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Until the Rulers Obey: A review by Staughton Lynd in Z Magazine

By Staughton Lynd
Z Magazine
May 27th, 2015

The title of this book is drawn from the Zapatistas’ Second Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle: “We will resist until the rulers govern obediently.” The underlying principle is, in Spanish, “mandar obediciendo”: to govern in obedience.

In the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, on January 1, 1994, the Zapatistas projected themselves as rulers. They said: “we give our military forces of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation the following orders: First, Advance to the capital of the country, conquering the Mexican federal army.”

Clearly, between the first and second declarations the Zapatistas changed their strategy. Henceforth, their posture would be one of looking to the democratic forces of the people as a whole for changes in the Mexican national government but devoting their own energies primarily to building up the liberated villages of Chiapas.

It is important to understand that, at different moments in their history, the Zapatistas imagined themselves both as rulers (the First Declaration) and as participants in the rank-and-file population that gives the rulers direction (the Second Declaration). This unique perspective reflects the historical fact that by the mid-1990s the guerrilla movements of Latin America had (with the exception of Colombia) made peace with the armies they confronted, and in several cases social activists, even former guerrilla commanders, were elected as presidents of their countries. That is why Evo Morales, in his inaugural address as president of Bolivia, could say that he too intended to “mandar obediciendo.”

Until the Rulers Obey cannot be understood without recognizing this dialogic or dialectical context of Latin American leftism. It is as if Barack Obama, besides having once been a community organizer, had throughout his presidency been obliged to encounter grassroots organizations of varying character and strength but all intent on reminding the president what he had advocated before his election.

Mexico and Central America

The book is made up of interviews, with an introduction for each country. It moves North to South, beginning with Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Many readers will recall trips to one or more of these countries. My wife and I used vacations to make five short trips to Sandinista Nicaragua between 1985-1990. We visited Mexico several times, once when our daughter Martha was teaching in a remote village in the mountains of Oaxaca, and twice to attend a labor school associated with the Authentic Workers’ Front (the FAT). We have been to Guatemala more than half a dozen times where Martha and her family live in a village bordering Lake Atitlan.

A remarkable interview in this first part of the book tells how, during the Zapatista uprising, large landowners in Chiapas fled and the Zapatista army took over vast tracts of land. When the landowners tried to return, “each time the army or the police entered the village, the people took refuge in the mountains and then returned once the attackers left.” The two women who tell their story explain: “[We] began to build our houses, and then the soldiers kicked us out. We were afraid, and we went back to the villages where we had lived before. We started coming back little by little. At first, just for a little while: for a day, then for a week, then for a month. When we left, we took all our things—our chickens, our tables, everything—because we didn’t want the soldiers to take them. But our houses were still here. We stepped to one side, but we didn’t leave altogether.”

In Guatemala, as in so many Latin American countries, the essential struggle is with North American mining companies and associated hydro-electric projects. The people respond with a systematic effort to retrieve the memory of how it was in the past and with “community consultations…as it has been practiced for hundreds of years in the communities.” Similarly in Honduras, the 2009 coup led to “more horizontal and consensus-based forms of organizing.” Nurses who had previously not been political became part of the resistance when “patients started pouring in by the dozens, bloodied and beaten.” In both Guatemala and El Salvador the accords between guerrillas and government armies that ended the civil wars are said to have provided protection for the social movements but, at the same time, also to have legitimized the counter-insurgency. In El Salvador the FMLN ran as a candidate for president a journalist from outside its ranks. He was elected, made progressive cabinet appointments in the education, labor and health ministries, but also continued the neo-liberal economic program.
The neo-liberal agricultural program featured the development of monoculture, producing commodities for export rather than food for the domestic market, and favoring the use of genetically modified seeds that must be purchased anew for each planting.

Capitalist agriculture also involves the use of harmful pesticides. Bananas are grown in Nicaragua, and are sprayed with a substance called “Nemagon.” All sorts of cancers and other chronic diseases abound among the banana workers.

Luisa Molina, a Nicaraguan, may speak for many of her Central American comrades. She took part in the struggle to overthrow Somoza. She has become increasingly disillusioned with Daniel Ortega who she perceives to be “without a vision for the country,” and part of the “authoritarian, patriarchal, machista culture” of the political parties. She says that she doesn’t “know what ‘revolutionary’ means anymore because two years ago a law approving therapeutic abortions dating back to 1860 was overturned.” She concludes: “the only thing we know for sure is that we have to build collective projects by consensus and maintain our autonomy.”

Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Peru

In Colombia, the contest for state power continues but, in the words of Jesus Tuberquia, “we can live life differently within an unjust system.” He goes on: “We’re trying to be a model of a different world…. We’ve learned it’s possible to build an alternative… where life will be different.” And this is so because we’re not a theory written on paper, we’re human beings who walk, live, and feel. We’re not fables, because on paper you can put anything, theoretically I can invent anything, but reality can’t be invented; it’s made. And we, as an experience, we’re a reality.”

In Colombia, nonviolent struggles have unfolded alongside “seemingly endless leftist armed insurgencies.”  There has been a superficial fascination with constitutional reforms, but without structural changes. As in Nicaragua, the Left has been insensitive to the deep peasant desire for individual ownership of the land on which one sweats out his or her life. Some popular efforts in Colombia have achieved an admirable ecumenical inclusiveness, with members who belong to different churches.

Turning to Venezuela, this is the place where the editors (who were for the most part also the interviewers and translators) found the most disillusionment. I have never been to Venezuela, I know no one who lives there, so I cannot judge. But the accusations are consistent with my experience in my own country.

The Venezuelan state, it is alleged, builds parallel institutions where long-standing indigenous networks already exist. The people “don’t identify with socialism” so for socialists there is a need to “deepen the revolution.” What must happen is for militants to “respectfully accompany the communities.”

Discontented interviewees ask, How can you oblige a candidate to follow a party line? “That won’t work.” Maria Vincente Davilas observes: “It’s cement for the sidewalk…but no work done in forming people.” People are told, “You’re not Chavista.” But if the person thus admonished does not agree, there is a “criminalization of protest.” Perhaps most disturbingly for one who sought to maintain production in Youngstown steel mills, what is advocated by the government is said to be not “workers’ control” but “controlled workers.” Orlando Chirine, an oil industry worker, says: “Venezuela isn’t a socialist but a capitalist country.” I leave it to readers to find their own way through these conflicting perspectives.

Ecuador companeros and companeras repeat words heard in many other places. “They evicted us and we returned and built again.” And: We need to educate not with words but with “concrete things.”

Brazil offers the strongest validation of the perspective of social change from below. Brazil is the site of the movement of landless workers (MST).

In the MST, decisions are made by consensus. But this is not because of some petty-bourgeois deviation. On the contrary, participants believe that “This is a class struggle.” The ultimate goal is socialism. Socialist anticipations created by the MST include the We Shall Overcome cooperative. The struggle seeks to eliminate the intermediaries between producer and consumer. Communities formed by the MST are permitted to grow to no more than thirty workers. Beyond that number, communication becomes difficult and it is time to form a new community.

Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile

Bolivia, together with Venezuela, is probably the Latin American regime most celebrated by international supporters. It does not come off very well in these interviews. To begin with, and most generally, the Bolivian government is said to talk about a “development that doesn’t destroy nature.” But in practice the government promotes, for example, a highway that will damage the area through which it proceeds, but will encourage trade with Brazil.

An internal movement that raises questions about such projects is thought to be regarded as “a little rock in the shoe.” The democracy permitted by the Morales government is said not to be a “democracy of participation.” As perceived by Morales’s former comrades in the local movements, the transnational corporations are considered to be using the state rather than the state restricting the corporations.

The Uruguayan interviews bring out two points perhaps not sufficiently emphasized elsewhere. The first is the degree to which the Amazon rain forest is being laid waste to make possible the growing and exportation of soy beans. The second is a profound challenge to the UN campaign to banish child labor. The counter-theory eloquently advocated is that from the beginning of time the labor of children alongside their fathers and mothers is the way that human beings have learned to become adults.

The Argentinian interviews suffer from the delay required by book publication. We have all heard about the ceramics factory, the butchery, and other enterprises where the owner abandoned production and the workforce intervened to keep the factory open. But, in fact, how effective and resilient have been these new enterprises? The experience of the United States is that, historically, worker-owned companies appear either to have failed or, under pressure from the market, to have shed their indicia of worker ownership and control and to have become typical capitalist enterprises.

Nonetheless, we can stand beside the Argentinian interviewee who says: “Collective construction is the challenge of our time.”

In my opinion, it is good for this book and speaks well for its editors that Chile is the last nation discussed. I believe this because there are readers who may feel that the book is unduly critical of Chavez and Morales (and also of Lula in Brazil). If so, I urge them to persevere to the chapter on Chile at the end.

The government of Chile elected in 1938 is said to have been one of the three Popular Front governments in the world. The others were the government of France headed by Leon Blum during years when French workers occupied their plants, and the Spanish republic on behalf of which young men from all over the world came to Spain to form “international brigades” in its defense. (One such brigadista carried me on his shoulders on May Day 1936, went to Spain, and was mortally wounded at the battle of Belchite in September 1937.)

The economic strategy the Popular Front government used to lift Chile out of the Great Depression shaped the country for the next 35 years. The government supported industrial growth to diversify the economy, adopted steep tariffs to protect homegrown industry, and participated directly in several economic sectors: electricity, petroleum, iron and steel, transportation, communications, and banking.

The government of Salvador Allende, elected in 1970, tried to carry this inheritance forward. Rekindling the fire after his government’s overthrow and Allende’s murder has faced special challenges.

Unlike the headlines of the morning newspaper, this book leaves one filled with hope. I believe that is its most important message.

It is beyond me, and I should think would be beyond most North American readers, precisely to weigh the book’s more than 50 interviews on the scales of historical truth. But certain conclusions seem to me solid.

First, there is very little reference to religion in these testimonies. Good news in Latin America is commonly associated with the influence of liberation theology.  Perhaps the causal sequence is the reverse: enormous stirrings from below in country after country find an echo in the emergence of a people’s church.

Second, these witnesses offer evidence of a synthesis between Marxism and anarchism. It is not a doctrinal synthesis but a coming together of traditions in action. Indeed, what it is tempting to call “anarchism” may be better understood as the practice of living together in small indigenous communities stretching back hundreds of years.

Third, one must not forget that terrible things can happen in Latin America, like the apparent massacre of students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico last September. However, these days, with new circles of hell surrounding us in all directions, for me Latin America is the most hopeful place on earth.

Finally, the tumultuous variety of experiences presented in these pages is itself an important fact. We have for too long sought a single Emerald City, in the Soviet Union, or People’s China, or Cuba, or Nicaragua. There is no point in trying to decide which person, or party, or nation, is “mas linda” (most lovely), as we used to sing of Nicaragua, little Nicaragua. There is no “final conflict.” But there may well be a series of springtimes.
Staughton Lynd is a conscientious objector, peace and civil rights activist, tax resister, author and lawyer. Lynd’s contribution to the cause of social justice and the peace movement is chronicled in Carl Mirra’s biography, The Admirable Radical: Staughton Lynd and Cold War Dissent, 1945–1970, published in 2010 by Kent State University Press.

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Solidarity, Not Bureaucracy— Building Workplace Organizations Anew

By Pete Dolack
Weekend Edition June 26-28, 2015

Workplace solidarity in the face of the neoliberal onslaught is as crucial as ever, yet present-day unions become ever more fearful. How do we build solidarity in an era when the tools of the past have lost their effectiveness?

New types of organizations are not only necessary, it is essential to look at past upsurges in union activity, particularly those of the 1930s, with clear eyes rather than romanticization, argues Staughton Lynd in Solidarity Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below. A new re-issue and updating of a classic work, the book has lost none of its timeliness. Critical to understanding how unions lost their way, becoming too cozy with the corporate managements they are supposed to challenge, is the stifling of rank-and-file activity, particularly of militant tactics, by Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) unions in the 1930s.

Self-activity from below in the mid-1930s catalyzed a big upsurge in union membership; solidarity through striking was a critical component. When the National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, was moving toward enactment in the 1930s, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) opposed it because they foresaw the National Labor Relations Board that would be formed to arbitrate disputes would hinder the right to strike. The board would inevitably aid capital, not labor, they believed.

The Wagner Act was passed, the board came to be, and although specific decisions have favored one side or the other at different times, those fears have come to pass. Mr. Lynd argues that the CIO opposed and suppressed rank-and-file and independent activity, opposed an independent labor political party and agreed to no-strike clauses that would be in force the entirely of contracts, thereby handing all power to company management. And although Mr. Lynd doesn’t discuss it, many of the gains that were achieved in the Wagner Act were taken back a decade later with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which further restricted union activity, including prohibiting sympathy strikes, a serious blow to solidarity.

In U.S. labor mythology, the CIO is the “radical” union umbrella organization, infusing new life into Great Depression organizing after the slow pace of unionization under the guidance of American Federation of Labor (AFL) unions. But CIO contracts ceded decision-making to management in all aspects of operations from the start, while union leaders promoted themselves as guarantors of labor peace. Going back to the CIO of 1936 or 1945 is useless, Mr. Lynd argues, because it set out to suppress independent activity from the start.

Democracy is the essential ingredient

Interestingly, he also argues that the dues-checkoff system is another factor contributing to the undemocratic and collaborationist tendencies of unions, because it makes union leaderships unaccountable to the rank-and-file. New worker organizations must be democratic to have any chance of being effective. Building new labor organizations of a different kind, that demonstrate their usefulness in responding to problems, is the way forward. Mr. Lynd writes that democracy is the starting point:

“Trade unions are among the most undemocratic institutions in the United States. Far from prefiguring a new society, they are institutional dinosaurs, resembling nothing so much as the corporations we are striving to replace. … Democracy means, at a minimum, the freedom to criticize frankly and fully. Union bureaucrats have a tendency to view criticism as treason. But rank-and-file members must be able to criticize, not just the policies of incumbent union officers, but the structural shortcomings of the labor movement. For instance, CIO contracts have always contained no-strike and management-prerogative clauses, but if we think (as I do) that these clauses are wrong and should be abolished, we should be free to say so.” [page 21]
From such democracy arise the conditions to begin moving toward a better world, instead of the defensive retreats of recent decades.

“Working people believe in solidarity, not because they are better than other people, but because the power of the boss forces workers to reach out to each other for help. Because of the vision and practice of solidarity, the labor movement with all its shortcomings does prefigure a new kind of society within the shell of the old. And by building organizations based on solidarity, rather than on bureaucratic chain-of-command, we build organizations that by their very existence help to bring a new kind of society into being.” [page 24]

The author gives three local examples from the area around Youngstown, Ohio. One was a solidarity club consisting of workers from several unions that organized united actions in defense of strikers and other workers facing layoffs or other unfair labor practices; one was a group of retirees that defended pension benefits, especially since, as retirees, they were not allowed to vote on contract changes; and the third organized in defense of workers suffering health problems due to working with toxic chemicals.

Solidarity, not bureaucracy

Although each of these three groups won victories, the author acknowledges that they did not have far-reaching impacts. They did, however, demonstrate what is possible with different kinds of labor organizations that are democratic and based on direct action. Mr. Lynd writes:

“I want to suggest that trade unions as they now exist in the United States are structurally incapable of changing the corporate economy, so that simply electing new officers to head these organizations will not solve our problems. I argue that the internationalization of capital, far from proving that such centralized unions are needed more than ever, has, on the contrary, demonstrated their impotence and the need for something qualitatively new.” [page 47]

Putting life into the concept of “an injury to one is an injury to all” by striking on behalf of workers in other enterprises in one form of this necessary solidarity. Shop-floor committees that organize around grievances and problems rather than negotiating contracts and that use direct action, even in opposition to their union leaders, and “parallel central labor bodies” that organize workers in a geographic region, across industries, are two alternative forms the author advocates. As an example, he recounts a 1916 incident where the 2,000 workers of a factory walked out when an organizer was dismissed; within a couple of days, 36,000 workers across the region walked out in an organized show of strength.

Militancy is what is needed:

“The critical analytical error … of established unions about their current crisis is the assumption that labor and management have the same or mutually consistent interests. … It is the assumption that underlies business unionism, because it induces trade unions to leave investment decisions to management while directing their own attention to wages, hours, and working conditions, and to surrender the right to strike (for the duration of the collective bargaining agreements) in the belief that workers no longer need the strike to protect their day-to-day interests.” [page 78]

By ceding all decision-making to capitalists, negotiating over wages, hours and working conditions will always be defensive because unions are bargaining the extent of their members’ exploitation and can do nothing more. Staughton Lynd has given us a concise guide to thinking about workplace organization differently. (At barely a hundred pages in compact form, I was able to read Solidarity Unionism in a single evening.)

And once we realize we don’t need capitalists to make decisions for us, and learn to organize collective self-defense, getting rid of bosses and running enterprises ourselves enters our imagination.

Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog. He has been an activist with several groups.

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Patty Hearst and the Twinkie Murders on the Denver Examiner

By Zack Kopp
Denver Examiner
June 18th, 2015

Rating: 5 Stars

Patty Hearst and the Twinkie Murders is an account by investigative satirist Paul Krassner of two of the most famous cases in modern history: the kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst and the shocking assassinations of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and gay leader Harvey Milk combined with a more recent example ideological topheaviness: the “Taliban” wing of the gay movement’s merciless attacks on anti-folk star, Michelle Shocked, because of an apparent failure to grasp conversational rhetoric, a sign of the current media modality where sound bytes are binding, misinterpreted or not, and speaking publicly is tantamount to selling yourself to the kill-hungry media maw. This whole nation has PTSD.

Also featured is an interview with the author by independent San Francisco publishers, PM Press, founded at the end of 2007 by a small collection of people with decades of publishing, media, and organizing experience to deliver political and challenging ideas to all walks of life. The interview with Krassner, who once took acid with Groucho Marx, is described as “an irreverent and fascinating romp through the secret history of America’s radical underground” by virtue of the multiple connections accrued through being at the right place and the right time Said George Carlin of Paul Krassner, “The FBI was right—this man is dangerous—and funny, and necessary.”

As perhaps the first zinester (not counting Jonathan Swift) and one of the pioneering Gonzo journalists, Paul Krassner’s insertion of self as sardonic witness is crucial to his winning style. Creator of The Realist, the legendary underground magazine many credit as the beginning of the radical “new journalism” which flourished in the 1960s, Krassner is an icon of modern American humor. Founder of the Youth Internatonal Party (the “yippies”), Krassner also has several associations with Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, though he was never on the bus himself in a physical sense. He now lives near Palm Springs disguised as an old man.

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Read Derrick Weston Brown's Devastating Poetic Response to Charleston

By Sameer Rao
June 19th, 2015

Sometimes, in the immediate aftermath of a brutal tragedy like Wednesday's massacre of nine black civilians in Charleston by an avowed white supremacist, artists don't have the luxury of waiting for the blunt force of their creativity to go through publishers, managers, or anybody else. Instead, they take to the mediums most closely available—social media. 

Derrick Weston Brown, a prolific DC-based poet who counts being the first poet-in-residence at DC's legendary Busboys and Poets among his numerous accolades, did just that when he took to Facebook and wrote a damningly beautiful and stark treatise to the desperation felt by so many black people living under American oppression. Already, the post has hundreds of shares across various social media platforms. Check out the poem below, and see a statement from Brown after the jump:

Brown generously provided a statement to Colorlines on his work:

“I am a black poet who will not remain silent while this nation murders Black People. I have a right to be angry” –The #BlackPoetsSpeakOut  Movement Primary Statement.

I was born in North Carolina, and raised in Charlotte, a few hours away from Charleston and a short hop skip from Shelby NC where __________ was captured.  I needed to write that piece for me mostly. I posted it because I wanted share my anger.

I have to open with this very deliberate and direct statement because in these times we have to continue to be deliberate and direct in our words and actions despite the silence from those who establish policy and enforce laws.

 I have to thank the engineers and founders of the #BlackPoetsSpeakOut  movement; Poets ; Mahoghany L. Browne,  Amanda Johnson, Jonterri Gadson, and Jericho Brown, for the call out for Black Poets to speak  and speak again. 

I wrote this piece yesterday morning , in a few short minutes because I kept asking myself the question, “What Can We Have?”  And the answer kept coming back, “Can’t have nothing”.

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Fucking Carrie Brownstein

By Michelle Cruz Gonzales
Pretty Bold Blog


Source: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America)

Fucking Carrie Brownstein! She’s smart, cute, a riot grrl, in a super awesome band that everyone loves, even critics; she has a super funny, edgy TV show, and now she’s publishing a memoir. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl (Riverhead Books) is due out October 27th, just two days before my forty-sixth birthday. My memoir, The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band (PM Press) isn’t due out until Spring 2016. Just what, I ask, will Brownstein’s memoir be about? What has she done?

There should be some kind of law that you can’t write a memoir until you’re forty-five, until you’ve lived at least half your life like I have. I was already forty-five when I got word my memoir would be published.

When I got the news from PM Press, I didn’t run straight to my family to tell them the good news, hug them, or cry. No, I thought this instead: Okay, now, I just have to not die before it’s in print.

So imagine my shock last night, squinting at a Riverhead Books Instagram post on my phone announcing Brownstein’s book, my dismay at always having to be in the shadow of those sexpot riot grrls.

I should have known this would happen when I read her blurb on the back of Kim Gordon’s book A Girl in a Band, which credits her as —Carrie Brownstein, writer, actor, musician. I know she writes. However, to declare her a writer in that way, on that book is a bit like product placement.

Alice Bag, the most famous and legendary Chicana punk, Viv Albertine, of the Slits, and Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth, all did the decent thing and waited until they were in their fifties to publish their memoirs. The four of us will have to think very carefully about whether we’ll let the youthful, fancy pants Brownstein into our edgy female writer/musician’s club.

There is consolation in the fact that while Brownstein’s book will be published before mine, people will read my book too, because Alice Bag, Viv Albertine, Kim Gordon, and now, Carrie Brownstein have laid the groundwork, and because everyone wants to be a rock star, even if it’s only as long as it takes to read three hundred pages. It just isn’t fair always having to live in the shadow of those damn riot grrrls, who are and always have been younger and more pop-culture than I am.

In conclusion, I must ask the obvious question. Who are they going to let write a memoir next? It seems that there should be some sort of cap, some sort of quota. We can’t just let any literate woman who can play an instrument write a memoir. What would people think? What kind of message would that send? Americans might actually start to really believe at younger and younger ages that women can and should be heard, that women should have a voice, be musicians, writers, artists, great thinkers and creators worthy of solid place in history.

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Víctor Jara and Revolutionary Fatherhood

By Gabriel San Román
Latino Rebels
June 21st, 2015

Portraits of revolutionaries hang in our homes. Biographies of their lives fill our bookcases. Their public displays of courage against the injustices of the day inspire us to be eternally vigilant. But all too often our role models, especially of men for men, are largely divorced from family life in the popular imagination.

Think about it. Did Pancho Villa have children? Yes. But what do we know about the relationship they had with their father? Do they come as immediately to mind as his successful evasion of U.S. General John “Black Jack” Pershing or his daring raid on Columbus, New Mexico? Or, perhaps, even at all? What might our radical education be like if we spoke of exemplary figures in terms of embodying both a life of rebellion and deep, loving care for children, particularly their own?
For years, I’ve looked up to legendary Chilean folk singer Víctor Jara for what it means to be a complete human being.

His weapon of choice was a guitar. He wasn’t a bandoleer wearing revolutionary or a gun-toting guerrilla in the mountains of Latin America. His politically uncompromising music aligned with socialist Salvador Allende right through the spectacled politician’s historic election to the presidency on September 4, 1970.

Despite the singer’s non-violent nature, Jara became a martyr nonetheless. Following the September 11, 1973 coup that overthrew Allende and imposed the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, the imprisoned singer-poet was murdered by a flurry of army bullets inside Chile Stadium. It’s one of many tragic chapters in the story of 20th century Latin America.

Without a doubt, Víctor Jara inspires me as a popular musician and martyr, but there’s still so much more to him. He was a theater director, an artist, a father, a stepfather, a loving, faithful husband and consummate family man. Jara’s compassion for children is laid out in his body of work.

As a son, Jara carried in him throughout his own brief life a difficult relationship to his father. Born in Lonquen to Manuel and Amanda Jara, Víctor recalls working the fields with a plow as a young boy with his father. Living in rural poverty, other memories in the home were unpleasant. Manuel Jara drank his problems away, disappeared from the home and reappeared to beat his wife. The trauma of domestic violence aired itself out later in the intimate lyrics of Víctor Jara’s “La luna es muy linda.”

The musician evolved out his volatile upbringing with a sincere tenderness for children. A number of songs that he sang, from “Canción de cuna para un niño vago” to “El niño yuntero,” a Miguel Hernández poem set to music, display a deeply human concern for their impoverished lot in life.

Best among his songs is “Luchín” with lyrics that speak of a young Chilean shantytown boy playing with a modest cloth ball. “If there are children like Luchín / Who eat dirt and worms / Let’s open wide their cages / So that they can fly like birds.” Beyond songs, some of the most popular images of Jara are of him surrounded by shantytown children as he played his guitar much to their innocent amazement.

Other well-known photos of Víctor Jara showed him, again, with guitar in hand surrounded by children, this time his two daughters, Manuela and Amanda. Jara fell deeply in love with Joan Turner, a British woman living in Chile. She had been married before to a Chilean choreographer, only to have it dissolve when his heart left hers for another. All of this happened when Joan was pregnant with their daughter Manuela.

Víctor Jara later took Manuela in as if she were his own. He married Joan Jara and they had a child, Amanda, together. Joan Jara’s book “Víctor: An Unfinished Song,” gives insight into their family life. “Víctor was a very good father. He learned to change nappies and powder a small bottom, was good at doing things that needed a firm and gentle touch, like cleaning wounds on children’s knees, extracting splinters or cutting babies’ toe-nails,” she wrote. And he loved Manuela and Amanda’s mother with firm fidelity.

How many revolutionaries do we look up to that display a sense of conviction and courage in the social matters of the day, but also create poetic narratives of children as being central to them? Better yet, Víctor Jara was a revolutionary Rad Dad and a hell of a one at that. His life was cut short by the horrors of fascism, but not before giving us more than enough to humbly attempt to model ourselves after.


Gabriel San Román is the author of “Venceremos:” Victor Jara and the New Chilean Song Movement, and a writer with the Orange County Weekly.

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Talk Nation Radio: Waging Peace with David Hartsough

Before It’s News
June 16th, 2015

Listen HERE

David Hartsough is the author, with Joyce Hollyday, of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist. Hartsough is executive director of Peaceworkers, based in San Francisco, and is cofounder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce. He is a Quaker and member of the San Francisco Friends Meeting. He has a BA from Howard University and an MA in international relations from Columbia University. Hartsough has been working actively for nonviolent social change and peaceful resolution of conflicts since he met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956. Over the last fifty years, he has led and been engaged in nonviolent peacemaking in the United States, Kosovo, the former Soviet Union, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Iran, Palestine, Israel, and many other countries. He was also a peace educator and organized nonviolent movements for peace and justice with the American Friends Service Committee for eighteen years. Hartsough has been arrested more than a hundred times for participating in demonstrations. He has worked in the movements for civil rights, against nuclear weapons, to end the Vietnam War, to end the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan and to prevent an attack on Iran. Most recently, David is helping organize World Beyond War, a global movement to end all wars:

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.

Producer: David Swanson.

Music by Duke Ellington.

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Global peace activist speaks

The Times-Standard
June 19th, 2015

Global peace activist David Hartsough will speak on the “Power of Nonviolence” and his recently published book, “Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist,” at the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 22 Fellowship Way in Bayside at 7:30 p.m. tonight (preceded by a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m.). The Humboldt Friends Meeting, the Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Veterans for Peace Golden Rule Project are sponsoring this gathering.

Hartsough has been active in peacemaking and nonviolent movements around the world and will share some of those experiences. He has used his body to block Navy ships headed for Vietnam and trains loaded with munitions on their way to El Salvador and Nicaragua. He has crossed borders to meet “the enemy” in East Berlin, Castro’s Cuba and present-day Iran. He has marched with mothers confronting a violent regime in Guatemala and stood with refugees threatened by death squads in the Philippines.

Hartsough’s stories in “Waging Peace” educate and encourage readers to find ways to work for a more just and peaceful world. Inspired by the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., Hartsough has spent his life experimenting with the power of active nonviolence. His stories provide a peace activist’s eyewitness account of many of the major historical events of the past 60 years, including the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements in the U.S., as well as nonviolent efforts in the Soviet Union, Kosovo, Palestine, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Waging Peace” is more than one man’s memoir. Hartsough shows how this struggle is waged all over the world by ordinary people committed to ending violence and war.

Hartsough will also be participating in the re-christening and launch of the Ketch, the Golden Rule at 2 p.m. Saturday at Zerland and Zerlang Marine Services, 1493 Fay Ave. in Samoa. The Golden Rule, found at the bottom of Humboldt Bay and refurbished by Veterans for Peace and others, was originally used in 1958 to protest the testing of nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands. It was part of Hartsough’s inspiration for his lifetime of peacemaking.

Hartsough is the director of Peaceworkers based in San Francisco, co-founder of the Nonviolent Peaceforce and co-initiator of World Beyond War: A Global Movement to End All War. Hartsough met Martin Luther King in 1956 and has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1950s and has worked as a peacemaker in many parts of the world and helped build many nonviolent movements.

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A History of Feminist Speculative Fiction: Sisters of the Revolution

By Mahvesh Murad
May 29th, 2015

The stories in Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology does exactly what you’d want them to—they tear apart cliches, they question gender and it’s implications, they look at identity using satire and humour and darkness with a sharp intellectual examination of stigma and society’s rules.

Put together by well known and highly regarded award winning editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, it’s a solid collection for anyone who wants to see how far feminist SF has come, with stories spread across the last 40 years or so.

Sisters of the Revolution
began life as a Kickstarter campaign and is co-published with PM Press. The stories are from a wide variety of SF-nal genres—there’s futuristic SF, there’s fantasy and myth and surrealism. While the stories are mostly reprints, they’re each an equally strong voice, placing classic SF writers like Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler along side contemporaries like Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, Catherynne Valente and Karin Tidbeck. Though the classic are of course, always wonderful to read and admire (who isn’t still affected by James Tipree’s The Screwfly Solution, even at a repeated reading?), it is of course some of the newer stories that have not been read before that may stand out more, especially the ones that bring to attention writers of colour from non-western cultures. Nnedi Okorafor’s strong oral storytelling style in The Palm Tree Bandit is perfect for the tale of the woman who upends patriarchal norms and help change society. Nalo Hopkinson’s wonderful rhythms in the story The Glass Bottle Trick create an effective, chilling atmosphere for her take on the Bluebeard myth. Hiromi Goti’s Tales from the Breast is a beautiful, evocative story about new parenthood, nursing, and the complicated relationship between a new mother, her body, and her baby.

Some of the other contemporary stories that stand out are Catherynne Valente’s Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time, a Locus Award finalist in 2011 and a reimagining of the creation myth; Ukrainian writer Rose Lemberg’s Seven Losses of na Re, about a young woman whose name is power; and Swedish writer Karin Tidbeck’s Aunts, a fantastic story about three enormous women who only live to expand in size. They eat and eat and eat, until they are so large that they can not breathe. They then lay down and die, with their bodies split open for their awaiting nieces to dig out the new ‘aunts’ from old ones’ rib cages.

The collection includes writers whose stories are now synonymous with SF in general (not just feminist SF): Ursula Le Guin’s Sur is about an all female team of explorers headed to Antarctica, Octavia Butler’s The Evening and the Morning and the Night is about a gruesome, horrific fictional disease and the equally horrific societal stigmas that result from it, Joanna Russ, whose seminal 1975 novel The Female Man had a massive impact on many women writers is featured in the anthology with a forty year old story called When It Changed, one that remains valid to this day, in its look at power dynamics between the sexes.

Tanith Lee’s inclusion in the anthology now feels poignant, given her recent death, but there is even more reason for more people to read her work and note her significance. This collection includes her 1979 story Northern Chess, a cleverly subversive sword and sorcery tale featuring something rare in such stories from that time—a female lead with agency and power.

Another name that deserves mention is of course Angela Carter, whose influence is vast. Her take on Lizzie Borden’s story in The Fall River Axe Murders is about the woman who hacked her family to death yet was eventually acquitted. The entire story takes place in moments (though it’s over a dozen pages long) and leads up to what we already know—that Lizzie would brutally murder her family. But it’s unimportant that we already know where this is headed—this is Angela Carter, even her weakest stories (if there are any) are masterpieces of mood and atmosphere. Of course, in this story Carter is very much pointing out that the damage done to a young woman by not allowing her to grow, to learn and to be free is irreparable, and affects more than just the woman in question.

In the introduction to Sisters of the Revolution, the editors accept that a collection like this will always seem a little incomplete, always seem a little lacking, given that the canon of feminist SF is constantly increasing—particularly when it comes to including more POC female writers, more and more of whom are finding their voices, finding their groove, their space in the field.

Regardless, a collection like this holds its own firmly and is a great resource for anyone looking to understand the history of feminist SF short stories.

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S. Brian Willson reviews David Hartsough's Waging Peace

By S. Brian Willson   

Peace in Our Times

Spring 2015 issue

We are fortunate to finally have David Hartsough’s Waging Peace, an extraordinary description of his amazing sixty-year journey as an activist spanning the entire Cold War and continuing to the present. As one of today’s authentic elders, Hartsough offers us a body of experiential knowledge presented in dramatic detail sometimes easily forgotten in today’s digital era of short memories.

Hartsough excitedly shares wisdom garnered from a broad range of experiences: direct, nonviolent confrontation of Cold War policies during his travels in Europe as well as in the US; active participation in the Civil Rights movement (he met Martin Luther King, Jr. at age 15); becoming a conscientious objector to US military conscription in the 1950s; participating with others in physically blocking weapons and military ships headed for Viet Nam; actively obstructing, with hundreds of others, the construction of nuclear power plants; accompanying aggrieved, impoverished campesinos facing historically repressive military threats in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Palestine; facing death squads in the Philippines and Chiapas, Mexico; visiting Russia during the Cold War and again in 1991 when he joined many Russians in efforts to avert a coup ousting the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev; leading delegations to Iran creating citizen-to-citizen diplomacy; traveling over the years to the region of ex-Yugoslavia in efforts to participate in strategic nonviolent alternatives to the violence unleashed when Yugoslavia was broken up significantly due to US policies; recently protesting drone warfare with increasing numbers of others by obstructing entrances to drone bases in efforts to confront the most insidious and diabolical of all terror policies; among many, many examples of citizen power.

In the chapter, “Assault on the Tracks: Facing Violence With Love and Courage,” Hartsough describes his first-person, eyewitness account of the horrendous assault – attempted murder – that occurred at the Concord, California Naval Weapons Station on September 1, 1987—the first such account to be published, as far as I know. He was one of many protestors, organized under the name Nuremberg Actions that had been vigiling all summer, in direct confrontation of the movement of munitions by train and truck from the Pentagon’s largest West Coast arsenal.

Hundreds had already been arrested and jailed for trying to stop the flow of munitions to El Salvador and Nicaragua, where they were being used to murder and maim thousands of campesinos struggling for justice after decades of brutal, US-supported repression. President Reagan had signed new executive orders to counter “terror” at home and abroad, in effect reinstituting the FBI’s feared COINTELPRO—orders that remain in effect today. Reagan made the ridiculous claim that these impoverished people in Central America were creating a Soviet-inspired Communist beachhead “just two days driving time from Harlingen, Texas,” and that the US Americans dissenting from his policies of murder were terrorists themselves. On that day in September 1987, three veterans, after providing plentiful notice and surrounded by 40 others in solidarity, including Hartsough, began a munitions train blocking action just before noon. The train speed limit was 5 mph, its legal protocol required it to always stop awaiting arrests by police when demonstrators were present on the tracks. Two Navy spotters always stood on the front platform of the locomotive in radio contact with the engineer to assure clear tracks. On this particular sunny day, the locomotive accelerated to 17 mph, more than three times the legal speed limit, catching everyone off guard. One blocker (this reviewer) was unable to get off in time, losing both legs below the knee and suffering a fractured skull among a multitude of injuries. Hartsough, standing immediately next to the tracks, had his arm struck by the speeding locomotive knocking him to the ground from which vantage point he observed the dragged blocker “getting smashed from side to side as the train continued another four hundred feet before stopping,” Of all of his years of resistance, Hartsough described this as “the most horrible experience of my life.” 

In 2003, as a result of his many observations of conflicts in various countries, Hartsough helped launch the Nonviolent Peace Force (NPF), deploying teams of multinational citizens trained in nonviolence to accompany and stand in defense of endangered people in critical global locations.

Hartsough’s inspiring life story teaches us so much about the power of conscience and militant nonviolence, shaped by his years of participation with thousands of others in creative and educational resistance actions. He and his family also have modeled “right livelihood,” with modesty and humble simplicity, conscious of the old motto, often ascribed to Gandhi, “live simply that others may simply live.”

This is a primer for learning many practical approaches to militant, nonviolent revolution. Read and study it. You will not be sorry.

S. Brian Willson is a Viet Nam veteran, trained lawyer, long time peace activist, and member of Veterans For Peace.

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