Thursday, September 30, 2010

the sinking of guam

The Military Occupation of Guam and the Struggle Against Bases in Okinawa

by Melvin Won Pat-Borja

During a congressional hearing on the Guam military buildup in early April, US Representative Hank Johnson said that he feared the Military Relocation on Guam would cause our tiny island to capsize and sink. The comment, though not meant to be taken literally, caused an uproar among Chamorus everywhere. People were so outraged at his perceived ignorance that they continually bashed him in the media and all over the internet. The sad truth however is that Guam WILL sink. It will sink under the weight of tons of toxic waste dumped by the military each year, sink under the pressure of contaminated drinking water, sink under the weight of overpopulated schools, massive amounts of traffic, inadequate health care, and extreme over population. If this military expansion goes as planned, the people of Guam will surely sink to the bottom of the Marianas Trench and become nothing more than a footnote in America’s colonial history.

Our story began centuries ago when we first sailed from the coast of south east asia and made this beautiful chain of islands our home, but for the sake of time, THIS story will begin when the DEIS (draft environmental impact statement) for Guam and the military buildup was released in November of last year. The document laid the blueprint for the transfer of 8,000 marines and their 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam. It was an 11,000 page document that held our future in the margins of the paper it was printed on and the public was only given 90 days to comment on it. The plans suggested that Guam was the best alternative to right the wrongs that America’s armed forces had imposed on the people of Okinawa. The Department of Defense had chosen Guam because South Korea, the Philippines, California, and Hawaii all said “no.”

But the sad reality is that Guam was never offered that same courtesy. We are an unincorporated territory of the United States, leaving us victim to whatever decision America makes, whether it is beneficial for us or not. Guam is America’s dirty little secret, the step child that no one ever talks about. We are affectionately referred to as the place “where America’s day begins,” but no one likes to admit that America starts each day with injustice. We have traditionally been loyal servants, patriots, and second class citizens, enlisting more soldiers per capita than anywhere else in the world. It makes me wonder if America could even have a military without people like us. We are as American as apple pie and baseball when there is war on the horizon or when strategic positioning in the Pacific is needed, but we are not American when it is time to vote in congress or the senate or when it is time to elect a new president.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

defending the 'aina

The Occupation of Hawai'i and the Struggle for Withdrawal of Foreign Military Bases

by Kyle Kajihiro

Aloha kakou. Warm greetings from Hawai’i.

For more than a century, the U.S. has treated the Pacific ocean as an “American Lake” and Pacific islands as stepping-stones to extend the march of “manifest destiny” westward to the Asian prize.

The peoples of the Pacific were merely an afterthought. Henry Kissinger’s remark about nuclear tests in the Marshall islands exemplified this attitude: “There are only 90,000 people out there. Who gives a damn?”

The independent Kingdom of Hawai’i was one of the first overseas casualties of the American empire. In 1893 Hawai’i was invaded and occupied by U.S. troops in order to establish a forward military base in the Pacific. As Stephen Kinzer noted, the U.S.-backed overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom was the prototype for the recurring tactic of “regime change”, all the way up to and including the invasion of Iraq.

The U.S. military occupation of Hawai’i enabled America to defeat the Spanish Empire in 1898, acquire its colonies, and emerge as a global power. During WWII, U.S. military bases in Hawai’i were crucial to America’s victory over the Japanese empire and its rise to global, nuclear armed superpower status.

After the war, America established the Pacific Command in Hawai’i, the oldest and largest of the unified commands. It has an area of responsibility that encompasses most of the world’s surface and a majority of its population. 

Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa, the true name of what is commonly called Pearl Harbor, was once a marvel of aquacultural and agricultural engineering. It was the food basket for O’ahu. But the U.S. military wanted to turn it into a naval base. Today, what was once a life-giving treasure has become a toxic superfund site with more than 740 contaminated sites identified thus far.

Pearl Harbor also serves another function as the iconic war monument. It is a factory to valorize and reproduce the myth of America’s redemption through militarization and war. Hawai’i and America are still held hostage to this myth.

The military presence in Hawai’i can be imagined as the head of a monstrous he’e or octopus, with tentacles that grab at our brothers and sisters in the Philippines, Guam, Okinawa, Korea, Kwajalein. Hawai’i is simultaneously a victim of American empire and an accomplice in the building of that empire.

America’s bid for “full spectrum dominance” extends from the bottom of the sea to the heavens above, from space to cyberspace. Sensor grids on the sea floor off Kaua’i and radar, antenna and optical tracking stations on the peaks of our sacred mountains are the eyes and ears of the he’e. Supercomputers and fiber optics are its brains and nervous system. To stop a he’e, you must neutralize its head.

According to the 2009 Base Structure Report, the U.S. military operates a total of 139 installations and facilities in Hawaii, with a total area of 239,000 acres. In addition the Hawaii National Guard has 13 installations occupying 858,000 acres. The main islands are completely surrounded by military defensive sea areas, and the entire archipelago is surrounded by 2.1 million square miles of temporary operating area.

The process of militarization destroys Native Hawaiian culture and sacred sites and imperils native ecosystems. It has poisoned our environment and threatened our health with a toxic cocktail of depleted uranium, lead, dioxins, radioactive cobalt 60, chemical weapons, and a host of other substances. It creates economic dependency that verges on addiction and distorts our sense of cultural identity and social priorities.

After 9/11, Hawai’i experienced the largest military expansion since WWII. Despite protests and devastating environmental and cultural impacts, the Army seized 25,000 acres of land and stationed 328 Strykers in Hawai’i. Missile defense programs and congressional earmarks fuel a military-industrial gold rush, cutting off access to some of our best beaches at the missile range on Kaua’i. Even economic stimulus funds have been hijacked to boost construction of military housing and other facilities.

Despite overwhelming odds, people continue to resist. In 1976, the first of several waves of activists landed on Kaho’olawe island to protest the Navy bombing of that sacred place. This movement eventually ended the bombing and forced the clean up and return of the island.

In Makua decades of protest, lawsuits and the assertion of traditional Kanaka Maoli cultural practices have halted Army live fire training for the last five years. There is fierce community opposition to the Army’s plans to resume training in Makua.

In 2003, the community defeated a proposed Marine jungle warfare training facility in Waikane valley. The marines have now begun a process of cleaning up unexploded ordnance.

On Hawai’i island, activists have called for the end of live fire training in Pohakuloa, the clean up of depleted uranium and the cancellation of the lease of state land to the military.

In 2002, the DMZ-Hawai’i/Aloha ‘Aina network was organized to unite the various local struggles against the bases in Hawai’i. Our four demands are: 1. Stop military expansion, 2. Cleanup and return military occupied lands. 3. Develop sustainable economic alternatives and 4. Pay just compensation for the damages caused by the military in Hawai’i.

The arms of the he’e can grow back when they are cut off, as we are seeing with the return of U.S. troops and “lily pad” installations in the Philippines and the relocation of bases from Ecuador to Colombia. We need a different paradigm of peace and security based on meeting human needs and environmental sustainability, not the imposition of order through the threat of overwhelming violence.

We are inspired and encouraged by the emergence of a global network against foreign military bases. In Hawai’i we have organized actions to support Vieques, Okinawa, Guam, Korea and the Marshall Islands.

I’d like to make a special appeal and challenge to our comrades in peace and justice movements to please pay attention to and support the justice struggles on our small islands. The Pentagon wants to rule the planet from a network of strategic island military hubs. To end the present wars and prevent future wars, we must dismantle the architecture of this empire of bases, and the solidarity of people in the heart of the empire to push for the withdrawal of these bases is more important than ever.

In contrast to the imperial vision of the American Lake, peoples of the Pacific have a different vision of peace and security for our region. The Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement popularized the concept of Ka Moana Nui, the great ocean that connects the Asia Pacific through solidarity rather than hegemony. To borrow a Hawaiian concept, let us “haku”, that is braid our struggles into an unbreakable cord much stronger than its individual strands to restrain the powerful forces that make wars and rule through nuclear and military terror.

This text is Kyle Kajihiro's talk for the Workshop "Challenging Asia-Pacific Militarism" at the International Conference For a Nuclear Free, Peaceful, Just and Sustainable World, held at the Riverside Church, NYC, 30 April-1 May 2010. Kyle is Hawai'i Area Program Director for the American Friends Service Committee, and a member of the DMZ-Hawai’i/Aloha ‘Aina network and the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases.

wars of denial

Ryuta Nakajima, PH What?, 2002.

Ry Nakajima paints history as instrumentalized projection - a social process of coding and recoding, construction, forgetting and exclusion. Here, he projects a fragment from an iconic image of the Japanese attack on the US fleet in Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (aka, Pearl Harbor) through  an optic of critical reflection. Immersing the stratagems and strikes of imperialist adversaries are the wars of denial: in the official mythologies of nation-states, of victors and vanquished alike, real histories of conquest and occupation are actively disappeared.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

atomkraft? nein danke

On Saturday a large and spirited demonstration marched through Berlin’s governmental quarter, filling the air with drumming, whistles and catcalls. The largest anti-nuke demo seen in Germany since the years of Chernobyl was organized with impressive rapidity in response to Merkel’s backdoor deal with the nuclear power industry. At the front of the demo were farmers and tractors from the Wendland, where the Gorleben nuclear waste storage site remains a perennial flashpoint for resistance. Otherwise, it looked and felt like an inter-generational sampling of the middle classes – confirmation of the mainstream character of opposition to nuclear power in Germany.

Organizers claim 100,000 people took to the streets in protest. Police under-counters countered with 40,000. Even splitting the difference at 70,000, this was a mobilization too large to be ignored. And with all the grassroots and activist networks involved, as well as parties (Greens, SPD, die.Linke), it’s not likely to be a one-off. The networks are already focused on Gorleben: there is a buzz that this year they may actually be able to stop the Castor train with massive blockades.

Merkel’s governing CDU-FDP coalition had been signaling for weeks that it would seek to roll back the scheduled phase-out of German nuclear power plants enacted by Schröder’s SPD-Green government with strong public support in 2002. Nuclear power company CEOs went into a closed-door meeting with Merkel’s economic minister and party leaders late Sunday morning, on 5 September. When they came out in the wee hours before dawn on the following Monday, the deal was done: Germany’s 17 nuke plants would extend operations for an average of 12 years beyond the currently scheduled shut-down dates, the extensions subsidized with massive state hand-outs. The scandal is in the form as well as the content: Merkel’s initiative, undertaken without any mandate and initially opposed by her own environmental minister, is the literal negation of democracy.

to gorleben

After Chernobyl, nuclear power lost whatever legitimacy it had managed to attain by relentless spin and obfuscation. Aside from safety problems in the plants themselves, the radioactive waste produced is a problem that has never been solved or honestly confronted. Moreover, the nuclear power industry is practically the condition of the nuclear weapons complex with which it merges on many levels. So long as nuclear power persists, nuclear weapons remain possible; only by shutting down the nuclear power complex will the abolition of nuclear weapons be realized dependably. In this light, IAEA and NPT are the administrative-diplomatic instruments of the dominant states, with the US at their head: crucial parts of an enforcement regime by which the global social process is reproduced. The re-branding of nuclear power as the great clean hope for managing climate change without relinquishing the logic of accumulation and infinite growth doesn't change the underlying reality. Anyone who doesn’t want to talk about imperialism had better keep silent about nuclear energy.

The radioactive waste produced by Germany’s 17 nuclear power plants is stored in Gorleben, in the Wendland region of Lower Saxony. The waste first goes for reprocessing to the La Hague facility in France. From there it is shipped back to Germany by train on the notorious annual “Castor” transport, always in November. Two interim depots close to the Elbe River hold the toxic material while construction continues on a “permanent” depot in the underground salt dome there.

Resistance to the Castor trains has been broad and determined. Direct action tactics have included locking sit-down blockades on the tracks. In 2004, the police failed to clear the tracks near Harlingen, and a protester was killed when the Castor train severed his leg. This is enforcement by state terror, against which pulses the re-gathered courage and resilience of those who won't be cowed.

For more, see Ausgestrahlt and Castor Nix.

on the german green resurgence

In the week after Merkel’s deal with the nuke industry was made public, polls registered a sharp spike in support for the Green Party. Nationally, they are suddenly polling 22 percent, and in Berlin are approaching 30 percent. Whether this represents a durable shift in the parliamentary landscape remains to be seen.

In any case, it is a good time to remember the instructive trajectory and shabby fall of the German Greens over the last decade. Formed in the aftermath of 1968 and the repression of the student movement, the Greens advanced four clear principles: ecology, social justice, non-violence and grassroots democracy. Initially at least, the Greens’ stylistic affronts to the conservative German political class were accompanied by an alternative vision that included some substantively radical challenges to the status quo.

Over time a split emerged, however, that would prove fatal. The Realos, oriented toward electoral campaigning and longing to participate in a governing coalition, eventually banished the Fundis, who held to the founding principles. Under Fischer, the Greens were transformed from a party of principle to one more instance of neo-liberal opportunism. They were soon rewarded with power and major portfolios. As Foreign Minister, Fischer’s first major test came with the crisis of Yugoslavia. He proved pliable, presiding over and defending with double-talk the first foreign deployment of German troops since World War II. And he never looked back – non-violence indeed.

The Fundis reorganized as the Ökologische Linke, or ÖkoLinX as it is also known, and renewed their commitment to radical change. The ÖL's five-point stance is critical and unequivocal: 1. Against capital and for solidarity and radical ecology; 2. Against patriarchy and for feminism; 3. Against racism and for internationalism; 4. Against militarism; and 5. Against the state and for grassroots democracy. Despite the guiding presence of the often brilliant Jutta Ditfurth, the ÖL was punished with marginalizing ostracism. It remains active, and is never missing from any important demo or protest action. But its fate speaks much about the compromises required by capitalist pseudo-democracy. Only the pressure from below of larger radical movements can dissolve the stasis.

Wherever the Green Party will go from here, it is not likely to be radical. Before Merkel’s nuke fiasco, Green politicians were busy cozying up to the CDU and dreaming publicly of a Conservative-Green coalition. "Now we are preparing ourselves to become the ruling party."(Renate Künast) Its current orientation and leadership is irredeemable; its corrupted realism does insult to the color green. Real change in the party would take a revolution from below. The real crises of objective processes call for nothing less.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

micro air vehicles

Recent prototype of the Harvard Microrobotic Fly, a three-centimeter wingspan flapping-wing robot. (Credit: Ben Finio, The Harvard Microrobotics Lab)

The following "article" appeared on TerraDaily, a digest of ecology-oriented reports and snippets. While what and who is behind the website begs investigation, the entity and intentions behind this report are clear enough. It is reposted here as a social fact; critical reflection follows on in the next post.

Tiny MAVs May Someday Explore And Detect Environmental Hazards

by Maria Callier
Air Force Office of Scientific Research

Arlington VA (AFNS) Sep 16, 2010
Air Force Office of Scientific Research-sponsored researcher, Dr. Robert Wood of Harvard University is leading the way in what could become the next phase of high-performance micro air vehicles for the Air Force.

His basic research is on track to evolve into robotic, insect-scale devices for monitoring and exploration of hazardous environments, such as collapsed structures, caves and chemical spills.

"We are developing a suite of capabilities which we hope will lead to MAVs that exceed the capabilities of existing small aircraft. The level of autonomy and mobility we seek has not been achieved before using robotic devices on the scale of insects," said Wood.

Wood and his research team are trying to understand how wing design can impact performance for an insect-size, flapping-wing vehicle. Their insights will also influence how such agile devices are built, powered and controlled.

"A big emphasis of our AFOSR program is the experimental side of the work," said Wood. "We have unique capabilities to create, flap and visualize wings at the scales and frequencies of actual insects."

The researchers are constructing wings and moving them at high frequencies recreating trajectories similar to those of an insect. They are also able to measure multiple force components, and they can observe fluid flow around the wings flapping at more than 100 times per second.

Performing experiments at such a small scale presents significant engineering challenges beyond the study of the structure-function relationships for the wings.

"Our answer to the engineering challenges for these experiments and vehicles is a unique fabrication technique we have developed for creating wings, actuators, thorax and airframe at the scale of actual insects and evaluating them in fluid conditions appropriate for their scale," he said.

They are also performing high-speed stereoscopic motion tracking, force measurements and flow visualization; the combination of which allows for a unique perspective on what is going on with these complex systems.

The original article on TerraDaily.

drones of disaster (2): eco-erotics perverted

"A million technocrats are diligently plotting death and some of them even know it." (Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow)

The playful imitation of nature relates to nature without dominating it: mimesis, sublated in the forms and impulses of art, performs the promise of nature’s liberation. This idea is what Benjamin and Adorno tried to rescue from Romantic aesthetics. Adorno retains mimesis as an irreducible moment of play within negative dialectics, or thinking rigorously oriented toward non-identity. Mimesis becomes a principle guiding rigorous imagination, that attentive immersion in non-conceptuals, singularities and particulars that releases the social truth of objects without bombing and gassing them.

If astonishment at nature inspired early science, its modernist form, struggling to liberate thought from superstition, aimed to repress all traces of play within its own methods. Under capital, mimesis returns as one more means of domination. The dragon-slayers went to work for the dragons, and dragonflies droned airborne from the labs of engineers.

Over the skies of the walled border with Mexico no less than in the Afghan mountains and flooded valleys of Pakistan, we are seeing where this leads. The war machine has let slip its dreaming of bee-sized killer drones, and already some years have passed since we heard tell of strange dragonflies shadowing antiwar demonstrations. Knowing well how the Pentagon takes its dreams for reality, we can feel the chill in the warming air.

And as always, every leap in domination is sold to us as its opposite. In the aftermath of Hiroshima, the US state used the promise of the “peace atom” to mystify the terror of the “war atom.”

All these processes are legible in the short and glowing report that appeared on a remarkable website called TerraDaily (“news about planet earth”). It is re-posted in full above, minus the ads by Google. Are you worried about the biosphere? Have you been sensitized to the global threat? Be reassured, rare and gifted minds are at work at Harvard and Los Alamos. This little gadget, miracle of nano-science, epitomizes the good micro-robotics. This is “research on track to evolve into insect-scale devices for monitoring and exploration of hazardous environments, such as collapsed structures, caves and chemical spills.” Don’t be alarmed that the sponsor of this project and employer of the "journalist" is the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Science is humane, after all; it will rescue us from hazardous environments, whether or not it was instrumental in producing them in the first place.

Everything about this report betrays the perverting of eco-erotics, the channeling capture of the legitimate human longing to be reconciled with exploited and dominated nature. Militarized and capitalized, science forfeits its notion of truth as liberation; in its place is the correspondence between the means and end of domination. But the untruth of antagonism, which the given production produces at every level, remains the glaring truth about the global social process. In that process, nature is no less commodified and exploited than labor power, and with reverberations that are no less planetary. But even perverted, mimesis preserves a promise of reconciliation – freedom, sensual happiness and the liberation of inner and outer nature.

But only as a promise. Its realization is the real struggle from below.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

limits of terror

Limits of Terror:
On Culture Industry, Enforcement and Revolution

by Gene Ray

These reflections suggest that a break with the master logic of accumulation entails disarming the technocratic national security-surveillance state, and above all the US war machine that is the main enforcer of the global imperialist process. To put it more pointedly: without disarmament, the prospect of emancipating system change is nill. Possibilities for transformation would increase in pace with progressive disarmament, however, and indeed the latter would measure the former. If this is so, then struggles will be strategic only insofar as they articulate themselves with anti-militarist struggles and make their own the aim of dismantling state war machines. Disarmament implies confronting the neo-imperialist state and need not be naïvely pacifist, but obviously this confrontation cannot take the form of a suicidal war of annihilation. Total struggle, mirroring total war, is terminal: pursued without limit or reserve it becomes the terror it aims to fight. And yet effective struggles need to be grounded in everyday experience; they are robust and resilient insofar as they are lived fully and vividly, pulsing beyond a mere convenience emptied of risk. The tight-wires of practice are strung under tension across these aporias. In our world of normalized emergency, the desire to be liberated from fear and terror is the long, gently bowed balancing pole of sanity.
The traversing refusal of imposed fear and terror has clear aims to struggle for: the immediate cessation of all military occupations and interventions and the permanent closure of the global network of neo-imperialist military bases and spy stations that supports them; the global abolition of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, without exception; the radical reduction of military spending and the redirection of these funds to the urgent amelioration of social misery. Every real step toward these aims would already be radical change. And only by passing through them can struggles for autonomy, happiness and the liberation of nature have their chance to survive and grow fruitful. There is no liberation within the politics of fear: liberation as such begins and is coextensive with liberation from state terror.

This essay is forthcoming in a special issue of Brumaria on Revolution and Subjectivity, out in December (The other contributors are Alain Badiou, Alex Callinicos, Simon Critchley, Barbara Epstein, John Bellamy Foster, David Harvey, John Holloway, Domenico Losurdo,  Michael Löwy, Milos Petrovic, Antonio Negri, Alberto Toscano and Slavoj Žižek). The whole essay is posted here with images of the massive sit-in in Okinawa and other global struggles to close US military bases.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

drones of disaster (1)

From Sindh province, Pakistan, a report that the left bank of the flooding Indus River was deliberated breached, inundating a heavily-populated district and displacing millions - in order to protect the covert US terminator drone base on the right bank. So alleges writer, filmmaker and former UN Goodwill Ambassador Feryal Ali Gauhar on Democracy Now (13 September 2010). 

If this can be proved or supported with compelling evidence, the staggering cynicism it exposes would, one can only hope, irreparably discredit Obama's robotic "war on terror." Who knows about this allegation? Will corporate media "investigate" a military-social disaster within a "natural disaster" that has already disappeared behind the indifference of Northern spectators? Will those who know dare to speak, after Bradley Manning and Wikileaks? Will some independent filmmaker find support for such a perilous task? Sindh province, where enforcement holds sway, is after all a very dangerous place. And the danger is objective and specific: how to make enforcement accountable (and to whom?) precisely where it operates lethally with most minimal accountability? Make a fuss? Less complicated, to take the Pentagon's word for it, move on, put it out of mind. The obstacles to reaching and broadcasting the truth belong to the essence of state terror today.

Meanwhile, amid the distraction of Islamophobic episodes, 14 antiwar activists are going on trial in Nevada for holding a nonviolent protest vigil outside Creech Air Force base, the oldest in the rapidly expanding network of bases from which Predator and Reaper drones are flown by joystick...


AMY GOODMAN: Feryal Ali Gauhar, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s interesting to go from Kathy Kelly in Nevada, who’s talking about this protest at Creech, where one of the drone programs is based, to your experience of the flooded areas in Pakistan. Can you talk about the connection?

FERYAL ALI GAUHAR: Well, yes, there is a very real connection, although that’s not the only element that we’re concerned about. But it is well known, if not acknowledged by — particularly by the state, that the base for the drones, where they’re housed before they are automated, is in Pakistan. The current government has literally gone blue in the face denying that.

But I just happened to stumble across a contractor — and that’s not the Blackwater contractor — the contractor who built the base, who inadvertently, actually, spoke about it. But he was speaking about it in a different context, and that context was the fact that he was there at the time of the flooding — and, you know, this is the worst catastrophe to have hit any state since apparently biblical times. So, he actually mentioned to me that the River Indus, which is one of the largest rivers in the world, carrying now a volume of water which has not been known in contemporary history, was breached on the left bank deliberately in order to protect the base, which is on the right bank. And the breaching caused, consequentially, the inundation of an entire district, which resulted in the displacement of millions, not thousands, but millions, because we have 170 million people in the country, and this particular district is one of the most densely populated. So, yes, there is a connect between, you know, what is considered to be a natural disaster, but then the management of that disaster is not natural at all.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is a base that is used, run by US military, to run its drone attacks?

FERYAL ALI GAUHAR: Oh, absolutely. In fact, it is a base where non-US military personnel are not allowed. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

on nature & postcards from poseidon

Nature and the human: mythical poles of an actual dialectic, a process of metabolic exchange that is neither natural nor entirely social.

Adorno, stimulated by Benjamin as well as Marx, tried to work out the forms and variations of this dialectic under the paradoxical heading of "natural history." Today they bear down with bitter clarity.

Nature is the material rock bottom of mortal bodies in cycling flux: the ceaseless conversion of matter and energy that is both the astonishing beauty of bonding webs and the liquidating sublimity of death's heads.

History - the idea, produced in time, of freedom - promises escape from nature as blind fate: human reason begins as protest against imposed structural impotence.

But what reason rescues from domination by nature is rapidly converted into new domination over nature and people: freedom is taken hostage by power.

History, stuck in domination, renounces liberation: not yet historical, not nearly rational enough, the social process remains naturalized, the reproduction of mythical second nature.

As global social process, capital gives specific form to reason, science, technology, power, the state: the valorization-accumulation process produces and reproduces the order of exploitation, enforced by state terror and weapons of mass destruction -- a dynamic of domination that escapes rational control.

Moreover, the social form of mortal human bodies impacts the forms and tempos of metabolic flux: society changes nature.

Class domination of man by man and the rape and plunder of nature are a single global process, escaping reason on planetary scale: under the rule of accumulation, ecological degradation accumulates to the point of looming biospheric meltdown.

But this second nature is not natural: neither invariable nor inescapable, it is the mirage of fate spreading before a relentless and gripping social process that could be otherwise.

The abundance that reason and the power of production dangles in view but does not deliver is the actual possibility of reconciliation between humanity and nature, as well as between humanity and itself: the liberation of inner and outer nature.

However, emancipating transformation of the social process remains the only pathway to such liberation: a history that would break with capitalism's "ever changing production of the always-the-same."

In the unbroken persistence of domination, the promised progress in freedom and happiness remains blocked.

But now accumulation recoils, threatening the conditions of life as such: under capitalist modernity, leaping development overleaps itself, and becomes terminal.

The process is open - meaning: no outcome is pre-given or automatic.

But: time itself is a limiting constraint. We will not have forever to find the passage beyond capital, domination and terminal ruin.

A century ago, these theses were mere science fiction; now they are urgency itself.

Nature and history (or: the human), then, are inseparable non-identities: each conditions and mediates the other in actual process, just as each conceptually de-mythifies the other by continuous specific negation.

They are, as Susan Buck-Morss puts it, "mutual, non-identical mediators."  In constellation with other concrete dialectical couples (individual/society, subject/object, particular/universal), they form the tensional matrix of possible practice.

The radical embodiment of negative dialectics would be the revolutionary practice Adorno's thinking reached but did not become. We are still in that "would be."


Friday, September 10, 2010

freedom ride

On Labor Day weekend (Sept 3-5, 2010), the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign undertook a “Freedom Ride: Immigrants’ Caravan” through the vast suburban sprawl of the Chicago metropolitan area. The 3-day, 100 mile bike ride, as well as the actions, rallies and meetings along the way, addressed the collaboration between local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the rise in xenophobia as expressed in recent English-Only legislation, and the locally-specific ways in which capital accumulation is predicated on the degradation of work, the management and policing of migration, and the reorganization of urban/suburban space.

As the expanding logistics management industry consolidates enormous warehousing centers (“inland ports”) in foreign trade zones west and south of the city, hundreds of thousands of precarious workers, in large part immigrants, are pushed out of the city into planned suburban developments and into “perma-temp” jobs. The vast suburban landscape we rode through is a system of highly policed and regulated sub-territories that are at once separated and connected by a limited number of county roads and an expanding system of freight rail lines. The logistics industry does not consist only of the warehouses and the flow of commodities in the supply chain, but also of the residential districts and of the efficient management of the flow of cheap, precarious labor – it is, in other words, a “people” system. Suburban Chicago appears in this sense as a logistical landscape: that is to say it is a spatial and social arrangement of differential mobilities – and immobilities – that links land speculation, the efficient warehousing and distribution of commodities and the efficient warehousing, detention and controlled migration of people.

The Freedom Ride was both a moving protest and group learning experiment. It was an attempt to journey between political issues and locations, and to connect with other groups such as Immigrant Solidarity DuPage, Warehouse Workers for Justice, the campaigns for immigrant rights in Joliet among others. It was also an opportunity to take our demand for a moratorium on deportations into some of the townships most prolific in passing recent anti-immigrant legislation. This text was written before the ride as one way to frame the action; it also formed the basis of two statements we distributed along the way: 5 Statements from the Moratorium on Deportations Campaign and Our Solutions, Our Demands.

From RB in Chicago

For every crisis, a scapegoat

The full effects of the global economic system are once again hitting home: expanding poverty; the plunder of all public assets; environmental devastation; the degradation of work and workers; the overt hijacking of the electoral process by corporate sponsors. The most recent crisis has shattered the American myth and the middle class that lived it. It exposed the US Government as working for corporate interests, using its power and resources to guarantee them immunity from the devastation they have created.

History teaches us this much: times of economic meltdown are also times of fervent speculation, when the agents of the crisis capitalize on the misery they have created. In these times, there is a rush to hide the machinations of the boom-and-bust game behind a dense and foul smokescreen. And what is today’s smokescreen??? We are to believe that the root cause of our social, economic and political problems is immigrants and that the solution lies in the realm of prisons, detention centers, militarized borders, increased surveillance, mass criminalization, racial profiling and monoculture. 

We have seen this before of course: the disenfranchisement of immigrants, their reduction to second-class human status while profiting off their labor, has a long history. It has its roots in the history of colonization, in the dehumanization, enslavement and degradation of native peoples as a condition of European expansion and accumulation. It works by defining entire populations as disposable labor. That is to say, it is racializing. And today’s white American citizens might do well to remember: in the 1800s it was the southern Europeans who were seen as not white; in the early 1900s it was the Italians and Eastern Europeans who were the dangerous new immigrant races; by 1920 it was Jews, Chinese, Germans and Japanese who were the threat to American purity and the danger to its economic, political and cultural stability. And so on.

Today’s anti-immigrant "arguments" are familiar ones: they are criminals; they are threatening our culture; they are not assimilating; they are not as good as us; they are taking away our jobs, our opportunities. These are the talking points of a myth that represents immigrants as illegal and citizens as worthy and legitimate, to mask the dynamics of migration as a result of US foreign policies and of US economic interests both at home and abroad. History teaches us again: nativist resurgence coincides with times of economic recession. English-only becomes the displaced and misleading culturalist argument: from the 1880s through today, the myth of a pure American culture and of English as the common language both captures and prays upon the dreams and fears of people in hard economic times. English-only also becomes the way nativists with political ambitions score political points, masking self-interest as patriotism.

From 287g to Secure communities: the national strategy

A broad strategy called “Secure Communities” is quickly and quietly being implemented around the country, promising the efficient, hi-tech integration of surveillance and policing between local authorities and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It outlines something like this: at any point during your time in the custody of local law enforcement — whether at a traffic stop, being booked, formally charged, awaiting trial, or serving a sentence — local authorities are to pass your identification information to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. This is true even in situations of wrongful arrest, when no charges are filed or when charges are subsequently dropped. The previous generation of Polimigra policies called 287(g) required ratification at the local level (including having local police formally deputized as federal agents) and thus was vulnerable to opposition from community organizations, local legislators and often local law enforcement. In contrast, no formal vote or other process of public debate is necessary for Secure Communities to be implemented locally, not even an official decree: it masks itself as a logistics improvement via augmented technological capabilities and systems integration. All that is required by County officials is signing a letter of intent to follow the Standard Operating Procedures set forth by ICE.  As a result, Secure Communities has been rolled out at incredible speed and in almost deafening silence, with virtually no public oversight. Furthermore, ICE has been deliberately misleading in calling it an "optional" program: several jurisdictions have made efforts to “opt out” of the program only to have their requests mired in a confusing bureaucratic process.

Where is the border? Who is the target?

What exactly is being sold to us, wrapped up in the language of security and community? What can we recognize in the imperatives of efficiency and systems integration?

Even though President Obama has acknowledged that the immigration system is broken, that it does not realistically address migration in a globalized economy, his administration has stepped up its enforcement to unprecedented levels. According to Homeland Security, no administration in US history has ever forcefully removed more people from this country. The number of raids, arrests, mass trials, detentions and deportations is staggering – DHS has a “target” number of 400,000 deportations for this year. Immigrant families are being torn apart, but this is also an all-out attack on the communal economies and social structures they are often crucial in sustaining: neighborhood arrangements that collectivize domestic and reproductive work, economies of barter and exchange, social and institutional practices of self-governance and so on. In other words, all the social arrangements and relations that correspond to a definition of communities as living systems. These arrangements are a nuisance from the perspective of logistics management; they are an impediment to efficiency and profit maximization, as much an obstacle to the total marketization of life as public education and the few remaining entitlement programs – and equally under attack.

Poli-Migra is not new, but Secure Communities has the effect of formalizing what were until now extralegal practices of collaboration between local police and ICE.  We are witnessing the proliferation of policies that virtually incentivize abusive detentions without probable cause, the policing equivalent of the economic race to the bottom. And when local police become de facto border police, all neighborhoods become de facto border zones: characterized by surveillance, repression and fear.

We are to believe that due process makes us less safe. We are to live in a state of permanent suspicion and fear. We are to build border walls within our neighborhoods, within ourselves; we are to believe that living behind these walls will make us more “secure”. But in oppressive societies no space is ever safe for anyone. We know we are being offered the “security” of a prison world with no beginning and no end, the “community” of a work camp, where all human relations that are not mediated by and dependent on capital are to be squeezed out of existence. We will not be fooled by double-talk: by political maneuvers that use the language of “security” and “community” but which actually create insecurity, further destabilize the conditions of people’s lives and push them into total dependency, increase conflict and aggression, undermine and destroy communal support systems and attack our neighborhoods. We refuse to believe in the myth of well-being for some through the degradation of others.

Our solutions, our demands - for starters:

1.   An immediate end to the collaboration between local police and ICE. Local councils can pass resolutions to prohibit this kind of collaboration or “opt-out” of the program, as in the example of the 1-sentence resolution recently passed by the Washington DC district council “to prohibit the District of Columbia to transmit arrest data to the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)”.

2.  Immediate Moratorium on deportations – A broken system should not be enforced, a lie should not be amplified.  We demand a moratorium on deportations now, because we cannot confront the realities of the globalization of capital and labor while millions of people live in permanent terror

3. Immediate legalization of undocumented immigrants. Not some, all. Legalization cannot wait until a just and comprehensive immigration reform can be discussed nationally, but is a precondition for it.

4. English-only ordinances are meant to disenfranchise people by promoting the myth of a pure American culture under threat of contagion. We demand public funding of multicultural education, social institutions and public infrastructures – because the myth of monoculture is not sustainable! We demand the full participation of all people in civic life through multilingual governance at all levels.

Context: The southern border wall and vigilantes; the rise of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); clampdowns, detentions and deportations; massive immigrants' rights demos across the US on May Day 2006 and 2010; CenterPoint, a 2500 acre "foreign trade zone" outside of Joliet, IL; the rise of the tea partiers; racist new enforcement laws in Arizona.