 20, 2017, is a member of the Industrial Workers of

    the World (IWW) and the IWW’s General Defense Committee (GDC), an anti-racist and anti-fascist

    organization. He was present at the protests against Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos on

    Friday night to oppose Milo’s hateful speech, which encourages violence towards marginalized

    groups, and has resulted in actual violence in the past. The victim spent the period prior to being

    shot de-escalating conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters.

    The shooter is unknown to the public at this point. Despite using a firearm against another unarmed

    citizen in a place where firearms are against university policy, the University of Washington Police

    Department (UWPD) Seattle Police Department (SPD) released the shooter shortly after he turned

    himself in. It is unclear to us that this is standard UWPD SPD practice. We do not yet know

    the real motivations behind the actions of the shooter at Friday’s protest. We do know that he

    brought a loaded weapon on the UW’s campus, into a protest situation. We understand that this is

    already a violation of law University of Washington Policy. We do know that he claimed self-defense

    against a person who was explicitly there to de-escalate violence, and that the shooter appears to

    have a considerable amount of confusion as to whom he shot, since he claims to have thought the

    victim was himself a white supremacist. The shooter displayed a serious lack of responsibility by

    possessing a loaded firearm on UW’s campus in a protest situation, and even more when he used

    it. We do not understand the rationale for releasing this man.

    The victim is a 34-year-old man from Seattle who has been a long-time anti-racist and anti-fascist

    activist. The shooter has apparently claimed that he shot the victim in ’self-defense.’ The victim was

    unarmed and attempting to de-escalate conflict at the protest. We request that the press not identify

    the victim by name. The so-called ’alt-right’ is notorious for creating virtual mobs to harass those

    with whom they disagree. The press should resist unintentional collaboration with these tactics.

    We recognize the pressure for the media to get stories out early and first. We request that the

    media engage with the victim directly, when he is recovered sufficiently to do so. In the meantime,

    please refrain from repeating the shooter’s claim that the victim was a white supremacist, without

    qualifying it with our statement.

    The greatest needs for our member are of course personal, physical, and emotional. But the financial

    needs will be great. Supportive members of the public can donate to the shooting victim’s

    recovery fund at the internet address below.

    We are deeply saddened by the attack on our friend. We are saddened but not surprised that the

    police released the attacker so swiftly.

    For more information or to receive contact information for our press representative, please send an

    email to the press contact for this issue, Sam Wagner (

    To donate to the victims medical funds, please visit:
    This release has been updated and corrected on January 23, 2017. Corrections: The SPD has been

    replaced with the UWPD, and the incorrect statement that firearms are forbidden by law has been

    replaced with reference to the campus policy banning firearms. Strikeouts are used to preserve transparency.

    We apologize for the errors and thank the public for their interest.

    Monday, 16 January 2017

    The Wage Scales: Alex Jones Flirts with the Ghost of Rosa Luxemburg

    Yes its seems Alex Jones has finally started to run out of right wing talking points to fire up the survivalists. These is either a case of exhaustion, he's run out of right wing nationalists to quote mine for attacks on the "global order" and has had to start nibbling away at the playbook of less well know revolutionaries. Or possibly Alex has realised now that Donald Trump will be the President his old playbook won't really work anymore. His conspiracy theory loving, authoritarian nationalist community have now become the establishment so he can no longer rely on the boogieman of the liberal elite coming to take the guns and open the FEMA camps. So perhaps he's begun a rebranding process? Perhaps this is the start of a phasing out of the right wing rhetoric, and the drip feed of leftish scaremongering?

    Personally I hope its the former, and that seems likely leftist circles are already swamped with vaguely anti-Semitic crackpots as it is. If INFOWARS becomes INFOCLASSWARS this will only get worse. To me Alex Jones is a transparent conman, and that was before I learned he was selling things. When I first encountered Jones I thought he was just an internet radio shock jock. I first saw him on a documentary series airing on Sky one about secret societies. Jones was in the one about the group of rich people who have an owl statue, he told a story about how for exposing this group of shadowy rich men he was bombarded with death threats, and was actually attacked by two men in cloaks armed with daggers. Yes really, he survived by "viciously attacking them" now I'll be honest the documentary series was really poor -another lowlight was following a man around an industrial estate car park trying to meet up with an "real Illuminati member", said member was a no show- and I was really sceptical, but that basically killed what little credibility I was willing to give the show.

    I mean assuming for the sake of argument what Alex was true, why is he still alive? He didn't shut up about the group with the owl statue, he continued to expose their sinister plans to a larger audience. But apparently this common sense deduction is not all that common, plenty of people around the world drink willingly from the font of Jones.

    And for that reason I'm a little optimistic, by turning to Rosa Luxemburg two things are happening, his followers who know who she was will probably be alarmed that Jones is identifying with a Communist, and one who actively attempted a revolution to boot. They'll probably ditch Jones, most will probably follow another of the tinfoil hat brigade, but a few at least (at least I hope a few) will put some distance between themselves and the 24 hour stream of consciousness lies and scaremongering, and be better people for it.  Those who didn't know who she is will probably be intrigued and devote their considerable obsessive skills to finding out more from this wise sage. If your one of those, or just someone else eager to find out more on Rosa Luxemburg then here's my recommendations

    Archives: Rosa Luxemburg tag

    Specific Texts:

    The Mass Strike

    A Call to the Workers of the World

    Leninism or Marxism Also known as Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy

    Down With Reformism

    The Junius Pamphlet also known as the Crisis of Social Democracy

    Order Prevails in Berlin her last text, written just before her execution.


    Rosa Luxemburg: A True Revolutionary, by Staughton Lynd

    Rosa Luxemburg's Legacy, a podcast

    Rosa a West German Film

    Rosa Luxemburg is well known and usually respected by most people aware of Communist and Anarchist theory, but unlike Karl Marx or Lenin didn't break into popular culture. She was an active militant in the Kingdom of Poland (part of the Russian Empire) and in Germany. She dedicated most of her life to the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Her reasoning for this was that at the time the SPD was the largest and strongest organisation committed class struggle. When the German working class defeated German Capitalism, they would bring the entire world much closer to revolution. A small irony after Rosa left for Germany in 1905 Russia, the most backward of the European powers and often regarded as the least likely to have revolutionary potential, had a revolution. A revolution led largely by the small urban working classes in the cities, though the peasantry weren't idle either.

    The 1905 Russian Revolution was defeated, but the Tsar was so shaken that the regime had to pass many political reforms, the founding of a state parliament (The Duma), legalising Trade Unions, and weakening (but not removing) censorship of the press and political factions. Tsarism still remained, the secret police were still around, political repression and corruption continued and living and working conditions remained extremely poor, but within the space of a few months the Russian Empire had gone from the most backward, to nearly catching up with the rest of Europe. It also meant that the revolutionary underground of the Russian Empire became a lot more important and influential. Rosa renewed her contacts with many of them, including Lenin, however it didn't take to long for her to become a critic of the Bolshevik faction.

    Meanwhile in Germany she became increasingly critical of her party colleagues. The German SPD was becoming increasingly moderate and compromising to the Kaiser's government. This would culminate with the SPD voting in war credits in 1914 allowing the German military to mobilise for its invasion of France and starting World War I. Rosa would be imprisoned again for criticising a government and its militaristic tendencies. This was not the first time she'd been in prison, but it was the first time she'd been imprisoned by her own party leaders. In 1918 Germany was in the middle of a revolution, as sailors and soldiers mutinied in their thousands, ending World War I in the process. The mutinous soldiers and sailors started linking up with German workers who were also mobilising against the war and its austerity conditions. Ultimately this lead to the abdication of the Kaiser and the proclamation of a parliamentary republic. The SPD as the largest party became the head of the new Republic, however at this point the SPD leadership no longer wanted a revolution so allied with what was left of the German military and police, helped form the right wing paramilitary Freikorps, and unleashed a wave of terror against the German working class, many of whom had voted for the party and were members.

    Two of these members were Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who had supported the revolution and helped form a new organisation (The Sparticist League), both of whom were captured on the 15th of January and tortured, before being executed.

    From Great Moments in Leftism

    Here's a few more quotations from Rosa that Jones might like to use.

    "The proletarian revolution that has now begun can have no other goal and no other result than the realisation of socialism. The working class must above all else strive to get the entire political power of the state into its own hands. Political power, however, is for us socialists only a means. The end for which we must use this power is the fundamental transformation of the entire economic relations."
    From the Socialisation of Society (December 1918)

    "Marxist theory is nothing but the scientific reflex of the class struggle engendered by capitalism with the inevitability of a law of nature."

    From the 25th Anniversary of Marx's death (1908)

    "it is the class-conscious proletariat that is the active and leading element, while the big bourgeois turns out to be either openly against the revolution or liberal moderates, and only the rural petit-bourgeoisie and the urban petit-bourgeois intelligentsia are definitively oppositional and even revolutionary minded."
    From the Mass Strike (1906)

    "Socialism alone is in a position to complete the great work of permanent peace, to heal the thousand wounds from which humanity is bleeding, to transform the plains of Europe, trampled down by the passage of the apocryphal horseman of war, into blossoming gardens, to conjure up ten productive forces for every one destroyed, to awaken all the physical and moral energies of humanity, and to replace hatred and dissension with internal solidarity, harmony, and respect for every human being."
    From a Call to the Workers of the World (November 1918)

    Thursday, 5 January 2017

    The Yadana Pipeline, Gas, Bayonets and the Judiciary

    I've been doing a bit of reading in this mid winter lull and I've found a lot of news articles from the nineties to the middlish 2000's. Its a very interesting time capsule. A lot of them are very poor, some are press releases for consumer boycott campaigns and others are stuck on the United States of America being the biggest and sole source of bad stuff in the world. But some are very good, reports on death squads and investigations into working conditions in textile mills in Haiti, and a few others are in the middle, really informative but politically questionable, or sound but little useful knowledge.

    The article below is very informative on labour conditions in Burma, but I think its main value is showing just how effective the court system really is in protecting the vulnerable from the powerful, even when the odds are very much in the favour of the vulnerable.

    First some back ground about the time and place, the military junta in charge of Burma/Myanmar is a pariah in the west (not so much China and India who are key trading partners), the EU discourages trade with the nation as does both Republican and Democratic administrations in the USA. There is no powerful Burma lobby on behalf of the Junta, most interaction the international community has with the Burmese is through its many dissident exile groups. The regime is famous for oppression, human right s abuses, ethnic cleansing campaigns, forced labour and massive drug trafficking. A PR nightmare in short, despite this, trade still goes on with many major corporations eager to invest in the nation and take advantage of its natural resources, and competitive labour system.

    One of these companies Unolco strikes a deal to open a major natural gas line to run through the country, and it sees no problem at all letting the Burmese military handle the security. And they handle it in the way only a brutal authoritarian regime can do. This leads to many terrible consequences for the people living along the pipeline.  Think DAPL carried out by the survivors of Custers regiment.

    Profits at Gunpoint

    Unocal's pipeline in Burma
    becomes a test case in corporate accountability

    by Daphne Eviatar

    The Nation magazine, June 30, 2003

    Maung Maung was no stranger to the brutality of the government of Burma (called | Myanmar by its military rulers). A former geologist and leader of the national mineworkers' union, Maung was forced to flee the country in 1988 when, following a massive citizens' uprising, a new military government began to arrest, torture and execute thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators. But Maung was nevertheless surprised when, nine years ago, he came across hundreds of Burmese crowded into a cluster of straw huts along the Thai-Burma border, a makeshift village that sank in the mud when it rained.
    Why had they fled Burma's lush Tenasserim district, a peninsula of coastline, farmland and thick forests, to live here like cattle? In a series of interviews with Maung, founder of the exiled Federation of Trade Unions of Burma, the villagers described armed military men expelling indigenous fishermen from their homes and farmers from their land' razing villages and enslaving their inhabitants. They reported that soldiers forced everyone from children to the elderly into labor, making them cut through thick swaths of jungle, build military installations and haul army equipment. All of this, Maung later learned, in order to prepare the area for a new gas pipeline.

    One woman said soldiers came to her home as she was cooking over an open fire. When her husband attempted to flee, they shot him and shoved her and her baby into the flames, killing the baby and leaving her with disabling scars. Others described seeing their neighbors executed when they refused to leave their homes. Many who joined forced-work details collapsed from exhaustion or disease after weeks of toiling under a scorching sun with little food or water. Two girls said they were raped by soldiers at knifepoint.
    Many of these victims are now plaintiffs in two landmark lawsuits against Unocal, part of a consortium of companies behind the gas pipeline. The outcomes may well determine whether American corporations will ever be forced to account for the brutal human rights abuses being committed around the world in their interests.

    As has now been well documented by EarthRights International, a human rights group co-founded by former Burmese student activist Ka Hsaw Wa, the military began clearing the land and enslaving locals only after the oil companies initiated negotiations with the Burmese government to build the $1.2 billion project in 1990. The accounts collected by Ka Hsaw Wa and Maung are corroborated by volumes of sworn deposition testimony from villagers, filed under seal but cited in several court opinions. According to the testimony, plaintiffs' lawyers and further interviews conducted by such independent human rights organizations as Human Rights Watch, hundreds of villagers were driven from their homes and farms, and forced to work at gunpoint to prepare the area for the pipeline.
    Led by the French oil company Total (now TotalFinaElf), the consortium entered into a joint venture with the Burmese government around 1995 to transport vast quantities of natural gas from the offshore Yadana field in the Andaman Sea through a pipeline that would extend east to Thailand. The pipeline would have to pass through Tenasserim, a region whose ethnic groups opposed military rule. Because its agreement with the companies required the Burmese government to protect the pipeline from sabotage, the government increased its military presence along that thirty-nine-mile stretch. According to testimony from villagers, many of those forced into service cutting down trees, digging out stumps, building barracks and helipads-were beaten regularly by guards. Some of these same helipads were used to ferry Unocal officials when they came to inspect the project's progress.

    To prevent workers from fleeing, the military took extreme measures. "There was a guy who had his hands and feet bound with seven people with rope," says Maung, who met the man while interviewing the villagers who had fled to the Thai border. "They were put in a pit to keep them from running away."

    It was Maung who first brought the idea of suing the oil companies to attorney Terry Collingsworth, then an AFL-CIO representative in Nepal and a leader of the Washington, DC-based International Labor Rights Fund. Collingsworth, together with Burmese activists, decided to try using an obscure 1789 law known as the Alien Tort Claims Act, which grants non-citizens access to US courts in cases involving violations of international law. That act had been used before to prosecute torture by foreign military officers, but it had yet to be successfully used against a corporation whose officers hadn't personally perpetrated the abuses. In 1996 Collingsworth and the Labor Rights Fund used it to sue California-based Unocal on behalf of four Burmese villagers for encouraging and profiting from murder, torture, rape and slavery in Burma. About a month later, EarthRights International filed a similar lawsuit on behalf of fourteen others, targeting Unocal, Total and the state-run Burmese and Thai gas companies. (The plaintiffs in both cases remain anonymous to protect them from retaliation.) Although the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the foreign companies, the cases, remarkably, went forward against Unocal, and are now being considered together in California and federal courts.

    The claims against Unocal are straightforward. The villagers argue that because the California company was a business partner of the Burmese government, whose military is notorious for using forced labor, the company is responsible for the systematic human rights violations the military committed in order to complete the company's pipeline. While charging an American company with slavery is controversial, there's nothing unusual in American courts holding a company responsible for the acts of its business partner. And international criminal tribunals have often held individuals responsible for "aiding and abetting" international crimes like genocide. Either of these grounds could allow the court to rule in the villagers' favor, forcing Unocal to face a trial.

    On June 17, after years of legal wrangling during which the case was dismissed, reinstated and then appealed-the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will reconsider whether the company can be held responsible for forced labor and murder committed by the Burmese military in connection with the pipeline. Its decision will have implications far beyond Unocal and the Burmese villagers. Although the Alien Tort Claims Act, originally enacted to prosecute piracy, lay dormant for almost two centuries, human rights and labor activists are increasingly using it to charge American corporations with egregious violations of international law. The Labor Rights Fund alone has half a dozen such cases pending in federal courts around the country, claiming human rights abuses by Exxon Mobil in Indonesia, Coca-Cola in Colombia and Del Monte in Guatemala, among others. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights has used the law to charge Royal Dutch/ Shell and Chevron-Texaco with complicity in murder and military attacks in connection with their oil projects in Nigeria.

    The rising tide of these cases has alarmed American corporations. They're fighting back hard, filing briefs in support of the defendants and lobbying Congress to repeal or amend the Alien Tort Claims Act. Still, most courts' substantive decisions have favored the plaintiffs, and the cases are slowly marching ahead' with the case against Unocal taking the lead-and thus promising to set a precedent. If the Ninth Circuit rules that Unocal must face trial for collusion in murder, torture, rape and slavery, it will confirm that human rights activists have hit upon a powerful tool for holding corporations legally accountable for profiting off of the most despicable practices of abusive governments overseas.
    The US government is working to prevent that. In May, Attorney General John Ashcroft filed a brief with the Ninth Circuit court denouncing the villagers' attempt to use the alien tort law to sue Unocal and arguing that every court that has allowed such claims for the past twenty years has been wrong. In a sweeping argument against legal accountability for human rights violations, the Administration argues that all suits filed under that law should be dismissed because they interfere with US foreign policy and undermine America's war on terrorism. Kenneth Roth, director of Human Rights Watch, calls Ashcroft's intervention "a craven attempt to protect human rights abusers." So far, no court has endorsed the Justice Department's view.

    Unocal has fought this case every step of the way, refusing to acknowledge even basic facts surrounding the pipeline's construction. The company denies, for example, that under its contract with the state-owned Burmese gas company, the ~ government had pledged to provide security for the pipeline. Yet Unocal's own documents, produced for the lawsuit, state that "the government of Myanmar is responsible for protecting the pipeline." Unocal's representative in Burma told the US Embassy that "the companies have hired the Burmese military to provide security for the project." Additional documents reveal that Unocal officials on the pipeline project held daily meetings with army commanders to tell them where they needed roads, military installations and security. And villagers have testified that Unocal officials regularly visited the pipeline site.

    Unocal claims that it was unaware that the Burmese military regularly used forced labor. Yet Unocal's own consultants warned the company, according to court documents, that "throughout Burma the government habitually makes use of forced labour to construct roads." Even the US State Department reported at least as early as 1991 that the military government routinely uses forced labor. The United Nations issued more warnings of serious human rights abuses in 1995.

    With the evidence mounting, Texaco, which had large investments in a Burma gas field, pulled out of the country in 1997. But Unocal retained a 28 percent interest in the pipeline, and then-Unocal president John Imle was defiant. At a January 1995 meeting with human rights organizations, he had argued that locals were threatening sabotage, adding, "If you threaten the pipeline there's gonna be more military. If forced labor goes hand and glove with the military, yes, there will be more forced labor. For every threat to the pipeline there will be a reaction."

    If there remained any doubt, in March of that year Unocal's Burma representative, Joel Robinson, confirmed that he had received information from human rights groups that "depicted in more detail than I have seen before the increased encroachment of [the Burmese military's] activities into the villages of the pipeline area." Robinson concluded that Unocal's insistence that the military had not used forced labor on the company's behalf "may not withstand much scrutiny."

    By the end of 1995, Unocal consultant John Haseman, a former military attaché at the US Embassy in Rangoon, added to the chorus in a report to Unocal: "Based on my three years of service in Burma, my continuous contacts in the region since then, and my knowledge of the situation there, my conclusion is that egregious human rights violations have occurred, and are occurring now, in southern Burma," he told Unocal. "The most common are forced relocation without compensation of families from land near/along the pipeline route; forced labor to work on infrastructure projects supporting the pipeline...and imprisonment and/or execution by the army of those opposing such actions"-exactly the core charges of the plaintiffs. "Unocal," Haseman continues, "by seeming to have accepted [the Burmese military's] version of events, appears at best naive and at worst a willing partner in the situation."

    Unocal nonetheless adamantly maintains that no abuses occurred. In June 2002 the company released a statement saying that the pipeline "was constructed and is being operated according to high ethical standards and modern business practices," and that despite "the challenges" of investing in a country "ruled by an authoritarian military government," it is "confident that no human rights abuses have occurred in the construction or operation of the pipeline." Even if some abuses did occur, says Daniel Petrocelli, the lead lawyer defending Unocal, "no Unocal person participated in any of the alleged wrongdoing. Unocal has no control over the Myanmar military."

    With the pipeline now completed and producing profits for Unocal, the company insists that the project benefits Burma. The pipeline is currently producing 700 million cubic feet of gas per day, well above early projections of 525 million, according to Unocal spokesman Barry Lane, who says the project is "exceeding our investment objectives." After a large group of shareholders asked Unocal in May to reconsider its continued involvement there, Unocal chief executive Charles Williamson maintained that the company would not withdraw from the project.

    Lane calls the project "a good investment for the company, and a good investment for the people of Myanmar. Our disappointment is that there aren't a hundred such projects in the country." Unocal says that because of its project, infant mortality in the region is down, school attendance is up and close to 600 people have pipeline-related jobs. The company does not calculate how many farmers and fishermen lost their livelihoods as a result of the project's construction.

    The June 17 arguments will determine whether Unocal's claims will ever be tested at trial. If the federal court affirms its earlier decision, it will be a major victory not only for the villagers, but for the hundreds of victims in other countries waiting for their day in court. But even if they lose this round, the Burmese villagers have a chance through a second case, filed under state law in Los Angeles. Despite repeated maneuvers to delay by Unocal's lawyers, that trial is now set to start in July.

    To Maung, it's about much more than a court verdict. "When I told the villagers that we could sue Unocal, they thought I was crazy," he says. "We're trying to say that corporations can't just come in and do what they want. They have to answer to the law."
    Unocal is still hoping for a way out. Last August, it asked the State Department to intervene, claiming that a trial might interfere with US foreign relations. The company was inspired by a case pending against Exxon Mobil for alleged human rights violations in connection with its operations in Indonesia. There, the State Department asked the federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it would interfere with the US war on terrorism. But that's a harder case to make with Burma. In 1997, the United States imposed sanctions against Burma, and the State Department's latest reports state that "the government of Burma severely abuses the human rights of its citizens" and has "severe and pervasive forced labor problems." It remains to be seen whether Unocal can make a credible case that despite more than a decade of documented evidence to that effect, it had no idea that its business partner was doing anything wrong and that in any event, a corporation can't be held responsible.

    Daphne Eviatar, a Brooklyn-based writer and attorney, is a contributing editor at The American Lawyer.

    Update from the future

    The lawsuit continued to gradually move to a conclusion until March 2005 when both parties settled. Unocal agreed to pay compensation to the two groups of villagers. Welcome news for them I'm sure, but by ending in this fashion meant there was no compensation for the other villagers terrorised by Unocal and the military. There suffering was just as real and extreme but because they couldn't join the lawsuit either through lack of ability or fear of further reprisals, and live in fear of further reprisals for eight years, they got left out. It also meant that nothing had really changed, the pipeline still exists and much of the security and policing of the area around the pipelines operations is handled by the same Burmese military. Unocal has gone, but that was the result of corporate buyots, the Yadana pipeline is still operational and is currently being run by TOTAL. The abuses are still happening.

     "Since early 2009 I've [witnessed] Burmese soldiers ... that are stationed near our village ask our village to build a new police camp. The soldiers ordered villagers to build a new camp in late March. The land where they set up the new camp belongs to local villagers ... the soldiers ordered villagers to help build it. Villagers had to cut bamboo, wood, and leaves for the building and at the same time they had to build it."

    Different name and branding, same cosy relationship

    And as for the other Alien Tort cases described in the above article, in which the Yadana case was supposed to be the standard bearer, well they've had mixed results but generally it looks like the Yadana plaintiffs did better than most.

    Indeed, legal case history seems to have shut the door on this statute as in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that the Statute only applied domestically.

    Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C. represents Achmed et al. and the Center for Justice and Accountability as amici curiae in support of the petitioners.
    Holding: The presumption against the extraterritorial application of U.S. law applies to claims under the Alien Tort Statute, and nothing in the text, history, or purposes of the statute rebuts that presumption.
    Judgment: Affirmed, 9-0, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts on April 17, 2013. Justice Kennedy filed a concurring opinion. Justice Alito filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Breyer filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan joined.
    Meaning the loophole is now cut. But even at the time this legal path wasn't very effective. Unocal were able to stall for eight years, even though it is simply inconceivable that they would enter into resource extraction rights agreements with the Burmese government without knowing how it operated. And at best all it could do is financially compensate some of the surviving victims. Even if the courts ordered Unocal to pull out of Burma or fined it so much it went bankrupt it wouldn't have solved the problem. The pipeline would still exist and be snapped up by another company, and the soldiers and police would still be beating and enslaving the local population. Even with the odd stacked in the campaigners favour the court is a limited tool for even partial reparations. It is not a vehicle for anything coming anywhere close to `justice`.

    There may well be times and places where a court action or a legal injunction are appropriate or rather the best option available, but an exclusively legal challenge, or one that places too much emphasis and expectations is doomed to achieve very little, and probably nothing at all.

    Search This Blog

    #blog-pager { display: block !important; float: none!important; } .blog-pager-older-link, .home-link, .blog-pager-newer-link { background-color: #FFFFFF!important; }