In 1964 Yogi Bear was sentenced to 3 years to life, and quickly became politicized upon his entry into the California Department of Corrections. Being fluent in both English and Spanish he was able to help bring together and organize prisoners in the various prisons he was at in the CDC.
After a prison rebellion occurred in Yogi Bear’s unit at San Quentin in 1971, he and 5 others were put on trial for their part in the uprising. They have since been known as The San Quentin 6. He was convicted of assault on an officer and still remains in prison in California today.
Yogi Bear has not received a single write up since 1981, and has been in solitary confinement since 1990. He is out of the torturous conditions of the S.H.U unit in California State Prison – Pelican Bay, but has been moved to the S.H.U in a different prison in Represa, CA.
Yogi Bear has persevered despite the conditions he’s been forced into over the years. He is a very warm human being and a strong one at that, who stands for social justice and human rights. On May 2nd, Yogi Bear was denied parole. He is not due for a parole hearing for another five years. This will not defeat him. He is still shadow boxing during his rec time in his assigned cage outside, and he is still writing powerful letters that have a real gentleness to them. Check out his support site to stay up to date, it is: hugopinell.org , and write a letter to show him and the CDC just how much support he has from all over. Here is his address:
Hugo Pinell #A-88401
CSP – Sacramento
PO Box 290066
Represa, CA 95671-0066
Yours in solidarity,
Sacramento Prisoner Support
Hello interested readers, activists, friends and fellow revolutionaries, welcome to Issue 24 of 4SM.
Yes, we are about a month late with this Spring Issue. One reason is because our printer, good movement comrades and great professional printers, moved and had to set up their new shop. We still intend to do a Summer Issue in late August and another one in November.
This issue is full of information and analysis that you will find useful. With the ongoing struggle in the Ukraine and the ever more war-like threats coming from Washington and other imperialist country capitals, we are running three articles with thoughts and analysis about events in the Ukraine.
Former political prisoner and a Jericho leader, Kazi Toure, has a very important announcement about a march and rally that will take place in New York City this November; check it out.
We have a list of updates, including the Great news about the release of former Black Panther Eddie Conway, from decades of wrongful imprisonment. Also, definitely check out Ward Churchill’s column.
This issue has some interesting and thoughtful poetry from several people. So enjoy number 24 and pass it along — let your friends and fellow activists know about 4strugglemag. Send us your thoughts and feedback on anything in this or previous 4SM’s. We’ll see you in issue 25, out in late summer.
Freedom Is A Constant Struggle!
Jaan Laaman, editor
CORRECTION: A beautiful painting by political prisoner Thomas Manning on the cover of Issue 23 was mistakenly attributed to another artist. We apologize to Tom for this error, and thank him for lending his talents to 4strugglemag numerous times over the years.
A full color book of paintings by freedom fighter and political prisoner, Tom Manning.
Show Your Solidarity and Help Make this Inspiring Book Come Alive!
Tom Manning is a freedom fighter, political prisoner and prolific artist. His paintings are stories that jump off the page, revealing the outlook of people who struggle for liberation around the world. His paintings are about life and his landscapes recall times of importance.
The years of work to produce this beautiful book and important document are nearing their end and we need your help to fund the last phase of production!
- Preorder YOUR copy of For Love and Liberty today to make this project come alive.
- Choose from the three options to the right based on the level of support you can give
All proceeds, after production costs, will be donated to the Rosenberg Fund for Children: Twitter: @wwwrfcorg Facebook:rosenbergfundforchildren
Preorder Your Copy Today!
- 86 full color reproductions of Tom’s Painting
- Preface by Robby Meeropol
- Article, “In My Time” by Tom
- Poem by Assata, “Affirmation”
- Autobiography of Tom Manning
- Afterword by Ray Levasseur
- Notes from photographer Penny Schoner
Tom Manning: Freedom Fighter, Political Prisoner
From the Preface by Robby Meerpol:
“Tom’s been incarcerated for 29 years. But even before he received his current life sentence he was trapped by the limited choices left to an impoverished child surviving in Boston’s infamous Maverick Street Projects. The military during the Vietnam era seemed like a way out, but that too became a hellish form of confinement.
Tom broke free, he revolted. He became a revolutionary. He committed the unforgivable sin of confronting today’s great imperial empire, the United States, on its home turf. For that, I expect the prison industrial complex will do its best to keep him confined for as long as it can.”
On Sunday, September 7th, 2014 at 10 a.m., the Los Angeles Anarchist Black Cross and RAC-LA will host a 5K Run/Walk/Bike around MacArthur Park. This Run is designed to raise much-needed funds for the Anarchist Black Cross Federation’s Warchest program and for Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC).
We are attempting to reach the goal of $3,000 with the run. Funds will be divided between the two programs:
The ABCF Warchest program was created in November of 1994. Its purpose is to send monthly financial support to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War (PP/POWs). The Warchest funds are divided and distributed through monthly stipends to political prisoners who receive little or no financial aid. Prisoners use this money to cover the basic necessities of everyday living. These funds have been used by prisoners to pay for stamps, shoes, clothes, as well as assisting their families with what little they can.
Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC):
In the aftermath of the May Day 2007 police riot targeting migrant workers who dared stand up for our human rights, members of the MacArthur Park area and others joined together to support those with no papers and those with no means. RAC-LA came forward to aid the community in self-organizing such that with the help of each other we might make an inhuman way of living a bit more bearable while at same time acquiring the means to one day transform this system into an image of our own humanity.
Every year, prisoners and supporters of political prisoners organize solidarity runs with Running Down the Walls. In Sync with each other, we will collectively pound the pavement with our feet and bike tires as we exhibit our strength and stamina as examples of our tireless effort to free our imprisoned comrades. In past years we had runs in: Albuquerque (NM), Arcata (CA), Ashland, (OR), Bellefonte (PA), Boston (MA), Connecticut River, Dannemora (NY), Denver, (CO), Detroit (MI), Elmore (AL), Guelph (CAN), Inez (KY), Los Angeles (CA), Marion (IL), Mexico City (MEX), New York City (NY), USP. Navosta (TX), Pelican Bay (CA), Phoenix (AZ), Sandstone (MN), Tucson (AZ), USP Tucson (AZ), and Toronto (CAN).
Support the Struggle:
We must remember that many of those arrested in the past or present are not far from us. Many of them were and are community and labor activists, queer, and environmental activists; people who decided to speak out against various forms of oppression and paid the price of their freedom for their actions. We must remember that anyone of these people could have at one time stood beside us in a demonstration, at a speak-out, or even at an organizing meeting. At any given moment it could be us who finds ourselves in this situation, so it is imperative that we ensure that a strong enough community of support exists for these people as well as ourselves. The strength of our movement is determined by how much we support our fallen comrades. As Anarchist and former POW Ojore Lutalo says, “Any Movement that does not support its political internees, is a sham movement.” So please help us, help them! Help us help you!
We encourage people to participate in helping us raise funds for the Warchest, which can be done in the following ways:
Be a runner:
We are asking people or groups who are running to collect as many sponsor for the run as possible. Remember the money received is going to help imprisoned comrades who need your help. The person who collects the most amount of funds will be given a prize for their involvement and dedication to helping our fallen comrades.
Sponsor a runner:
This can be done through a flat donation to the runner of your choice, each flyer is a sponsor sheet. We ask from those who wish not to run to actively support those who are running in hopes of collecting as much for our comrades as possible.
Sponsor Running Down the Walls:
Any amount helps. Contact the Los Angeles Anarchist Black Cross if you wish to simply donate money to the cause.
Send funds directly to the Los Angeles ABCF (PO Box 11223, Whittier, CA 90603) or to the Philadelphia ABCF (PO Box 42129, Philadelphia, PA 19101) make checks or money orders out only to Tim Fasnacht.
-Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC): http://revolutionaryautonomouscommunities.blogspot.com/
Get involved in the planning of Running Down the Walls:
We always need help with organizing the event and we encourage people to contact us if they would like to get involved. You can do this by contacting the LA Anarchist Black Cross, www.abcf.net/la, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Jaan Laaman, UFF Political Prisoner Statement of Solidarity
October 19th 2002 My Brothers and Sisters,
“Thank you for running at this special event that means so much to many of us all over the world, both free and imprisoned. In a relative way, we are all political prisoners because it is the politics of this system of things that is exploiting, crushing, imprisoning, and destroying the masses all over the world and the earth itself. Then there are those who know this and take actions against those who seek to deny us our rightful place on earth as common human brethren. Those are the ones we run for and seek to help… whom sacrificed their family, freedom and lives, so that our lives may be better! The fact that you ran with us is a sign that when the red-hour comes, you will not be caught asleep. You are conscious and you too are willing to represent. The potential in you is great. Thank you for running for the cause!”
“As we ran we were thinking and talking about all the runners in Los Angeles and how we’d love to be out there running with them. We also spoke about the other political prisoners who were running with us in at least some other prisons.”
Running Down the Walls 2014
When: Sunday, September 7th, 2013, 10 am – 2 pm
Where: MacArthur Park, (West corner),2230 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90057
Registration fees:$15, preregistration $12 (Make checks out to Tim Fasnacht)
Or for paypal:
Log in to your PayPal account and send your donation online to the email address “timABCF@aol.com” (Tim Fasnacht). Make sure to add in the notes section that your donation is for RDTW 2014. If you’d prefer to stay anonymous or are donating in the name of an organization, let us know.
For more information contact the Los Angeles Branch Group of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation
PO BOX 11223
Whitier, Ca 90603
BY WARD CHURCHILL
On February 13, 2013, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals entered a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in Peruta v. County of San Diego, a suit challenging the latter’s authority to arbitrarily constrain or deny the right of citizens to carry concealed handguns. In rejecting the criteria employed by San Diego County to govern its occasional issuance—or, more accurately, its routine denial—of concealed carry permits as being unconstitutionally narrow, Peruta takes its place among a cluster of recent judicial opinions—notably District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), and Moore v. Madigan (2012)—that serve to undercut the government’s sustained effort to incrementally disarm the populace in the face of policies not only equipping the police and related entities with a continuously expanding and more lethal array of weaponry, but an ever-broader license to use it.
Of particular interest in Peruta is the court’s observation that it was “not holding that the Second Amendment [to the U.S. Constitution] requires the states to permit concealed carry,” but rather that it “does require that the states permit some form of carry for self-defense outside the home [emphasis original].” Since the open carrying of firearms is prohibited under California law, the judges reasoned, concealed carry is left as the only alternative. That being so, the imposition of any literal or de facto prohibition of concealed carry is rendered unconstitutional. In the alternative, the prohibition of open carry might have been declared unconstitutional—one senses that this would have been the judges’ preference, had the issue before them allowed such a ruling—but under no circumstances can both open and concealed carry be prohibited.
Needless to say, the ruling has already generated quite a lot of chatter, most of it from the usual sources and giving voice to an equally predictable range of sentiments, from boilerplate professions of dismay from self-styled “progressive commentators” to open gloating by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other such fixtures of the “libertarian” right. Although neither was party to the original suit, and thus lack discernible legal standing upon which to do so, both the California attorney general and the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence quickly filed for an en banc hearing by the full Ninth Circuit in hopes of having the Peruta opinion reversed, a maneuver that has yet to be addressed by the court itself. To date, no one has mentioned what stands to be the most ironic aspect of the whole case, however.
By and large, the earlier-mentioned prohibition under California law of openly carrying firearms in public has been treated in discussions of Peruta as if it were given, something that has always existed. That is simply not so. Throughout most of its history—from September 9, 1850, the date on which it was admitted to the Union, until June 28, 1967—open carry was perfectly legal in California. On the latter date, the state legislature passed the so-called Mulford Act, a measure named in honor of its principle sponsor, representative Don Mulford, an openly racist Republican whose East Bay district included the city of Oakland.
Explicitly intended to outlaw the practice adopted by the recently formed and Oakland-based Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of conducting armed street patrols to “police the police,” which the Panthers quite accurately characterized as an all but exclusively white “occupying army” long notorious for its routine infliction of violence upon and otherwise systematically violating the rights of those living in the city’s sprawling black ghetto, the Mulford Act cannot be rationalized as an attempt to reduce social violence, as such, whether real or potential. To the contrary, since the Panthers’ patrols, far from precipitating an uptick in ghetto violence, had demonstrably forced a marked and rapid drop-off in its gratuitous dispensation by the Oakland PD to residents in that part of the city, it was plainly meant to serve a very different purpose.
Bluntly put, the Act was in every respect akin to the Klan-endorsed and -enforced Black Codes effected by the former Confederate states during Reconstruction for purposes of disarming and thereby re-subjugating free blacks. The substance of both was/is to sanction certain modes of official and quasi-official violence, the institutional function of which was/is to keep African Americans—and, by extension, other communities of color—in the places collectively assigned them at or near the bottom of America’s sociopolitical-economic hierarchy, while simultaneously criminalizing/precluding the assumption of any viable defensive posture by those communities. At base, such laws form an essential structural component of white supremacy in the U.S. (and elsewhere, for that matter). In their absence, no system of racial domination can be stabilized, much less sustained in perpetuity.
Viewed in this light, the real motives prompting California’s virtually all-white legislature to vote overwhelmingly in favor of the Mulford Act are transparently obvious. So too, those underlying then-California governor/later U.S. president/now grand “conservative” icon Ronald Reagan’s much-vocalized support for the bill, which he signed into law immediately after its passage. It should be emphasized, moreover, that among the right’s strongest organizational proponents of the Act was none other than the NRA. So much for the Association’s pretense that its typically vociferous opposition to gun control is in any sense a principled defense of the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Second Amendment. While this may be true as regards white citizens, or at least the certifiable Good Americans among them, when, as with the Mulford Act, gun control serves the purpose of disarming “militants” bent upon empowering blacks and other peoples of color to successfully reject the white supremacist status quo, the NRA has been and remains all for it.
For their part, California’s white progressives—which is to say, its liberals—proved no less enthusiastic in their embrace of the Mulford Act than did the Cro-Magnons to their right. Unlike their more radically minded counterparts on the genuine left, those of the “responsible” variety willingly made common cause with the state’s most racist and reactionary forces, in no small part as an expedient to “removing guns from the process of social change,” or so they claimed. In this, they might be credited with evincing at a least some degree of sincerity, however hopelessly naïve, had their prescription for taking guns out of the equation included the least acknowledgment that this would necessarily require disarmament of the police as well as the Panthers (and colored folk more generally). But of course it did not, and still does not, not even to the extent of opposing the build-up of police armaments, proliferation of SWAT units, and so on, already underway in 1967.
No better illustration comes to mind of how most whites, irrespective of the stylistic, rhetorical, class, and usually superficial ideological differences seeming to divide them among themselves, invariably find consensus in defending the privileges attending their whiteness when confronted with serious challenges to the existing order. That California’s white liberal establishment now finds itself hoisted on its own petard as the result of one such maneuver gives cause for a measure of bitter mirth. The more so, since the reactionaries with whom the liberals so willingly linked arms in an effort to neuter the Panthers back in 1967 clearly outfoxed them, shortly amending the Mulford Act so that open carry of rifles and shotguns was allowed in rural—read, predominately white and conservative—areas of the state.
Cynical chuckles aside, where all this leads is anybody’s guess. Among the more hopeful prospects, however, is that Peruta and the related opinions cited above signal an unraveling of the deeply contradictory logic underpinning the mandatory imposition of “enhanced” sentences for conviction of offenses committed while in possession of a firearm. The mechanism in question has of course applied mainly to drug-related cases, themselves still subject to Reagan-era mandatory minimums and long notorious for the vastly disproportionate rates of incarceration inflicted on young African American, Latino, and—in some locales—American Indian men. The sheer cost of warehousing the results, even under conditions of outright slave labor, has already triggered a significant rethinking of the relevant statutes, accompanied by signs that increasing numbers of “nonviolent drug offenders” may see early release over the next few years. A comparable rethinking with respect to sentences arbitrarily lengthened by firearms possession stands to heighten the effect considerably.
Translated, this could ultimately mean that the outflow of dark-skinned bodies from behind the walls might finally exceed the influx for the first time in living memory. If so—and it must be admitted that any such projection is wildly optimistic—we will have ample reason to celebrate just as wildly. If not, as seems far more likely, we should—and therefore will—make good use of every gain we can register along such lines, both tactically and strategically. However things turn out in this regard, much work will obviously remain to be done. The struggle will continue.
BY FRED GOLDSTEIN
Excerpted from workers.org
Destroying the Ukraine government through an armed insurrection is part of a broader strategy by U.S. imperialism to colonize the former Soviet republics and encircle Russia. The right-wing forces now running Kiev would let the Ukrainian masses become debt slaves to U.S., French and German banks.
Washington has escalated its global campaign of reactionary subversion from Ukraine to Venezuela. A takeover in Ukraine would bring the Pentagon and Wall Street to the borders of Russia. In Venezuela, the Bolivarian Revolution is crucial to the bloc of countries resisting U.S. imperialist domination in Latin America.
The U.S. ruling class would like nothing better than to weaken Russia and return it to the semi-colonial status it was heading toward immediately after the collapse of the USSR, when Boris Yeltsin was president. It would also like to return to the era of Yankee imperialist domination of Latin America that prevailed until the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959.
Right now the big imperialist powers in Washington, Berlin, Paris and London, who preach democracy to the skies, are hailing the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Victor Yanukovich in the Ukraine.
To be sure, the Yanukovich government was corrupt and no friend of the working class. It was an instrument of a section of Ukrainian oligarchs. But the same can be said of the forces that overthrew him. The corrupt character of Yanukovich has nothing to do with why Washington joined in his overthrow.
The destruction of the Yanukovich government by armed insurrection and the installation of pro-Western puppet politicians is part of a broader strategy by the European Union (EU), in cahoots with the U.S. imperialists, to colonize the former Soviet republics and encircle Russia as part of a new Cold War.
Phony Call for “Democracy”
Yanukovich was overthrown by a combination of illegal political scheming by the pro-imperialist parties in the parliament, weeks of demonstrations by right-wing, pro-West forces and by threats and violence from fascist shock troops who took command of the streets and spearheaded the takeover.
The big business media portrayed this as a contest between the western Ukrainians, who want to align with “democratic” Europe and the West, versus the eastern, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, who want to align with autocratic Russia.
This is a completely superficial view that conceals the essence of the conflict. With Ukraine facing imminent bankruptcy, Yanukovich was vacillating over whether to align the country’s economic relations with Europe or Russia. The EU offered paltry loans that would impose conditions of austerity and privatization and hinge on the release of right-wing, pro-EU billionaire politician Yulia Tymoshenko from prison.
European Union, United States, International Monetary Fund
Russia, on the other hand, offered a $15 billion loan, a one-third reduction in the price of gas and favorable trade relations. Yanukovich, whose base is in the Russian-speaking East and South of the country, decided to accept Russia’s terms. This infuriated the EU, Washington and all the oligarchs, bourgeois and middle-class elements who wanted to integrate with Western capitalism and imperialism.
The right-wing forces who now prevail in Kiev preferred to put Ukraine in the position of becoming a debt slave to German, French and U.S. bankers and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This is the same agenda imposed on Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy, as well as several countries in Eastern Europe.
This is not to say that the capitalist, expansionist Putin regime, in making its offer, was guided by anything other than a desire to retain its sphere of influence in the former Soviet republics for the benefit of Russian oligarchs, bankers and industrialists who are living off the spoils they plundered when they broke up the economy of the Soviet Union.
But in the struggle between Russian capital and Western imperialism, the worst outcome is for Washington, Wall Street and the Pentagon to extend their reach to the borders of Russia and gain domination over the former Soviet republics. United States imperialism is a far more dangerous enemy to the people of the world than Russia.
The political victory of Western imperialism was carried out with fascist intimidation and without a shred of capitalist democracy. Laws were passed and the Ukrainian Constitution was changed by a rump parliament. Members opposed to the right-wing takeover were physically attacked or intimidated by the anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party inside the Parliament and by the anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi forces of the Right Front in the streets.
The Parliament took charge of the police and ordered them to retreat from the battle in Independence Square just as the fascists were getting more and more aggressive. The withdrawal of the police from the square—the site of government buildings, including the presidential quarters—set the stage for fascist squads, under the command of the Right Front, to take charge of the entire area.
As shown by the now infamous “f… the EU” phone call between U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, Washington was vying with the EU for control of the situation and discussing who to pick to lead the new government, while relying on the fascists to get rid of the elected government of Yanukovich.
Once the government was overthrown and Yanukovich fled from Kiev, Yulia Tymoshenko, who led a similar pro-Western coup in 2004 (the so-called Orange Revolution), was released from jail. She rushed to the platform in the Maidan and harangued the crowd, promising to integrate with Europe, among other things.
Her first phone calls were “with Angela Merkel as well as with Stefan Fule, a top European Union official, and with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill. Tymoshenko also met with ambassadors from the United States and EU countries.” (New York Times, Feb. 24)
Clinton: “Re-Sovietize” the Republics
As to imperialism’s broad strategy, it was to keep Ukraine from joining the Russian-sponsored Customs Union, an economic alliance of Russia with Belarus and Kazakhstan. Last November, the EU tried to get Ukraine to join the so-called Eastern Partnership. Yanukovich, along with leaders of several other former Soviet republics, turned it down, and the whole scheme to absorb the republics into the EU fell apart.
Venezuela Under U.S. Attack Again
In the Western Hemisphere, Washington is also fighting to set up a “democracy” for the capitalist oligarchs in Venezuela in much the same way they are bringing “democracy” to Ukraine—by organizing and financing a right-wing mobilization in the streets of Caracas, San Cristobal and other cities. Fortunately, the masses in Venezuela, unlike in Ukraine, are mobilized to defend the Bolivarian Revolution established by Hugo Chávez.
Furthermore, the politics of the struggle are clearly understood by the Venezuelan masses and the entire progressive population of the world. The goal of Washington is to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution and restore the domination of U.S. imperialism in the country.
Washington lost that domination when Chávez came to power in 1998. He took control of the oil revenues and created institutions to empower the masses and improve their health, education and living conditions on a wide scale, eventually declaring socialism as the goal of the revolution.
The pro-U.S. right-wing was defeated in a coup attempt to oust him in 2002, and has lost election after election, by large margins, since then. It has been unable to regain political power by democratic, parliamentary means. Thus the CIA, the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, working with the reactionary regime in Colombia, embarked on a new campaign of subversion and destabilization to destroy the government of Chávez’s successor, President Nicolás Maduro.
Washington has unleashed aggressive right-wing forces led by Harvard-educated Leopoldo López. López has ties to Colombia’s former president, Alvaro Uribe, who ruled by death squad.
The masses in Venezuela are in a more advantageous position than the working class in Ukraine. They are far more organized, politically conscious and determined to defend the revolution, which has brought real gains for the people. But given the U.S. record of counterrevolutionary subversion in Chile, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and many other countries in Latin America, this campaign must be taken deadly seriously.
Goldstein is the author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End,” which has been translated into Spanish as “El capitalismo en un callejón sin salida.” The books are available on Amazon.
By JAAN LAAMAN
United States imperialism’s contradictions with Russia have drastically increased in the past two months. Ukraine, Crimea and Russia are prominently and regularly featured on all platforms of the corporate media in the United States.
Russia is portrayed as the enemy, the intruder and belligerent country. The U.S. government and its European Union (EU) imperialist allies are put forth as supporters of democracy and legal order. This is almost the complete opposite of what has actually taken place in the Ukraine and Crimea. But if the U.S. corporate media repeats its version loudly and frequently enough, it starts to be accepted by viewers and listeners. 4SM is printing a more insightful and critical report of Ukraine and Crimea, put out by the Workers World newspaper (the WW article precedes this one and 4SM edited it for length). There certainly is need for more independent, objective and critical information and analysis. Most importantly there is the need for concerned and intelligent people to analyze and evaluate what is happening.
Any analysis should start with an objective view of who the parties are and what their interests and objectives really are. United States imperialism, even with dissension in its elite ranks, is the most powerful modern-day empire in the world. The EU and especially its major players— Germany, England and France—are smaller imperialist powers who usually follow the U.S. lead.
Russia, today, is a capitalist regional and to a lesser degree world power. Russia does not automatically and routinely accept or submit to U.S. imperialism’s lead, as the EU often does. Russia is an independent nation with its own interests.
Russia was the heart of the former Soviet Union. The USSR and Western imperialism had a decades long fundamental contradiction between socialism and capitalism/imperialism. With the demise of the Soviet Union, this contradiction also ceased to exist. The contradiction between U.S. imperialism and Russia today is the contradiction between two competing capitalist powers. Both are trying to seek advantage, resources and power for the benefit of their respective ruling elites. Capitalist powers mostly compete and collude with each other. But we should be very clear—some of the worst wars in modern times have been the result of capitalist countries fighting for markets and resources (e.g., WWI, WWII).
Since the end of the USSR and its socialist system, the USA, in its drive for world hegemony, has been trying to curtail Russia’s strength as a regional power. United States imperialism has continuously expanded NATO into East Europe. It has also attempted to install pliant regimes through a series of color “revolutions” in former Soviet republics. The U.S. government has established bases on Russia’s periphery, in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, to militarily encircle most of Russia.
On the other hand, Russia is the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas. It also still has a large nuclear arsenal and a sizable military. Russia is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has the power to, at times, block U.S. moves, such as when Obama threatened to attack Syria last year.
While events in Crimea and Ukraine have dominated corporate news in the U.S., there have been reports of demonstrations and struggle in Venezuela. There have also been minor news reports of U.S. citizens and embassy officials being accused of organizing activities against the Venezuelan government and president.
United States imperialism basically lost its control and domination over Venezuela and its very large pool of oil with the 1998 election of Hugo Chavez as president. When Chavez died last year, a leader of his party, Nicolas Maduro, was elected to replace him. President Maduro has continued Chavez’s revolutionary and socialist policies, but he is perceived as more vulnerable to a renewed imperialist and local right-wing assault. Somewhat under the cover of news about Russia and Ukraine, there is an ongoing imperialist effort to destabilize and subvert the popularly elected government of President Maduro in Venezuela.
Events in Ukraine, Crimea and Venezuela are serious. The confrontation with Russia, in particular, has the potential for unimaginable consequences. By all measures, much of the American public is sick and tired of U.S. government wars, invasions, bombings and drone attacks. Despite this, U.S. imperialism and the USA government have not stopped their machinations and attempts to gain control over other countries and their resources, or to lead the United States into a new war. This makes it so important for us—the people, and particularly activists and organizers—to evaluate and analyze developments and struggle independently, and not simply follow corporate news and government versions of events.
One very significant and clarifying issue to hold on to is understanding who our primary enemy really is. What is the main obstacle in our struggle for greater peace, freedom and economic justice? What is the principle or primary contradiction? Understanding this and keeping it firmly in mind as we examine developments makes it much less likely that we will get swept away with government pontifications of who we should consider our enemy. Dialectical materialism is the scientific revolutionary method of analysis that allows any situation to be broken down and examined. In issue 11 of 4SM, we printed an entire short booklet (“A Basic Introduction To Dialectical and Historical Materialism”) that lays out this method.
As people in the United States, we must always keep in mind that whatever the government does, it acts in our name. We may not and probably do not have any control or voice in what the government does, which country they declare an enemy and/or attack, but it is done in our, the people’s, name. This makes it crucial that we determine for ourselves what is correct and real or propaganda. If we do not accept the government’s plans for war, we must loudly and clearly make known to the government and the world that we oppose, and will try to stop, what the U.S. government does in our name.
The country of Russia is not our, the American People’s, enemy. Crimea has been part of Russia since the 1700’s. In late March, for the first time in its history, the Crimean people got the opportunity to vote on whether they wanted to be part of Russia, and they overwhelmingly voted to join the Russian Federation.
The elected President and parliament in Venezuela may not be the leaders who U.S. imperialism and the USA government approve of, but it is the right of the Venezuelan people, not Washington politicians and Wall Street bankers, to decide who leads Venezuela’s government. The people of Venezuela, Russia, Crimea or Ukraine are not our enemies. We should make that clear to politicians in Washington and to the world, and we must not let the USA government launch any wars or attacks against these people, their governments and countries.