The Rustbelt will no longer be self-censoring his proclivity for (free, improv, fire, avant-garde, whatever) music in the interests of not alienating certain readers. To those readers who appreciate such music; I apologize for wavering in the face of the Philistines.
That’s it. Done. The Rustbelt is now, with the grade postings today, a college graduate. A long road. Now what? More school no doubt, but for now a deep chill. Expect the blog to be a little lighter as I get some personal projects done, read novels and enjoy the smell of sweet summer grass along with the spring-fed, soothing waters of Pickerel Lake.
Just a few snaps of this afternoon’s march to Cobo Hall in Detroit opening the Social Forum. The energy of the march was wonderful, I am no good at numbers, but the consensus of those I was with put the number at around 5,000 (over ten thousand pre-registered). I ended up behind a contingent of young Jewish radicals for part of the march; the chant: “We’re Jews! We’re pissed! We are anti-Zionists!” Within minutes of arriving I saw comrades I hadn’t seen in far too long (why yes, those are gray hairs), and the minutes following brought many more such happy reunions. I’ll be at the Forum in and out and solidly come Friday, will have more as the week develops.
John McAnulty of Ireland’s Socialist Democracy looks at the publication of the Saville Report.
Thirty eight years of protest. Over a decade of legal activity. Over 100 million in costs. A dramatic apology in Westminster. A gathering of the great and the good in Derry. Britain accepts that 14 civil rights demonstrators in Derry were innocent people unlawfully killed.
What is the significance of the admission and apology? The word on everyone’s lips was closure. The findings would bring closure and release for the relatives of the dead. Once the psychobabble dies away many may come to doubt that this belated apology and the recitation of facts they already knew are enough to wipe away the murder by a state of its citizens after 38 years of lies and coverup. In any case it is inconceivable that the resources of the Saville report were expended in the interests of the relatives.
David Cameron has a more straightforward political and pragmatic explanation. The time and money invested in the report are well worthwhile because it spells closure not just for the relatives, but for everyone. And not closure in the sense of a feeling of release. No. Closure means finis – the end. No more prying and poking into the role of the British in Ireland. No more awkward questions. We are in a new and different era. The Troubles are behind us and we must never look back.
As with so much else connected with the peace process, closure is asymmetric. Cameron makes it clear that any republicans not washed clean by the peace deal will still be pursued. On the other hand, we can never expect to hear any admission about the Dublin-Monaghan bombings or any explanation as to why the members of the Loyalist gang that killed lawyer Pat Finucaine were also simultaneously agents of the British state.
Leaving that aside, is Cameron correct? Is the Saville report a firm foundation for a new era in Ireland?
What the report does is lead us step-by-step, bullet-by-bullet, through a day’s killing. That walk-through is enough to exonerate the victims and expose the paratroopers as killers. What the report doesn’t do, in all the endless pages of testimony, is explain why the marchers were killed.
A nebulous picture is drawn of the para’s leader breaking discipline and ordering his men into the Bogside in defiance of policy and of individual soldiers then going berserk. “Wilford ignored orders from his brigadier that he should not order troops beyond a barrier deeper into the Bogside”, the report said. The issue of Colonel Wilford’s action is not pursued. General, then adjutant, Michael Jackson emerges unscathed despite having penned the account of soldiers fighting for their lives that became officially adopted as the Widgery whitewash.
We are asked to believe that members of the British army’s elite unit, trained to obey without question, behaved on that one day as a rabble. We are asked to believe that soldier F, who killed four demonstrators on Bloody Sunday, went on to serve out a full career as a reliable servant of state policy, having gone berserk on one single day, just as his fellow soldiers choose the same day to break the straightjacket of their training.
On some aspects Saville is crystal clear. The army high command, the cabinet, the British state – all are innocent. Saville exonerates the army’s then commander of land forces in Northern Ireland, General Robert Ford, of any blame. It notes that he had agreed to deploy the Parachute Regiment in the city against the advice of a senior police officer in Derry. The report concluded that Ford “neither knew nor had reason to know at any stage that his decision would or was likely to result in soldiers firing unjustifiably on that day”.
At this point the report becomes a farce. Only by narrowing his vision down to single square centimeters of the Bogside is Saville able to ignore the evidence that the policy of the British state was to break up the mass civil rights protests by whatever means necessary.
In the run-up to Bloody Sunday the Unionist government openly lobbied the British to use decisive force and quickly smash civil rights before the local administration fell. The British Government held a special cabinet meeting to agree policy. In the aftermath of the meeting the Paras were moved to Derry. In the days before Bloody Sunday they beat into the ground thousands of demonstrators at Magilligan. They had carried out a drawn – out program of assassination in Ballymurphy before the transfer to Derry.
It is not as if British actions changed after Bloody Sunday. By any standards the Troubles were a dirty war involving ambush, assassination, mass terror and the formation of Loyalist death squads organized and armed by the state and operating with relative impunity. These crimes will be informally admitted by the British, justified by the necessity to suppress an armed rising. It’s not a defence that applies to the killing of unarmed demonstrators.
The significance of Bloody Sunday, the reason that fourteen people died, is because the British state had decided that it was not in its interests to allow civil rights in the North of Ireland. Contrary to statements made later as a foundation to the peace process, Britain has very considerable “selfish, strategic and economic” interests in Ireland. It considers the best way of defending those interests the continuation of its partial occupation. That requires a mass unionist base and the continuation of partition, ruling out any democratic solution.
The reason that the Saville report does not represent closure is because British policy has not changed. Having drowned democracy in blood, they spilt rivers of blood to construct a new dispensation based, not on democratic rights, but on sectarian rights. The current success of that policy is witnessed by the cheers of their former opponents as they say sorry and close the book. However the settlement is not a solution. Claims of closure do not mark finis.
On the morning of Bloody Sunday many nationalist workers believed that peaceful protest could win democracy. They were wrong. By the end of the day many believed that a militarist solution, the triumph of the will, would bring a solution. They were wrong.
Democracy in Ireland is not possible within the confines of capitalism and imperialism. Closure is not yet and we must strive to build a working class movement that will make it possible.
‘…outbreaks of…assassinations…always come after some atrocity committed by the government – the shooting of strikers or executions of political opponents. The most important psychological source of terrorism is always the feeling of revenge in search of an outlet.
There is no need to belabour the point that Social Democracy has nothing in common with those bought-and-paid-for moralists who, in response to any terrorist act, make solemn declarations about the absolute value’ of human life. These are the same people who, on other occasions, in the name of other absolute values – for example, the nation’s honour or the monarch’s prestige – are ready to shove millions of people into the hell of war. Today their national hero is the minister who gives the sacred right of private property; and tomorrow, when the desperate hand of the unemployed workers is clenched into a fist or picks upon a weapon, they will start in with all sorts of nonsense about the inadmissibility of violence in any form.
Whatever the eunuchs and Pharisees of morality may say, the feeling of revenge has its rights. It does the working class the greatest moral credit that it does not look with vacant indifference upon what is going on in this best of all possible worlds. Not to extinguish the proletariat’s unfulfilled feeling of revenge, but on the contrary to stir it up again and again, to deepen it, and to direct it against the real causes of all injustice and human baseness – that is the task of the Social Democracy.
If we oppose terrorist acts, it is only because individual revenge does not satisfy us. The account we have to settle with the capitalist system is too great to be presented to some functionary called a minister. To learn to see all the crimes against humanity, all the indignities to which the human body and spirit are subjected, as the twisted outgrowths and expressions of the existing social system, in order to direct all our energies into a collective struggle against this system – that is the direction in which the burning desire for revenge can find its highest moral satisfaction.’
excerpt from Why Marxists Oppose Individual Terrorism 1909.
Exciting news! Long-time Ford worker and UAW militant, Gary Walkowicz, who helped to lead the fight that led to the historic rejection of last fall’s leadership endorsed contract by the membership, will be challenging the Administration Caucus’ heir apparent, Bob King, for President of the UAW at the coming Convention. While the odds stacked against Walkowicz, currently serving as Bargaining Committeeman for UAW Local 600 Crew ‘A’, would seem to show that he has no chance at actually winning (the Administration Caucus hasn’t lost a challenge since 1946), who could have predicted last fall’s contract rejection? A historic first! Opposition delegates will be better represented at this convention than at many recent years past ensuring, if not a change in course, at least a vocal, determined challenge. And that challenge is, of itself, a victory in these days of acquiescence. This will not be the end of the struggle. Hopes aside; whatever the outcome, Walkowicz and others are making a stand and as readers of this blog no doubt agree; it is far, far better to die on your feet than live on your knees.
Much more on the UAW Convention and Walkowicz’s challenge at Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) – the place to go for news on what’s happening in the UAW reform movement. Below the statement is a Real News interview with Frank Hammer, another Michigan-based ‘dissident’ delegate with his views on the coming convention and the future of the UAW (the interview was given before the present announcement). Supporters have asked that this news be circulated as widely as possible, so do your thing. Here’s the delegates statement:
To our union brothers and sisters, workers at the Dearborn Truck Plant:
The UAW Convention will take place next week at Cobo Hall. You elected us to represent you at the Convention. We said when we ran that the four of us were opposed to the union’s policy of accepting concessions, which has damaged our lives, our standard of living and our prospects for the future. We said that this policy needs a drastic, 180-degree change.
We intend to raise the following issues at the Convention:
Don’t break promises to retirees – restore what was taken from them.
People who worked for 30 plus years were promised full health care and a pension they could count on. Those promises are being broken: vision and dental cut at Chrysler and GM; higher co-pays and premiums at many companies; pensions lost at Delphi; full pensions replaced by 401-k’s. NO MORE!
Don’t turn our backs on the next generation, our children – get rid of two-tier. Previous generations fought to ensure their children would live as well or better than they did. All these two and three-tier wage agreements destroy what our parents and grandparents fought for. It was recently stated that new hires in auto, at $14 an hour, will be worse off than when Ford paid $5 a day, before the union was even organized.
Put a real end to concessions — get back everything we gave up … and more! There needs to be a fight prepared to get back EVERY concession that was given up in EVERY UAW contract – auto, parts workers, state workers, office workers. We deserve back the raises, bonuses, COLA, holidays, break time and everything else stolen from us.
The membership must have full control over every step in contract changes. Contracts should not be reopened or re-negotiated without first having a vote by the membership. Our top leadership should not be able to negotiate local agreements over the heads of local presidents and bargaining committees. The membership should see the exact language on all changes.
We also want you to know that we intend to see Gary Walkowicz nominated for UAW President.
We know, given the way the convention is organized and the way that most delegates are chosen, that he cannot win.
But we think it is important that there be at least one person nominated at this convention who clearly stands for a drastic change in policy for our union – someone who helped organize the NO vote at Ford, someone who can speak for all those workers who want to put a stop to concessions.
Signed, Delegates Gary Walkowicz, Nick Kottalis, Cathy Abney; Alternate Dewayne Jackson.