Other Voices: The Connexions Newsletter

May 7, 2015

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This week: From China to Batteries

This issue of Other Voices ranges widely, from increasing worker activism and strikes in China, to advances in battery technology that make it much easier and cheaper to store solar and wind energy for future use, to testimonies from Israeli soldiers about the war crimes they committed routinely and as a matter of policy in last summer's attack on Gaza.

An article from CounterPunch traces the continuity between the U.S. "war on drugs" and its current reliance on drones in the "war on terror". In each case, writes Andrew Cockburn, the strategy hinged on "taking out" the leadership: the drug barons, in the one case, and the jihadist commanders, in the other. And in each case, the evidence shows that the effect has been the opposite of what was intended. Drug availability increased, and prices went down, once the cartels leaders were eliminated, and attacks by jihadist militias increase after each targeted assassination.

In the People's History section, we recall the Paris Commune and the Armenian genocide, and From the Archives comes the Critique of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx's succinct rejection of reformism, in which he sketches out the need a revolution to bring about a society based on the principle "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"

Speaking of needs, we need your help in sustaining and improving Connexions. 1975 marks our 40th anniversary, With your help we hope to be around for a few decades yet. If you'd like to make a one-time or regular donation, please visit the Donate page.

This Week on Connexions.org

Worker activism is now the new normal as strikes and protests erupt across China

The China Labour Bulletin has observed record numbers of strikes and workers' protests in the first quarter of this year. Their strike map lists 650 incidents compared to 569 in the previous quarter, mostly concentrated in the Guangdong province. In the pre-New Year period, more than half (52.5 percent) of all worker protests were in the construction industry, while manufacturing accounted for 22 percent. In both industries, actions were driven overwhelmingly by the non-payment of wages. Workers blocked roads, staged sit-ins in their work places, and protested at government buildings in a bid to get paid. Read More

Keywords: China - Strikes

Mayday, Mayday - Tesla's battery just killed fossil and nuclear power

Tesla Energy has recently revealed a new mains power battery that could radically transform the energy market by giving a huge boost to small scale renewable energy over centralized power generation. Tesla's new domestic-scale lithium batteries, rated at 7kWh and 10kWh, will let people with wind turbines and solar panels store and use their collected energy rather than having to buy high-priced power in off the grid when there's no wind and sun. Read More

Keywords: Alternative Energy - Technology

Assassination as Policy in Washington and How It Failed: 1990-2015

Analyses of the United States policy of top-level assassination often refer, correctly, to the blood-drenched precedent of the CIA’s Vietnam-era Phoenix Program — at least 20,000 “neutralized.” But there was a more recent and far more direct, if less noted, source of inspiration for the contemporary American program of murder in the Greater Middle East and Africa, the “kingpin strategy” of Washington’s drug wars of the 1990s. Read More

Keywords: Assassinations - U.S. Foreign Policy

Bangladesh and the shrinking space for free thinkers

Writer Taslima Nasreen fled Bangladesh in 1994 when extremists threatened to kill her for criticising Islam, and has been living in exile since. Her country has, in recent times, seen many intellectuals expelled or killed. Ahmed Rajib Haider, an atheist blogger who wrote under the name Thaba Baba, was hacked to death after the Shahbag protests in 2013. In February this year, atheist blogger Avijit Roy was killed in Dhaka by extremist groups for his writings on the Bangla blog Mukto-Mona (Free Thinker) that he founded. Feminist and secular humanist Ms Nasreen now lives in New Delhi. In an interview with Suvojit Bagchi, she spoke about the shrinking space for free thinkers in Bangladesh and says that Islam cannot be exempt from the critical scrutiny that other religions go through. Read More

Keywords: Islamic Fundamentalism - Atheism

Samples of Israeli Horrific Brutality and War Criminality in Gaza

The Israeli group Breaking the Silence recently issued a report containing testimony from Israeli soldiers about the savagery and criminality committed by the Israeli military during the attack on Gaza last summer. This should surprise nobody who paid any attention to the brutal Israeli destruction of Gaza or, for that matter, countless Israeli attacks before that. The U.N. has said that 7 out of 10 people killed by the Israelis were civilians, “including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women.” Read More

Keywords: Israel - Military/Violence Against Civilians

World Charter of Free Media

The World Forum of Free Media has written up a charter committed to multiple emancipatory communication practices across different regions of the world. The World Charter of Free Media was unveiled at the World Social Forum 2015 this March in Tunis, Tunisia. The entirety of this important resolution is available on the organization's website. Read More

Keywords: Freedom of Expression - Communication

People’s History

Amnesia and the Armenian Genocide

April 24 marked one hundred years since the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. A century after the methodically planned, organized, and executed destruction of the Anatolian Armenians, it is instructive to revisit the causes of this genocide and recognize its importance for understanding the present.Two decades after the genocide, on August 22, 1939, Adolph Hitler told his military chiefs of his plans to massacre the civilian population of Poland, remarking, “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” And indeed, after the prosecution of the men most responsible for Turkey’s extermination policies — trials were held from 1919 to 1922 under pressure from the victorious powers — the Armenian Genocide was quickly forgotten. Read More

Keywords: History - Genocide

The Meaning of the Paris Commune

On March 18, 1871, artisans and communists, labourers and anarchists, took over the city of Paris and established the Commune. That radical experiment in socialist self-government lasted seventy-two days, before being crushed in a brutal massacre that established France’s Third Republic. But socialists, anarchists, and Marxists have been debating its meaning ever since.Kristin Ross, in her powerful new book, Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune, clear-cuts the accumulated polemics regarding the Commune, which she says have calcified into false polarities: anarchism versus Marxism, peasant versus worker, Jacobin revolutionary terror versus anarcho-syndicalism, and so on. Read More

Keywords: History - Socialism

From the Archives

Critique of the Gotha Programme

In 1875, the two German workers' parties came together to draft a unity programme. Karl Marx, living in exile in London, was highly critical of the new programme, seeing it as a step backward and a "thoroughly objectionable programme that demoralises the Party." He wrote a detailed commentary on the new statement, which he sent to the members of the supposedly 'Marxist' Eisenach group -- who kept his criticisms a secret, because, as they saw it, the "old man in London" didn't understand what should be included in a modern socialist programme.


Marx's analysis was eventually published, years later, under the title "Critique of the Gotha Programme." In the Critique, Marx lays out his emancipatory and revolutionary vision in sharply compressed form, differentiating it clearly from the confused reformism of the Gotha programme.
Read More

Keywords: Marxism Overviews - Programs, Strategies, Manifestos

Website of the Week: Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence is an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories. They endeavor to stimulate public debate about the price paid for a reality in which young soldiers face a civilian population on a daily basis, and are engaged in the control of that population's everyday life. www.breakingthesilence.org.il/

Keywords: Israeli Military - Violence Against Civilians

Book of the Week: Dancing in the Streets By Barbara Ehrenreich

Dancing in the Streets explores a human impulse that has been so effectively suppressed that we lack even a term for it: the desire for collective joy, historically expressed in revels of feasting, costuming, and dancing. Drawing on a wealth of history and anthropology, Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture. From the earliest orgiastic near Eastern rites to the medieval practice of Christianity as a "danced religion" and the transgressive freedoms of carnival, she demonstrates that mass festivities have long been central to the Western tradition. In recent centuries, this tradition has been repressed, cruelly and often bloodily. But as Ehrenreich argues, the celebratory impulse is too deeply ingrained in human nature ever to be completely extinguished.

Keywords: Dance - Collective Joy

Film of the Week: Bread and Roses

Bread and Roses is a 2000 drama film directed by Ken Loach, starring Adrien Brody. The plot deals with the struggle of poorly paid janitorial workers in Los Angeles and their fight for better working conditions and the right to unionize. It is based on the "Justice for Janitors" campaign of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The film is critical of inequalities in the United States. Health insurance in particular is highlighted and it is also stated in the film that the pay of cleaners and other low paying jobs has declined in recent years.

Keywords: Income Inequality - Health Insurance

Topic of the Week: Renewable Energy

Changes in technology and greater environmental awareness are making people start to question the long-held reliance on fossil fuels and the destructive processes required to get them out of the earth and look towards alternative sources of power. While there's still a lot to be done, especially when you consider the incestuous relationships between state and business, the options are being developed for anyone looking to reduce their environmental impact.

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Connexions Calendar

May 7, 2015

A panel discussion on the 70th anniversary of the Victory over Fascism

Toronto, Canada

May 8, 2015

UNAC National Conference: Stop The Wars At Home & Abroad

New Jersey, United States

May 9, 2015

Million Moms March

Washington, United States

May 13, 2015

Chris Hedges speaks about Wages of Rebellion

Ottawa, Canada

May 16, 2015

Olive Branch Comedy Hour

Toronto, Canada

The Connexions Calendar is an online calendar that exists to advertise events that support social justice, democracy, human rights, ecology, and other causes. We invite you to use it to promote your events. Adding events to the Connexions Calendar is FREE. We’ll give you a username and password which you use to log on. Use the contact form to arrange for a username and password.

Read more →

Seeds of Fire

May 5, 1818

Birth of Karl Marx: Marx breathes dialectics and revolution. For Marx, radicalism means going to the root, and Marx’s radicalism seeks to go to the root of capitalism, to comprehend its essence dialectically, to understand its inherent contradictions – and the seeds of revolution it contains...

May 6, 1968

Student protest in Paris: In Paris, intensifying student protests reach a new level as the national student union and the union of university professors jointly call a march to protest against the police invasion and occupation of Sorbonne University. As they approach the vicinity of the university, police charge them with batons flailing, striking anyone they can reach. Hundreds of students and supporters are arrested. By the next day, growing numbers of workers and high school students have joined the original protesters in the streets. The mood is increasingly insurrectionary.

May 7, 1954

Dien Bien Phu: After a two-month battle, Viet Minh resistance forces inflict a decisive defeat on the French army at Dien Bien Phu in central Vietnam. Thousands of French soldiers are killed, more than 10,000 are taken prisoner. The Vietnamese victory marks the end of the French Empire in Indochina.

May 7, 1838

The Chartist campaign in Britain - named after the People's Charter of 1837, demanding democratic reform - culminates in the presentation of a huge petition to the House of Commons. The petition is perhaps the most comprehensive expression of the popular will seen in Britain to that point: more than 1,280,000 people have signed it. The goals of the movement are increased democratization of the political system, which has been set up to restrict political rights to a small elite....

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Thanks to Ulli Diemer and Darien Yawching Rickwood for their work on this newsletter.


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