July 30, 2012

PotW: Asymptote


by Chris Brandt

Stripmines eat away a mountain range
nukes eat silently our cellular defenses
the banks eat possibilities of change,
and entertainment giants eat our senses.
Children eat preservatives or grass
by geogenetic accident of class.

Men kill time in Pentagon cafes
mouthing war games, cooking up a name
to call death on the news. In that maze
generals come and go, hungering for fame,
talking first strike and spots marked X,
and feeding us their steel-headed sex.

In the city, a real vegetable's a find,
but tv dieticians get 5 C's a day
to make cardboard taste good in our mind,
and when the chemical technicians have their way
we will eat oil though it eats us back
and Exxon fattens up on what we lack.

It takes nine weeks to die of malnutrition,
for a body's million mouths to eat it -
how long will it take a world in this condition,
living on its poisons, to be deleted?
And there is no purpose, there are no heroes.
Eating our future til we're nothing but zeroes.


                          of war

(March, 2003)

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July 23, 2012

Poem of the Week: Everything Changes


by Bertolt Brecht

Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your latest breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

What has happened has happened. The water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again, but
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your latest breath.

[With this post, we are starting a new feature here at FOTM--the Poem of the Week. Each and every every Monday morning a poem with some revolutionary or political content will be posted.

Except. Should you find no poem up on Monday morning, that's because the week's poem is somehow tied to a date that falls later on in the week.

Sometimes there may be a few remarks with the post, but most of them I hope to leave to speak for themselves.

As insurance that this will not be another case of "Road To Hell Paving Company coming through!", I am taking advantage of the scheduling feature on Blogger and have a couple months worth of poems already queued up. We'll see how well it works.

I start with a Brecht poem which is one of my all-time favorites: it's materialist, it's dialectical,and it is optimistic. What's not to like?]

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July 15, 2012

Black New Jersey:
381 Days of Struggle, another milestone for the People's Coalition for Jobs & Justice…

Over the course of the past year, this blog has reported repeatedly on the daily picket lines in Newark initiated by the People's Organization for Progress. On April 11, in "Success on Many Fronts: POP's People's Campaign for Jobs & Justice shows how to carry out multiple struggles," we considered and applauded the organizational maturity POP had developed over the course of the campaign. That blog entry celebrated the ability carry out multiple campaigns simultaneously, and referenced "Playing the Piano: People's Organization for Progress ups the ante of Struggle in NJ," an early report in this ongoing campaign of over a year. Last week, FotM's original blogger, Jimmy Higgins, posted "The Most Important Demonstration in NYC This Summer," sharing why he deemed it essential to participate.
The Black is Back Coalition and New Caucus of Newark Education Workers marched Wednesday as coalition member organizations
On July 11 this past week, POP and the coalition we built of 179 supporting organizations achieving the milestone 381st day of continuous daily action. It is time to move on to the next phase of the struggle. Internally, the People's Organization for Progress debated continuing the campaign at least through election day in November. While the continuing world economic crisis, linked with the apparent collapse of the Occupy! movement in this country, make continuing the campaign extremely important, the amount of work required would make it impossible to maintain the schedule of daily demonstrations.

The women leaders and organizers of People's Organization for Progress (particularly POP Corresponding Secretary sister Ingrid Hill, who oversaw every aspect of the campaign since its inception) had genuinely overextended themselves during the past year and more. Their heroic efforts were essential to everything we've done. The decisive factor in this evaluation is that the campaign never achieved "critical mass." Many, many community, labor and religious-based organizations signed on, but relatively few brought out their membership. With 179 supporting coalition member organizations, we should have easily had 2,000 marchers on Wednesday. 

For example, the contribution of teachers and other education-based groups has been impressive over the year, but even though they participated Wednesday, it was a foregone conclusion that teachers weren't building this among their students and concerned parents in July. Continuing the struggle will need to take new forms as POP and activist members of the coalition searches for other ways to build the fight-back such as door-to-door organizing in the community; church, mosque, and synagogue visits, etc., etc. This shift is currently under debate at weekly POP meetings. Join us on Thursday evenings, 6:30 PM at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, 224 West Kinney St. in Newark to help formulate the future of this campaign…
Newark Teachers Association president, Annette Alston, addresses the rally prior to Wednesday's march as Larry Hamm, chairman of the People's Organization for Progress, looks on.

Readers may wonder why I project a mixed assessment of the genuine victory that our rally last Wednesday represents. As Amilcar Cabral once noted, "tell no lies, claim no easy victories…" (see Cabral's Revolution in Guinea for the full text of this essay). A serious approach to fighting for genuine change demands we take Cabral's lesson to heart. However, it is interesting to note that Newark's newspaper of record, The Star Ledger, which is often fairly critical of community activists in general (and POP in particular) published a very positive assessment of our July 11th demonstration in their Sunday, July 15th Essex County edition (see Group ends 381 consecutive days of protest in Newark).

To see a page of my friend Jon's photos from this exciting event, click HERE.

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July 8, 2012

The Most Important Protest In NYC This Summer

...will be taking place this Wednesday, July 11, across the Hudson River in Newark, NJ. It is the concluding day of a daily picket that the People’s Organization for Progress has maintained over the last 378 days!

Just in the last few weeks I have taken part in a rally against a slumlord warehousing apartments in Queens jointly sponsored by Occupy Queens! and the Hollis Presbyterian Church 99% Club; joined a raucous picket of Con Ed workers locked out by greedy bosses during a brutal heatwave; and marched silently with 9,000 others to protest the NYPD’s racist Stop and Frisk policy.

Each of these demos was plenty exciting and important--and inside the five boros to boot—but I’ll stick by the claim in the title. Let me explain why POP’s Daily Picket for Jobs, Peace, Equality & Justice has been so important.

1. POP launched this daily picket over a year ago with the declared intention of carrying it on for 381 days, the length of the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott that shivered the whole structure of Jim Crow in the South in the mid-1950s.  It seemed insanely ambitious, yet the presence every afternoon of POP pickets, week-in, week out, has provided a link to history, an example of determination and a mobilizing center (as the daily honks from passing vehicles show). This is precisely what the Occupy movement was able to do with its encampments until they were uprooted by the threat, or the reality, of brutal evictions at the hands of the po-po.

2. It is solidly based in the Black communities of Northern New Jersey. With anti-police violence campaigns a highlight of over two decades of struggle, the People’s Organization for Progress is not a staff-driven NGO but a genuine mass organization run by committed volunteer members from the community.  A dedicated core of members of all ages, numbering in the dozens, meets every week to plan, evaluate and learn. The group’s bright yellow shirts and rectangular black-on-white signs are standard features at progressive events in Northern Jersey.

3. The Daily Picket has been built as a broad united front. There are 179 endorsing organizations—some usual suspects like Veterans For Peace and left groups like my own Freedom Road Socialist Organization, but a lot more that much of the predominantly white left is flat-out ignorant of (or ignores?), from the A Philip Randolph Institute of the AFL-CIO to neighborhood watch groups. (See the list here.)  Endorsing groups get speakers at the daily picket line or larger rallies to address issues of special concern to them. One day I attended, we were joined by a dozen or so Verizon workers in red tee-shirts fighting the blunt assault on their unions.

4. Like the Occupy movement, its scope is broad—the four main demands are simple and based on POP’s long work in the community. I want to highlight each for a moment. Jobs—in inner-city Newark, this is a no-brainer, survival today and a future for the youth. Peace—a surprisingly secondary issue in the Occupy movement, but front and center here. Equality—a reminder that all this “post-racial America” business only obscures the continuing oppression and exploitation of communities of color, as well as a battle cry for women and LGBTQ folk. Justice—a reminder of the police brutality cases which POP has made a trademark of protesting.

I hope I have persuaded you that the Daily Picket has been a remarkable and a worthy thing. Now a few words on why you should join hundreds and probably thousands of other people at the closing rally this Wednesday afternoon.

First, while it may not have the size, the impact or the promise that the Occupy movement showed last fall, it embodies many of that movement’s virtues. And, with a track record going back to the ‘80s, POP’s future existence is not in question. Just by taking part, you build up an organization which is a model for the Black community and the 99% as a whole.

Second, if you show up, I guarantee you a healthy dose of inspiration and quite possibly some useful lessons for the days to come.

Wednesday, July 11

West Market Street & Springfield Avenue, Newark, New Jersey
(At the Lincoln Monument in front of the Essex County Court House)
Walking distance from the PATH train, Newark Station

Rally 4 PM
March 5 PM

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