Montag, 30. April 2012

Israel brandishes its "doomsday weapon" against a poem

9 April 2012. A World to Win News Service. Gunter Grass has achieved something many poets have only dreamt of in recent years: he has brought poetry, or at least a poem, to the centre of public life in Germany and elsewhere around the world. In retaliation for that poem, Israel has announced that this Nobel Prize-winning writer, who considers himself a supporter of that country he has visited several times, will never be allowed to set foot on its soil again. When was the last time so much political firepower was aimed at a poem? Lining up to denounce it were Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; the Interior Minister, Eli Yishai; and the whole Zionist establishment, including the supposedly "left" newspaper Haaretz; and also German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and the leader of Germany's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, both of whom felt that these verses endangered the national interest. The poem has also been condemned by various guardians of literature blustering about the poor quality of Grass's late-in-life foray into poetry. Whatever the merits of his stanzas may be, it's odd that no one has raised literary issues until now. For instance, the New York Review of Books, known for its high standards, carried a recent Grass poem just before the scandal. Readers can look at Grass's offending poem for themselves, at (4 April) ("What Must be Said", rendered into English by Breon Mitchell, who also translated Grass for the NYRB) and in German ("Was gesagt werden muss") on, the site of the newspaper where it first appeared. It was written on the occasion of the German government's decision to build a sixth atomic-powered submarine (at a subsidized price) for Israel. Despite their cute name, "Dolphin"-class submarines are designed to deploy Israeli nuclear-armed missiles in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. They are aimed at Pakistan and especially Iran. What Israel and its backers find unacceptable in Grass's piece is that it criticizes the Israeli government for claiming "the alleged right to a first strike / that could destroy an Iranian people / subjugated by a loudmouth". He continues, "Why only now, grown old / and with what ink remains, do I say: / Israel's atomic power endangers / an already fragile world peace? / Because what must be said / may be too late tomorrow; / and because – burdened enough as Germans – / we may be providing material for a crime / that is foreseeable, so that our complicity / will not be expunged by any / of the usual excuses." The poem ends with a call for "those responsible for the open danger we face to renounce the use of force" and for both the Iranian and Israeli governments to open their nuclear facilities to international inspection. Grass has long been associated with Germany's sometimes-governing Social Democratic party, and this is far from a radical or even pro-Palestinian position. In an interview following the uproar that greeted his poem, he argued that the "the man who damages Israel the most at the moment is in my opinion Netanyahu, and I should have included that in my poem." Yet the Zionists are no longer in a mood to accept this somewhat critical support. The Israeli embassy in Germany issued a statement charging Grass with continuing the "European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder". This is a reference to what is called "the blood libel", that the unleavened bread Jews eat at Passover is made with the blood of murdered Christian children. That lie was the pretext for hundreds of years of pogroms – European campaigns to exterminate Jews. Just in case some people might wonder about the basis and logic for this extremely grave charge, Anshel Pfieffer, writing in Haaretz (8 April), declared that in Grass's case "all arguments are superfluous" and "logic and reason are useless". This anti-reason attitude would have gladdened the hearts of the Nazis and all of today's religious zealots. But how else could Israel's defenders react, when the facts are stacked against them: Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, Iran has none. Israel is threatening to use those weapons against Iran because, as Grass wrote, "an atomic bomb may be developing". The Haaretz columnist ends by screaming that Grass would like to take away "the Jews' doomsday weapon" which is, he says, all that prevents the successful completion, in today's world, of the Nazi project "to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth." How can this writer claim that saying "Don't bomb Iran" is anti-Semitism, or that in saying that no country should use nuclear weapons to attack another, Grass is calling for genocide? Isn't this upside down? Such use of hysteria and bullying to silence arguments that cannot be defeated by reason is the intellectual equivalent of a "doomsday weapon". To equate Israel with "the Jews" is a lie, an old trick promoted both by the Zionist regime and Jew-haters of all kinds. But there is another lie here as well: far from being a country whose survival depends on its own people and weapons, Israel is a settler state that came into existence and has remained in existence only thanks to unwavering Western and American political, financial and military support. It is a pillar of the existing order in the Middle East, and central to American regional domination. Israel would not be so eager to launch a war against Iran if it were not assured of US military backing no matter what. In fact, whatever secondary disputes there may be between Washington and Tel Aviv, Israeli belligerency serves the strategic goals of the US, including bringing Iran under its heel. Israel's nuclear "doomsday weapon" has nothing to do with saving anyone's life. It is a threat to human lives on a mass scale, in the service of an imperialist cause. Insofar as the anti-Grass hysterians deign to reason, it is with this argument: because in the final months of World War II, at the age of 17, Grass was drafted into a Waffen SS unit, and because he did not publicly disclose this until his 2006 autobiography, he has no right to speak about moral questions and especially Israel. (The Waffen SS was an elite branch of the armed forces that among other tasks ran concentration camps, although Grass says he was assigned to an anti-aircraft unit and never fired a shot.) Grass himself addresses this issue in the beginning of his poem. He writes that he has never before criticized Israel because he felt "tarnished by a stain that can never be removed", but that he feels compelled to speak out now because of his own country's complicity in a "foreseeable crime". He warns that this time Germans cannot avoid taking responsibility with the claim that they didn't know. Grass has done a great deal to focus public discourse in his country on the question of Germans' moral responsibilities, starting with his 1959 novel The Tin Drum. It was published at a time when such discussion was held back by Germany's ruling class, composed in no small part of former Nazis. In the mid-1980s, when many people fiercely opposed US and West German efforts to prepare public opinion and their militaries for another world war, against the Soviet Union, he denounced a symbolically significant visit by the heads of the American and German governments to a cemetery where Waffen SS officers were buried. For decades he has been honest about, and grappled with, the fact that "I belonged to the Hitler Youth and I believed in its aims up to the end of the war," as he told The New York Times in 2000 (NYT, 6 April 2012) Grass has been banned from entering Israel under a law that bars visits by former Nazis. This law was not applied to Pope Benedict XVI, another former member of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi armed forces. Why? Because that visit scored points for Israel on the diplomatic front. It is bitterly ironic that Zionists should attack Grass for "the blood libel", since it was not secularists nor "leftists" (as Grass is being pejoratively called, whether deservedly or not) but the Catholic Church that propagated it for a millennium, as part of the construction of a Christian identity in murderous opposition to Jews and Muslims. Before he became pope, for several decades Benedict headed the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic Church body formerly know as the Holy Inquisition that set out to "de-Judaize" Europe centuries before the Nazis. When Benedict came to Israel in 2009, he expressed no remorse for the crimes committed by his country of birth and his church. In fact, he refused to enter the Holocaust museum because it contains material critical of Pope Pius XII for refusing to speak out against the genocide of the Jews during World War 2. Benedict has not continued this anti-Jewish genocidal past, but unlike Grass, who says "what must be said", he has never sharply renounced it and instead prefers to remain silent. Obviously, for Israel the question of whether or not someone's past should be held against them is a matter of convenience. The attacks on Grass are made in the name of opposing anti-Semitism, but their real purpose is to rally support for the Zionist project, with no politics or morality other than that. (Germany's strategic alliance with Israel has helped its monopoly capitalist rulers to once again flourish after their defeat in the world war. For more on that, see AWTWNS110718)

Trayvon Martin – A modern-day lynching in the US

9 April 2012. A World to Win News Service. We compiled and slightly edited the following material from issue no 264 and 265 of Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. ( On 9 April, the special prosecutor in this case announced a legal move that means that whether or not she decides to presses charges against George Zimmerman, he cannot be accused of murder. On 26 February 2012, in a small gated (closed to non-residents) community in Sanford, Florida, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin went out to buy some snacks at a local store. It was raining, and he pulled his "hoodie (hooded sweatshirt) over his head. George Zimmerman, a self-appointed "neighbourhood watch" volunteer patrolling in his truck, called the police to say he saw someone "real suspicious". The police dispatcher told him not to do anything. But Zimmerman got out of his car. He had a gun. There was yelling, then a gunshot and Trayvon Martin's life was over. In the USA, if you're Black, and especially if you're young, male, and perhaps wearing a hoodie, then at any time, on any street, you can be living one moment... then dead the next, from a modern day lynching. It can be from a cop. Or it might be from a vigilante wanna-be-cop. And even as you take your last breath, even before your parents are notified and the tears begin to fall, the whole system of police, laws, and courts will be working to render a verdict of "justifiable homicide". The police did not arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law which allows registered gun owners to shoot someone if they believe their life is in danger, even if they could have walked away from the situation instead. Since this law went into effect the number of killings excused as "justifiable homicide" has jumped from an average of 12 to 33 per year in this state. Twenty other states have similar laws. This is nothing but a legalized lynch law and should be renamed the "Open Season on Black and Brown Men" Law. The cops were in Zimmerman's corner, protecting him, from the very beginning. The police corrected a witness who said she heard a very young voice cry for help, telling her to say she heard Zimmerman call for help... even though three witnesses said they heard the "desperate wail of a child, a gunshot, and then silence." They did a background check on Martin as he lay dead, but not on Zimmerman, the killer. They tested Martin's blood for alcohol and drugs but not Zimmerman's. The police didn't even talk to Martin's girlfriend, who had been on the phone with him before and during part of the attack. "We are all Trayvon Martin" The killing of Trayvon Martin struck a vein in a way that nothing has for a long time in the US. That vein is the centuries-old oppression of Black people – the fact that from the 1600s down to today the law and custom of this country have been, in one form or another, that a Black person has no rights that a white person is bound to respect, that every Black person is guilty until proven innocent, and that Black youth in particular walk around with a death sentence on their heads all the time for the sole "crime" of walking while Black. The murder of Trayvon Martin has touched the hearts of many millions around the country. And more than this, it has connected with the real life experience and anger of millions of Black and Latino youth and their families who know.... that could have been me... that could have been my son... that could have been my brother... that could have been my friend. And ghastly ghosts of America's past are being evoked: the Klu Klux Klan, the lynching tree, the white racists who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. Mothers are speaking out, with bitterness, about how they school their sons, from the time they are very young, about the "rules" they must follow if they are to stay alive, like: "always have your driver's licence, wearing a suit is safer than wearing casual clothes, don't run down a street, never run from police." Protests are continuing and growing all around the country, in large cities and small towns, with many thousands of people calling for justice. People of all different nationalities are demonstrating, wearing hoodies, with snacks like the ones Martin had in his hand, carrying signs that say, "We are all Trayvon Martin." Students in more than 30 Miami schools walked out of class. High school students from Harlem, New York, demonstrating in support of Trayvon were dispersed by the police. On hearing about the arrest of a young revolutionary communist, the students poured back out into the streets calling for his release, alternately regrouping and being dispersed several times. Relatives of those killed by the police are speaking out. At a Chicago rally, members of Emmett Till's family read a statement they had written to the family of Trayvon Martin. Students at colleges around the country are protesting. Celebrities are speaking out and the National Basketball Association players issued a statement, offering condolences to the Martin family and calling for Zimmerman's arrest. Some of the anger of those for whom this system has no future, and the reality behind that anger, are cutting through the whitewash, the cover-up, the lies. People are breaking through the fear that the murder of so many Black youth by police (or wannabe police) is supposed to instil and enforce. The hoodie has become a badge of honour. For decades now, through the so-called "war on drugs" and mass incarceration, a whole class of people, especially Black and Latino youth, have been stigmatized and criminalized. Even as they are brutalized and gunned down by the police, warehoused in prisons and tortured in solitary confinement, the system and its ideological mouthpieces demonize the youth, telling them – and society at large – that it's their own fault for what is happening to them, and this is what they deserve. Carl Dix, RCP spokesperson and an initiator of "April 19 National Day of Resistance to Stop Mass Incarceration", spoke to how this protest is very directly related to the murder of Trayvon Martin. "The backdrop to this horrific reality is that this capitalist system has got no way to profitably exploit this generation of Black youth, and their response to that has been criminalization and incarceration. This is why I say: Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide. This system has no future to offer this generation of Black youth. Its approach comes down to a slow genocide that could become a fast one. But we could break up this deadly equation by stepping up with increasingly powerful resistance, and that's what people need to do. People need to stand up and say no to the racist murder of Trayvon Martin and, on April 19, step out in resistance to mass incarceration." Challenged to resist With the murder of Trayvon Martin the anger at the great suffering that seethes below has burst out. People are saying: "We are sick and tired of burying our children!" "We are sick and tired of being demeaned and demonized." "We demand to be treated like human beings!" And this has delivered a jolt to the "normality" of all this, where it can seem like things will never change, that things can never change. In this moment, people more broadly – including some who have been sucked in by the hype demonizing Black youth – are seeing the real truth of the matter and being challenged to take a stand against the murder of Trayvon Martin. And this is giving more space to the people to stand up, speak out, and fight, with right clearly on their side. This is a moment when, the legitimacy of the established order, of this system, can begin to be called into question for many people. But at the same time there has been a concerted effort to spin a whole narrative against Trayvon Martin, hoping to put a lid on people's anger – or at least make them question what compelled them into the streets to say, "We are all Trayvon Martin!" Certain ruling class forces are spreading lies through the media aimed at changing people's minds about what they correctly saw in the facts of what happened the night of 26 February. They want to reverse right and wrong, and say that the victim was actually George Zimmerman and the aggressor was Trayvon Martin. They want to repolarize things, where even if people don't buy their whole rewriting of what happened, they are hoping that giving Zimmerman's story such publicity and authority will put enough "questions" out there to make some people step back a bit. That even if this doesn't get over completely among the masses of Black people, it will affect broader sections of the population who have been outraged at this murder. In the court of public opinion this counterattack presents certain "evidence" to demonize and defame Trayvon Martin. It doesn't say it straight out. But in effect the message is that Trayvon Martin was no "innocent lamb", and that perhaps he deserved what he got... just like so many other Black youth gunned down and locked up in this society. Zimmerman's family claims Trayvon punched him and that he was "fighting for his life." We are supposed to do an about-face. Hey, you thought Trayvon Martin was unjustly murdered, innocent, didn't deserve to die – that it was right for thousands of people to go out in the street to demand justice? Well think again says the media – Trayvon was suspended from school. He had a bag in his backpack with marijuana residue. He had a "burglary tool" (a screwdriver). He wrote graffiti on a locker. He had a bunch of jewellery. He skipped school and was late for class. Can anyone seriously say this is evidence of a "troubled teen" with a "history of trouble with authorities"? By these standards the vast majority of youth, of all nationalities, are suspicious and criminal. These things make you a criminal? Let alone show that on the night of 26 February, Trayvon Martin was "probably up to no good" – and deserved to die! On one level, this is ridiculous. But this is the kind of vicious public opinion being created to get over with a verdict of justifiable homicide. Trayvon's mother said: "They killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation." And for many people, especially the youth, this is just one more unacceptable slap in the face that has only fuelled their anger and determination to get justice for Trayvon. It is good that people are demanding JUSTICE. And at the same time, we need to be clear on what kind of system is responsible for creating people like George Zimmerman, what kind of system is behind all the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the murder of Trayvon Martin. We need to ask: What is the system that created the whole situation surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin – and then the whole way the vigilante murderer has been allowed to go free? There is a long history to the current situation in cities and towns throughout the United States, where a whole culture of white supremacy lays over every aspect of economic and social life. This is not the beginning of the story. There is a whole history and present day reality of the oppression of Black people in this country that not only helps us understand the murder of Trayvon Martin – but tells us what is required to put an end to what caused such outrages to happen over and over again. Slavery, lynch mobs, racist vigilantes, police terror. These are all expressions of a long and ongoing history and structure of the oppression of Black people. All this is part of what this whole country has been and will continue to be. What happened the night of 26 February in Sanford, Florida bears the marks of the history and present day reality of a system where the oppression of Black people is built into its very foundations. Without fighting back, nothing can change While many different understandings exist of how justice can be won, there are some basic things many people expressed to the Revolution reporters on the scene. Trayvon Martin was killed unjustly because he was Black. They won't stop until Zimmerman is arrested and put on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin. People are furious. They also are struggling to come to grips with and understand how a killing so blatant could go unpunished and the killer remain free. Others are telling us, "The shooting of Trayvon Martin is horrible – but ‘Black on Black' crime is an even worse problem." Now some of the people saying that, are open apologists for the system or backward fools. More than a few are people really do hate what was done to Trayvon Martin, but are agonized by the way that too many Black youth lash out at each other. People feel deep pain at the tragic loss of young lives to what is really senseless violence, and they feel outraged, but hopeless, about a whole culture of expecting – accepting – that young Black men will either die young or spend their lives in and out of jail. First off, this has to be said: Without people fighting back against outrages like the murder of Trayvon Martin, without people standing up like they are now, and in fact standing up even taller and fiercer... then nothing will ever change. Nothing will change in how the system, and all its various enforcers (whether official or not), relentlessly come down on the people... and nothing will change about the bad ways that people sometimes treat each other. When people do stand up, as they are now around Trayvon Martin, it actually becomes possible to change a lot of things: both the outrage that people are protesting, and the way that they are thinking about things. As Bob Avakian has recently said, when this begins to happen, "the conditions become much more favourable for [those who are standing up] to begin to see the world in a different way – to transform themselves, in terms of their understanding, and in terms of their feelings – in terms of their orientation toward society, toward the world, toward other people, and what kind of relations there should be among people." So that is one big thing to keep foremost in mind – that right now, what must happen to change anything at all, is to step forward and act around this outrage. At the same time, if you want to understand how to change the way that people treat each other, you have to get to the root of the problem. If you want to change both the ways that the system and its tools and willing accomplices crush people like Trayvon Martin, and the ways that it also gets people to mess over each other – you have to get rid of the system itself, through revolution. And you have to dig out the thinking this system gives rise to, beginning right now, and then taking a leap once people have actually won power. You can't do that by trying to reform this system that's based on exploitation. Exploitation – making profit off of other people's labour – has been at the root of the problem since the first African was kidnapped to be exploited as a slave in the "new world". The state power we now live under – the government, with its organs of force and violence at the core of it – is a product of exploitation, and was built to maintain and extend it. No, we need a whole new state power. A state power based on getting rid of exploitation, getting rid of one people oppressing another, getting rid of everything that reinforces all that... including those ideas in people's thinking that reflect the ways of exploitation. That's what this revolution is all about – a new state power that backs the masses up in making these transformations from head to toe, as part of getting to a world where humanity has put all that behind it. You have to make revolution to do that. You have to get with the movement for revolution today – fighting back and, as we do, struggling with people to break with these ideas. In other words: "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." We have to rally the youth – a lot of whom in fact are caught up in some of the mentality this system has put on them – to fight back, and welcome it when (as is beginning to happen today) many of them are fighting back, and struggle with them to transform their thinking in the process... to get with the real revolution. There is no other solution to this problem – all the preaching in the world only makes it worse, and even the efforts to bring real truth to the youth cannot take root without this. And there is no other way to the whole new world that is needed, and is possible, where all exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonisms between people – and all the mentalities and ways of thinking that reflect and reinforce that oppression – are things of the past, and where all people can truly flourish and rise to their full heights.

The "left to die boat" in the Mediterranean and Nato's murderous mission

2 April 2012. A World to Win News Service. Calls for harsh treatment of immigrants by right-wing politicians are so common they've become part of the background noise for many people. Yet a Council of Europe report presents evidence that Nato has implemented a policy that goes beyond what even the most openly far-right politicians dare publicly propose: sentencing migrants to death. As the report scathingly states, the Mediterranean is one of the world's most closely-watched seas, and during the 2011 Nato war on Libya almost every vessel in the eastern waters was under observation by land and sea-based radars and orbiting spy satellites. Yet during this same year at least 1,500 people are known to have died while attempting to reach Europe. Among the reasons for these mass deaths is the collapse, at least temporarily, of the previous means by which the European powers sought to reduce the number of people crossing over from the southern shores. Most are from North and Sub-Saharan African counties these and other imperialists dominate and exploit, creating economic and social conditions where, for many people, it makes more sense to risk death than go on living as before. The number of people taking to the seas in small boats soared after chaos enveloped regimes in Tunisia and Libya that had been given the job of arresting would-be immigrants and sinking their boats if necessary. Now the European countries have been forced to do more of their own dirty work. What makes the case behind this report unique is not necessarily the number of people who died, nor that their deaths were so clearly preventable, but the fact that the criminal responsibility for this particular episode has been thoroughly documented. Armed Libyan security forces made 72 people – 50 men, 20 women and two babies – board an inflatable boat in Tripoli on 27 March 2011. Under attack by Nato, the Gaddafi regime reacted in a manner typical of it, using human beings as disposable objects to be employed in its alternating cooperation and conflict with the imperialist powers. Gaddafi was throwing out Black Africans as if they were stones hurled against the West. The boat's extra fuel tanks and water containers were removed so that more people could be crammed aboard. The dingy left port after midnight. It was bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa, so close to North Africa that people on one shore can sometimes glimpse the other. After 18 hours, when the slow-moving boat should have arrived, the passengers used a satellite phone to contact a priest in Italy, who notified the authorities. The satellite phone service provider gave the Italian Coast Guard the boat's exact coordinates. An official "vessel in distress" was sent out to alert all military, commercial and other ships in the area. Two hours later a military helicopter flew over the rubber boat. A few hours after that, the same or a similar helicopter returned and lowered down packs of biscuits and water bottles on ropes. The boat passengers could see the aircraft's crew members, who gave what they thought was a signal that it would return, and that meanwhile the boat should not change position. The helicopter never came back. A storm broke out, filling the boat with seawater and tossing some passengers into the waves, where they drowned. Later, several passing fishing boats, who had very likely also received the distress call, refused to provide assistance, but fisherman pointed the direction to Lampedusa. The passengers gave up hope that they would be rescued if their boat remained in place. The motors were turned back on and the boat resumed moving toward the Italian island. The next day it ran out of fuel and began to drift. After five days at sea people started to die. At about ten days, when half were dead, it was spotted by a large military ship, either an aircraft carrier or another vessel carrying helicopters. "Some people were wearing civilian clothing, others were in military uniform," said a quote from survivor Dain Haile Gebre recently provided to the UK newspaper Guardian. (29 March, 2012) "They took photos of us with cameras and portable phones. We took our dead people in our arms, asking for help. Some of us drank seawater to make them understand we needed drinking water." Several passengers jumped into the water and tried to push the boat towards the ship. Then the military vessel abandoned them. On 10 April the rubber boat washed up on rocks close to the Libyan town of Zilten, far to the east of Tripoli. Only 11 of the group's original 72 people were still alive. They were arrested and given little medical care. Another person soon died in prison. One survivor, Abu Kurke Kebato, a 22-year-old refugee from the Oromia area in Ethiopia, later set out in another boat and this time made it to Lampedusa. Recently he and his wife, who had applied for asylum in the Netherlands, were arrested and are being held for deportation. He is the source of the above quotation from Gebre that appeared in the Guardian. Dutch authorities confiscated Kebato's phone to prevent him from giving any more interviews. It was a reporter for the Guardian that first brought this story to light a year ago. At that time, Nato authorities claimed that the military organization had never received a distress call and that no Nato units were ever located anywhere near the drifting boat. That first claim has now been disproved by Tineke Strik, a European Parliament member from the Netherlands, who was commissioned to investigate and write a report for the Council of Europe's Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. She produced a copy of a fax sent to Nato by the Rome Maritime Rescue Committee about the boat in distress, along with a highest-priority emergency message sent to all ships in the Sicily Channel. According to newspaper reports, Nato leadership has had to admit that it received the message, but still claims that it knows nothing about the boat's two contacts with military units, the helicopter and later the warship. The Council of Europe investigator demand that Nato release its satellite imagery of the area during the time of this tragedy, so that criminal charges can be filed against those directly responsible. While Nato almost certainly has the resources to establish exactly what happened, including the detailed logs its ships are required to keep, that information is secret. The US and UK have refused to answer letters regarding the location of their naval assets during the timeframe in question. Other Nato countries have denied any presence near the dingy's location. The investigator obtained a photo of the boat taken from a French warplane, but France has not cooperated. There is also evidence that contrary to Nato claims, a Spanish frigate was nearby. She remarks that "responsibility is easily shifted back and forth" between the countries involved and Nato command, with such tricks making it very difficult to verify leads she has received. But, she emphasizes, regardless of the national flag of the criminal vessel or vessels involved, they were under overall Nato command, and it is Nato as an organization that is responsible for what she calls "the left-to-die boat". This entire incident occurred in what Nato called its "Maritime Surveillance Area" in Libyan waters. The report makes it clear that at least on some level Nato authorities were aware of the drifting rubber boat and the plight of its passengers, and yet chose to let them die. The fact that Nato first lied and since then has resorted to keeping information secret, instead of trying to cooperate with the investigator in determining the facts or even trying to refute the Strik report, tends to confirm the validity of her conclusions. In fact, this continued evasion and veil of secrecy signals that the crimes involved are being covered up at the highest level, which of course also implies that they are approved on that level. From all available facts about what happened to these 72 people, this incident can be taken as indicating policy and not a series of accidents. Of course, when faced with the accusation that people were deliberately left to die, there is an argument, suggested in some commentaries on the Strik report, that Nato was simply too busy waging war on Libya to deal with six dozen civilians. But if that is the case, then what was this war, labelled Operation "Unified Protector" because it was supposedly launched to "protect civilian lives", really about? Nato's arrogant silence about the deaths in the sea lanes under its responsibility has been echoed by a similar response to accusations that its forces killed civilians on a large scale on the ground during this war. Nato has been able to insist that there were no "confirmed" civilian casualties only because it has refused to confirm or cooperate with investigations of numerous incidents. The New York Times reported that last year it gave Nato a 27-page memo documenting nine attacks on civilians. For instance, repeated bombing runs wiped out 34 people, including women and children, in the farming village of Majer. (NYT, 31 March 2012) All of these incidents – and Nato's attitude toward the accusations – reveal an absolute disregard for civilians and human life in general when it comes to the imperialist powers' "higher" economic and political interests. The dots to be connected include not only the "left-to-die" boat and the attack on Libya, with its disastrous aftermath for the people, but Nato's war on Afghanistan – in which nearly all Afghans have become targets for the occupation troops – and its current threats to intervene in Syria, and maybe attack Iran. (Full text of the report "Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?" at

Mexico: "We reject the criminal pope!"

2 April 2012. A World to Win News Service. It's impossible to imagine the liberation of the Mexican people without their emancipation from the yoke of the Catholic Church in both the ideological and political spheres. The Church and struggles against it have played a defining role in Mexican history. Catholicism provided the banners and justification for the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the crushing of its indigenous people. It was at the core of three centuries of Spanish colonial rule, and played a key role in the later attempt to turn Mexico into a French-controlled monarchy. As a pillar of feudalism, the Church was a major target of the revolution of 1910-1920, which confiscated its lands and crimped its political power and some of its influence. In the 1920s the Church launched three years of religious civil war aiming to overthrow the secular government. Yet despite the institutionalization of secular education and other measures restricting the Church's activities to the domain of worship alone, the Church continues to enjoy immense power as well as influence in Mexico. It acquired a part of its present political strength through private Catholic organizations, open and secret, backed by some people in the country's ruling classes. In the last few years much has become known about the head of one of the most powerful publicly operating groups, the Legion of Christ and the priest Marcial Maciel Degollado. A descendent of a Mexican saint, Maciel had been known to the Church hierarchy as a sexual predator of children, seminarians and women for over six decades. Yet Pope John Paul II considered him a favourite and held up Maciel as a role model during his three visits to Mexico. As a cardinal under John Paul II when the scandal began to break out, today's Pope Benedict XVI was in charge of the organization that protected Maciel from repeated accusations of paedophilia. A book debuted in Mexico during Benedict's 24-27 March visit presents arguments that Benedict knew about Maciel's crimes and personally suppressed the growing evidence for at least eight years, until finally, in 2006, shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger became pope and before Maciel died at age 87, when Benedict relieved the priest of his official duties and invited him to perform "prayer and penitence". Benedict has never given any public explanation for this move. That organization Cardinal Ratzinger headed was formerly called the Holy Inquisition, the Church organization that burned "heretics" – scientists, unsubmissive women, Jews and other real and suspected opponents of Catholicism – at the stake for more than two centuries. In the twentieth century it shielded Father Maciel and other top Church leaders, from many countries, who have been called out, often by Catholics, for monstrous crimes against the faithful and other people. Yet illegal acts such as the sexual abuse of children have been just a small, if symptomatic part of the Church's whole spirit-crushing and largely legal machinery meant to enforce a profound hatred of women, exploitative and oppressive property and social relations, the most vile political institutions, and the most backward and enslaving traditions, customs and thinking. Benedict did not express remorse for his own and his Church's role in the Maciel affair during his visit. He refused a request to meet with the priest's victims. Instead, he issued a grave insult to the Mexican people, rubbing salt in an unbearably painful open wound. In his central speech he declared that the tens of thousands of innocent people turned into mutilated corpses in the country's ongoing drug wars have been victims, not of the intertwining of legal and illegal capitalists and the state, and the country's economic and political domination and humiliation by the US, but of Mexicans' "selfishness". He implicitly equated these murders with birth control, abortion and other so-called "abominations" committed by women. Many commentators remarked that the timing of the Pope's visit was related to Mexico's upcoming presidential elections and the Church's support for the current governing party, the PAN. His visit was undoubtedly intended to provide some reactionary balm for a society where the cynicism and corruption of the major political forces and their moral bankruptcy has caused widespread and deep disgust. Under these circumstance, the Pope's visit was met with some revulsion as well. There was a protest against it in Mexico City. Following is a statement entitled "Reject the visit of the criminal pope! Let's not praise criminals – away with all gods!" put out by Aurora Roja, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Organization of Mexico (OCRM). We have omitted the extensive footnotes, which are available for the Spanish version at The Catholic Church is still a horror. It stands for: No to divorce (leaving your spouse is a sin), no to homosexuality (loving someone of the same sex is a sin), no to birth control (preventing pregnancy during sex is a sin), no to abortion (ending an undesired pregnancy is a sin). Let's make the dark ages a thing of the past. We need morality, but not traditional "morality". There's nothing "holy" about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI; he's a repulsive criminal responsible for covering up the rape and sexual abuse of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of boys and girls around the world, including cases in Mexico like Marcial Maciel and Nicolás Aguilar [a still-practising priest convicted of sex crimes against children], both guilty of abusing at least dozens of children. It has been fully documented that Ratzinger covered up for them and protected them, along with his predecessor John Paul II and Norberto Rivera and other members of the Mexican Church hierarchy. In other cases, for example in Ireland, the Murphy Commission documented the cases of 14,500 children who were sexually abused by clerics in the Dublin archdioceses alone. As Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, the then Cardinal Ratzinger knew about these crimes and was responsible for protecting those who committed them (which allowed them to continue their abuse for decades), and for threatening and silencing the victims. In 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger sent an order to all Catholic Church bishops in which he declared that cases of sexual abuse of minor children by clergy, along with other "grave crimes", "are reserved for the Apostolic Tribune for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" and "covered by pontifical secrecy." Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, today the Vatican"s Secretary of State, even tried to justify this illegal and immoral procedure, saying, "In my opinion, there is no basis for requiring a bishop to call the police and turn a priest who has admitted to the crime of paedophilia. Of course civil society is obliged to defend its citizens. But the 'professional secrets' of priests should also be respected... If a priest cannot confide in his own bishop for fear of being reported, that would mean an end to freedom of conscience." This is the Catholic hierarchy's conception of "freedom" – the freedom to guarantee the impunity of thousands of criminal clerics. Ratzinger and the Vatican have helped bring about the unnecessary death of millions due to AIDS because of their stubborn opposition to the use of condoms. Ratzinger went to Africa in 2009 to preaches lies such as "This scourge cannot be solved by the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, that might aggravate the problem." In fact, it has been estimated that 30 million people in Africa have already died due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 22 million are infected now and each year half a million more are infected. Cardinal López Trujillo, speaking as Chairman of the Pontifical "Council for the Family", asserted that "The Church has always taught the intrinsic wickedness of contraception, that is, any conjugal act intentionally rendered infertile. This teaching should be maintained as a definitive and unchangeable doctrine." In other words, at the same time that they protect baby rapers, they teach the absurd and reactionary doctrine that any sexual act whose purpose is not to procreate children is an act of "wickedness", and that it is much better that millions of people continue dying and that babies be born with AIDS than that condoms be distributed as a simple way of protecting against that disease. Ratzinger and the religious hierarchy promote hate and discrimination against male homosexuals and lesbians. Ratzinger, the Vatican's principle inquisitor for 25 years before being named pope, wrote several position papers against homosexuality. In 2003 he attacked civil unions for homosexuals as a "distortion of marriage": "Homosexual unions lack the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and the family, which should be the basis for the legal recognition of such unions." These medieval positions that demonize homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals and deny them the right to freely choose their sexual orientation and marriage and the adoption of children are based on the perverse doctrine of the Bible, a product of ancient slave-holding society, which prescribes murder for homosexuals: Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them." The hierarchy headed by Ratzinger preaches and enforces patriarchy, the oppression of and contempt for women as inferior beings. It denies them the right to control their own bodies and imposes forced motherhood, while preaching that women should sacrifice themselves for men and accept their domination. If women have no right to terminate unwanted pregnancies or try and prevent them through the use of birth control, this means forced motherhood and reduces women to incubators. It is a scientific fact that foetuses are not babies and that abortion is not infanticide. Nevertheless, hundreds of women in Mexico (as well as Nicaragua, El Salvador and other countries) are imprisoned for "murder in their capacity as parents" for having an abortion (whether spontaneous or induced). Because of the outlawing of abortion, every year an estimated 1,500 women in Mexico and between 65-70,000 women around the world die from unsafe procedures. When abortion was decriminalized in the Federal District [around Mexico City] in 2007, Pope Benedict declared that abortion is "a grave moral disorder" and the Vatican sent Cardinal López Trujillo to spearhead a campaign against it, while the Mexican Church hierarchy threatened to excommunicate the members of parliament who approved the reform. The Vatican and the Catholic Church in Mexico launched a campaign for anti-abortion constitutional changes that have already been adopted in 18 states in Mexico and many other countries. In a recent statement, the Pope called on women to "protect their irreplaceable mission as mothers and primary educators of their children." The Church's antiquated doctrine even forbids divorce and leads to the excommunication of people who divorce, leaving millions of women trapped in abusive marriages. In 2007, "the Vatican claimed that abortion, euthanasia, the 'morning after' pill, laboratories where embryos are used and parliaments that approve laws that go against 'human beings' (in other words, the teachings of the Church) are 'terrorists'". These outmoded ideas have nothing to do with the hypocritical claim of being "pro-life." On the contrary, the aim is to reinforce the oppression of women, in line with the ignorant and oppressive doctrine of the 2,000-year old Bible which, in both the Old and New testament, teaches that women should be submissive. For instance, take Genesis 3:16, or Timothy 2:11-15 “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty." The Christian religion and its Catholic version embraces, prettifies and justifies all the above-mentioned horrors. It is a belief system based on ignorance and superstition, which is true of all religions. Human beings invented it in the slave-holding societies before the Dark Ages. The Roman Empire adopted it a few centuries after Christ, and various ruling classes have perpetuated it ever since. It is a very heavy chain on the people's thinking. Bob Avakian tells the truth: " The notion of a god, or gods, was created by humanity, in its infancy, out of ignorance. This has been perpetuated by ruling classes, for thousands of years since then, to serve their interests in exploiting and dominating the majority of people and keeping them enslaved to ignorance and irrationality. Bringing about a new, and far better, world and future for humanity means overthrowing such exploiting classes and breaking free of and leaving behind forever such enslaving ignorance and irrationality." (From Away with All Gods) "There is no God," declared a 19-year-old Ignacio Ramírez (The Necromancer) 176 years ago in the title of the speech accompanying his application for admission to the Mexico City Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1836. The College Rector replied, with the typical intolerance promoted by the Church, "I cannot allow this speech to be read here, this is an educational establishment." In the middle of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera painted the words "God Does Not Exist" on a poster held up by the figure of Ignacio Ramírez in Rivera's mural Sunday Afternoon Dream in Alameda Park. Catholic fanatics attacked this mural in an attempt to censor these historic facts by disfiguring an artwork. Now Ratzinger is coming to demand, under the misleading banner of "freedom of religion", the restoration of the tremendous temporal power enjoyed by the Catholic Church in times past, when it justified and blessed the genocide of the Indians and fattened on the robbery of their land, when it murdered people during the Inquisition for professing Native religions, being homosexual and other so-called "abominations", when it excommunicated Hidalgo [a Mexican priest who led the war for independence from Spain], supported Maximiliano and the French invasion [that installed him as emperor of Mexico in 1864] and encouraged the reactionary rebellion against the secular state known as the "Cristiada" [a three-year war waged by the "Cristeros", "the warriors of Christ", a rebellion seeking to bring the Mexican state, newly emerged from the 1910-1920 revolution, back under the control the the Church]. In fact, el Cerro del Cubilete, the centerpiece of this papel visit, is emblematic of the Cristero wars and Catholic fanaticism, a heritage that major sections of Mexico's ruling classes want to revive in order to mobilize a reactionary, fascist social base to bolster today's oppressive order. In addition to the "war" that these forces are waging against women and homosexuals to reinforce patriarchal authority, they seek to go backwards from the secular state, teach Catholicism in the public schools, start Catholic radio and TV stations and end any limitation of worship in public life. Powerful forces among the ruling classes want to establish all this for the Catholic hierarchy in order to reinforce the present reactionary state and system. Strong ruling class forces such as el Yunque want to impose a thoroughly theocratic and fascist state. [El Yunque, the Anvil, is a reported secret society founded by wealthy businessmen close to the ruling party, the PAN. Its aim is said to be the violent establishment of "the kingdom of God" in Mexico.] Pope Benedict is coming to preach oppressive values that break the spirit and interfere with and destroy uncountable human lives. He is coming to inculcate a slave mentality, that we are born sinners and suffer because of our sins, and that the only salvation lies in submitting ourselves to "god", resigning ourselves to the horrors of this world so that we may be redeemed and given a new, happy and eternal live in Heaven. To all this, we say "No!" This is a big lie we must unmask in the course of struggling for a radically different and liberating world right here on earth. We can put an end to the suffering the great majority of people now experience. We can uproot the economic, political and social relations that tie us down. We can transform society and ourselves by means of a revolution whose goal is the emancipation of humanity. The technology and knowledge necessary to attain this great leap and begin a new era in human history already exist; let us not kneel before non-existent gods. Let us rise to the occasion, to what is needed and what human beings are capable of.

Afghanistan: What occupying armies do

23 April 2012. A World to Win News Service. The U.S. and the government it installed in Afghanistan have initialled a draft "strategic partnership agreement" outlining how the U.S. will "transition from being the predominant foreign force in Afghanistan to serving a more traditional role of supportive ally." (The New York Times, 22 April 2012) The truth is, however, that the U.S. intends to continue to dominate Afghanistan. According to the NYT, the draft agreement contains few details except that Washington has declared, and Karzai has agreed, that the U.S. will not "walk away", for at least another ten years, from the country it has occupied for more than a decade already. According to the NYT, the agreement "sends a message" to the U.S.'s Nato allies, Pakistan and the Taliban that "we intend to be there" for the foreseeable future. "This is proof in the pudding that we intend to be there," said an American official quoted by the newspaper. "It shows the U.S. is going to be there for a long time," explained an unnamed European diplomat, who commented that the agreement was at least in part aimed at Iran.(!) It is also intended to "send a message" to other Nato countries who want to pull their troops out sooner than the date they had earlier agreed to, the end of 2014. The contents of this draft agreement were actually determined before the negotiator representing the U.S.'s hand-picked Afghan President Hamid Karzai saw it and signed on the dotted line. The points were worked out in advance by a 17 April Nato conference in Brussels. At the end of that meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defence Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the core of the Nato plan was "keeping some international troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, the year all American forces are supposed to be home from the war; and collectively agreeing to pay billions of dollars a year to support Afghan security forces." (NYT, 19 April 2012) The draft U.S.-Afghan agreement does not specify how long U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan nor what they will do there. No Afghans have any say about that. The U.S. may like to pretend that the Karzai government is an "ally" and that it is occupying the country at his invitation, but recent events have shown that while Karzai may have his own interests and not always do what his American handlers tell him, he has little sovereign power. This is demonstrated by the fact that in each of the recent cases of abuse and crimes committed by U.S. occupation troops, Karzai has been powerless to react and the Afghan government has been told to stay out of matters where it has no jurisdiction. The most recent came to light on 18 April when the Los Angeles Times published photos of more than a dozen American soldiers posing mockingly with the body parts of dead Afghans said to have been Taliban fighters, on at least two occasions. The Los Angeles newspaper said that it had decided to publish only two of the 18 pictures given to it by a U.S. soldier upset about the conduct of his fellow troops and seeking to alert Americans to what's happening in Afghanistan. Most of the photos were kept from the public According to an Afghan human rights activist later quoted by the NYT, similar photos have surfaced before. Instead of welcoming the initiative taken in bringing these crimes to his attention, U.S. Defence chief Panetta downplayed the importance of the incident, calling it simply a "foolish decision" taken by "young people", and criticized the newspaper for making it public. "I am not excusing that behaviour. But neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people and to our relationship with the Afghan people. We had urged the Los Angeles Times not to run those photos." By distinguishing between "our people" and emphasizing the danger to their lives, Panetta is implying that everyone else's lives are worth less. These disgusting photos were made public only a month after much worse demonstration of the worthlessness of Afghan lives in U.S. eyes, the massacre of 17 people, several entire families, in their homes in the province of the Panjwai district of Kandahar 11 March. Nine children (four of them girls under six), three women and four men were killed. Many were awakened from their sleep to be shot. A wounded villager died later. Some people in Afghanistan, including families in the area interviewed by the media, including the NYT, raised doubts about whether this mass murder was really the work of one soldier acting on his own, the 38-year-old staff sergeant Robert Bales, with no one else complicit. For example, the question has been raised about how he could have left his post twice without being detected. He left the first time heavily armed, wearing night vision googles as well as traditional Afghan clothing over his uniform, walked to a village, broke into a home and killed family members, burned the bodies and then walked back to base to take an hour and a half-long break. He left the outpost a second time at about 3 am and walked in the opposite direction to another area where he killed people in two neighbouring villages. Then he returned to the outpost and turned himself in. The outpost is small and comings and goings are watched by surveillance cameras. Each time he left he was seen by a guard. ( [Afghanistan];, and other media reports). How was he able to do all that without any of his fellow soldiers and officers noticing something unusual, let alone stopping him? Further, the NYT, Wall Street Journal and other media coverage included interviews with village residents who said that they had been attacked by a group of American soldiers. U.S. officials have implied that the villagers confused Bales with the other soldiers who arrived by helicopter later that night, after his surrender, to investigate. Villagers told reporters that drunk American soldiers entered their village laughing and shooting, and threatening to kill people, including children, if they left their homes. In addition to the question of whether or not Bales really acted alone, there is a larger one: How much was his conduct different than the "normal" behaviour of U.S. troops? The soldier Bales was quickly removed from Afghanistan and the U.S. has taken total control of the investigation. If Afghanistan were really a U.S. ally and not its victim, can anyone imagine what would happen if 17 American family members were killed in their homes, allegedly by a single "rogue" Afghan soldier? Would the U.S. government be satisfied with the explanation that he was alone and merely acting out the "stress" caused by a thankless job (the implication: the Afghan people should be grateful for the occupation!) and maybe too much alcohol? Would it allow the perpetrator to be whisked away and the Afghan government to manage the news and the so-called investigation? What the U.S. government is "investigating" in this case is itself. This incident should be seen alongside earlier actions by U.S. military personnel that have come to light recently, such as the burning of copies of the Koran at the U.S.-controlled Bagram prison complex in a provocation and insult to the people's religious beliefs, and the photos of U.S. soldiers urinating on corpses, allegedly of Taliban fighters. These acts of "indiscipline" have to be seen in the context of the brutality that is the mission of the U.S. and Nato forces, such as the bombardment of civilians that has caused the death and injury of many thousands of Afghans, and the night-time Nato raids in remote areas of the country that constantly harass ordinary families and have led to many reported deaths. It should not need to be said that this is what the Afghan people have received from the occupation, instead of the sweet promises given by George W. Bush, Obama and other U.S. and Nato imperialist leaders. Instead the people of Afghanistan found themselves under the boots of occupiers. The main thing that has changed is that the Taliban were replaced by a not very different religious fundamentalist, woman-hating regime appointed by the imperialists. Now that the occupation is going so badly, Western officials are calling Karzai government officials corrupt, but they were no less corrupt when the U.S. bought them into office a decade ago. This is the reality of life for the Afghan people under the U.S.-led Nato occupation. But there is frustration on the side of the occupier forces too. Instead of their expected easy success and quick victory, they have run into obstacles and been forced to at least limit their objectives. The expenses of the war have gone beyond their capabilities and the economic crisis has added to their problems. The occupiers have neither been defeated nor able to declare victory. Under these conditions, it wouldn't be surprising if there were a morale problem among their troops. It is not surprising that occupation soldiers are upset about all the demonstrations and other manifestations of popular hatred for their presence and actions. Added to that, members of the Afghan Police and Army, cynically called Nato "allies" instead of puppet forces, have turned against them and killed a number of foreign troops and high-level officers, as well as other Afghan security forces and officials. The Kandahar massacre was followed by articles in the American media speculating about a "growing concern" over the discipline of U.S. soldiers and the role of unit commanders who are being held responsible. These articles tend to portray the American occupation soldiers as "stress victims" whose actions are understandable, if supposedly against the rules of conduct. But whether or not Bales was acting alone, what are his fellow soldiers doing in Afghanistan apart from trying to kill Afghans, and for an unjust cause? Isn't that what's happening on a vast scale, as part of official policy, led not only by low-level commanders but top generals and the U.S. president? Wasn't that what they were sent there to do? Similar actions have been registered in the course of the history of imperialist wars and occupations, including Korea, Vietnam and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. The reason behind it is that as in any reactionary army, soldiers sent to fight and die for imperialist interests are trained to hate the people and especially hate those people they are sent to fight against. So they can easily and without hesitation continue to harass and kill not only those people who resist against them but also civilians and ordinary people too. These particular killings have to be seen and judged in the context of the nature of the war, and the U.S.'s wars, as a whole. In the end, what Bales did is not of a different nature than the killing of thousands of women, men and children through the use of missiles, drones, helicopters and infantry weapons by the US and their puppet army in Afghanistan, whether or not Bales' crime was carried out in an "undisciplined" manner. This action concentrates the criminal nature of the war itself. As long as the occupation lasts and as long as imperialist intervention in Afghanistan continues, these kinds of criminal acts, on a large and small scale, will continue. They are the logical result of the bigger crime of imperialist aggression and occupation. It is the U.S. itself that is responsible for Bales' actions.

Syria: Salameh Kaileh arrested

23 April 2012. A World to Win News Service. Salameh Kaileh, a prominent Arab Marxist and political activist from Palestine living in Syria, was arrested by the Assad regime in the evening of 23 April. The news was reported by Nahed Badawiye, a former long-term political prisoner and his ex-wife, who had been with him at the time but is not in custody at this moment. Apparently no public announcement has been made and nothing more is known at this time. Bashar al-Assad's security forces have been rounding up activists and opposition members across the political spectrum, sometimes with no discernible pattern to the timing or targeting. Kaileh was imprisoned for eight years in the early 1990s. Since then he has been refused permission to leave Syria on several occasions and also forbidden to re-enter the country more than once. He spoke at the Paris conference "The Middle East and North Africa – Prospects for Revolution" in May 2011 featuring speakers of a diversity of viewpoints, including the Syrian communist Hassan Chatila; the Iranian activist Shahrzad Mojab from the University of Toronto; Adel Thebat of the Communist Workers Party of Tunisia (PCOT); and Raymond Lotta, writer for Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. A source of information for this news service, he gave an interview quoted in AWTWNS120213. He is known as an opponent of both the regime and foreign intervention, an activist in support of the Syrian people's revolt, and an advocate of more radical perspectives for the movement in Syria and the region.

Gentechnik-Seilschaften: Newsletter am 27.4.2012

************************** DARF GERNE WEITERGELEITET WERDEN ... GANZ ODER TEXTWEISE *************Verfasst von: Jörg Bergstedt*************** Gentechnikfilz-News vom 26.4.2012 zusammengestellt in der Projektwerkstatt von Jörg Bergstedt (Autor „Monsanto auf Deutsch“) Hallo! Diesmal will ich mit einem Aufruf starten – und der ist mir sehr, sehr wichtig. Denn über die bundesweiten Verflechtungen ist jetzt viel informiert worden – im Internet, auf Veranstaltungen, per Broschüre und Buch. Doch an vielen Universitäten und in Landeseinrichtungen wird – mitunter kräftig finanziert von Landesregierungen – munter an neuen Pflanzen, Patenten und Methoden geschraubt. Wir brauchen jetzt Menschen, die den Gentechnikseilschaften in Universitäten und Landeseinrichtungen auf die Finger gucken und klopfen! Ich kann von hier aus nicht auch noch in allen Ländern hinschauen bzw. – was ja noch besser wäre – Aktionen organisieren: Anwesenheit und Protest bei Veranstaltungen, enthüllende Broschüren/Internetseiten zum Filz in einem Bundesland usw. Daher mein Aufruf: Bildet Banden – lose Runden von Menschen (aus verschiedenen Gruppen oder auch einfach so unabhängig von irgendwelchen Mitgliedschaften), die genauer hinschauen. Erste Gespräche dazu haben auf meinen letzten Vortragstouren in Bayern und Sachsen stattgefunden. In Sachsen-Anhalt und Mecklenburg-Vorpommern kann auf den bestehenden Protest gegen die beiden Hochburgen der Versuchsfelder aufgebaut werden. Für andere Länder gibt es noch keine Ideen – aber das darf gerne noch werden! Für vier Bundesländer habe ich das bei uns inzwischen gesammelte Wissen auf Internetseiten zusammengestellt – und sammele gern weitere Infos, die ich da dann erst einmal einfüge. Früher oder später sollte es dazu aber Infoseiten aus den Ländern geben. Hier die bisherigen Links: - Zu Bayern: - Zu Sachsen: - Zu Mecklenburg-Vorpommern gibt es eine Seite zusammen mit den Infos zum AgroBioTechnikum: - Genaus in Sachsen-Anhalt mit Infos zum Schaugarten Üplingen. Es ist viel diskutiert über die Gefahren der Gentechnik, die dadurch gewachsene Macht der Konzerne gegenüber den LandwirtInnen und VerbraucherInnen. Wir wissen viel über europäische und die deutschlandweiten Netzwerke. Nun brauchen wir Runden von Menschen, die das auch auf Landesebene und in den bislang wenig beachteten Landeseinrichtungen wie Universitäten, landwirtschaftliche Fortbildungsstätten und Untersuchungsanstalten einbringen. Denn hier läuft oft „business as usual“. Hinter der Fassade von Begleitforschung, Wissenschaft und mehr werden die Dinge weitervorangetrieben. Der Protest muss in diese noch verbliebenen Hochburgen der rücksichtslosen Jagd nach Profit hineingetragen werden. Damit mit dieser Form der Technikentwicklung nach Profitlogik endlich ganz Schluss ist! Auf Länderebene gibt es noch viele wenig oder unbeachtete Bereiche, so unter anderem: - Förderprogramme der Landesregierungen (z.B. For Planta in Bayern) - Pflanzenentwicklung und Methodenforschung an Universitäten - Gentechnikwerbung in der landwirtschaftlichen Ausbildung Deshalb wäre es gut, wenn sich auf Landesebene jeweils Kreise von Personen zusammentun, die … - Recherchieren, was an Universitäten und in Landeseinrichtungen jeweils so läuft - Beobachten, welche Förderprogramme und Veranstaltungen geplant sind und dazu Aktivitäten entwickeln, Termine herumreichen, Protest koordinieren - Ideen für parlamentarische Anträge und Anfragen sammeln - Öffentlichkeitsarbeit zu den Seilschaften im jeweiligen Bundesland machen: z.B. eine Broschüre, Flugblätter, Internetseite, Veranstaltungen. Ich würde mich freuen, wenn sich in möglichst vielen Bundesländern Runden von Menschen finden, die das in die Hand nehmen. Ich unterstütze gerne – gerade in der Anfangsphase. Gerne komme ich zu einem ersten Treffen, wo Näheres besprochen wird (z.B. auch verbunden mit einer Veranstaltungsrundreise mit meinem Vortrag „Monsanto auf Deutsch“). Aber bitte erwartet nicht, dass ich dann Vorantreiber bin, koordiniere … das geht von hier aus nicht (und in Hessen wird das auch nur als kleiner Personenkreis klappen, weil BUND, Grüne, Kirche usw. auf Landesebene zu politiknah sind und deshalb AktivistInnen schlicht hassen). Im Mai bin ich in und um Rostock – machen wir da ein Treffen, um Weiteres zu besprechen? In und um Üplingen werden etliche Strafprozesse gegen GentechnikgegnerInnen laufen – wäre das eine Gelegenheit, sich auch weiter zu besprechen? Dort steht die Aussaat unmittelbar bevor – eine Saison voll Aktivitäten wäre gut plus dann im September das InnoPlanta-Forum! Kleine Vortragstouren mache ich ohnehin in der nächsten Zeit durch Niedersachsen und nach Thüringen. Wie sieht es da aus? Im Oktober soll es noch einmal nach Bayern gehen – vielleicht ist bis dahin schon etwas entstanden? Ich würde mich sehr, sehr freuen über „Monsanto auf …“ oder wie das Ding dann auch immer betitelt wird. So long und beste Grüße aus der Projektwerkstatt in Saasen, Gruß von Jörg B. P.S. Die aktuelle Lage bei den Felderanmeldungen. Zwei sind im Standortregister: - RoundupReady-Rüben in Nienburg/Gerbitz (Saale), ein Versuch von Monsanto - Mais von Pioneer in Üplingen (bis 7 ha, also möglicherweise Beet im Schaugarten plus große Fläche), Das Freisetzungsregister lässt aber noch mehr erahnen … ******************** NEUES AUS DEN SEILSCHAFTEN Dramatische Entwicklung in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: Gentechnikfilz massiv unter Druck Welch eine Überraschung: Am 14. April veröffentlichte die Ostseezeitung auf der Titelseite als Aufhänger einen umfangreichen Artikel über „Filz und Mauschelei um die Gentechnik?“ plus böser Kommentar auf der Folgeseite. Als Infoquelle war da zwar neben dem tatsächlich in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern aktiven BUND die Organisation Greenpeace angegeben – aber sehen wir einmal über diese Albernheit und das Verschweigen unserer Quellen hinweg (Greenpeace hat sich tatsächlich ja immer rausgehalten, wenn es um Versuchsfelder ging), dann ist das ein richtig großer Schritt. Ich denke da immer noch zurück an die Zeiten, als wir mit dem Protest anfingen in und um Sagerheide und Groß Lüsewitz. Da bekam die permanente Versuchsleiterin Inge Broer immer ein Interview in der Zeitung als Reaktion auf unsere Aktionen. Und nun sind die Verhältnisse also auch dort umgekehrt. Der Artikel ist sehr lesenswert und unter zu finden. Interessant ist nicht nur, dass Kerstin Schmidt dort den Tod der Agrogentechnik in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ankündigt, sondern die Zeitung auch den geplanten Umzug nach Üplingen beschreibt. Das hatten wir ja schon einige Male als Vermutung geäußert. Nun kam es aber gleich noch dicker: Am 25. April gab es einen Nachschlag auf der Wirtschaftsseite der OZ – und wieder wurden Politik und die Firmengeflechte des AgroBioTechnikums unter die Lupe genommen, von „faulen Tricks“, ergaunerten „100 Prozent Fördersatz“ usw. gesprochen. Lest selbst: Vorher schon: Landtagsanfrage in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Die Grünen stellten Fragen zu den Kosten der Bewachung der Genversuchsanlage. Als die Antwort (Landtagsdrucksache am 21.3.2012) kam, schaffte es die Meldung auf die Titelseite der Ostseezeitung. Die Polizei übte sich in Notlügen für ihre teuren Hilfsmaßnahmen für die Gentechnik-Seilschaften. So erfanden sie einen Feldbesetzungsversuch 2010 ... Auszug aus der Ostseezeitung am 28.3.2012 (Titelseite): "Umstrittene Polizeieinsätze zum Schutz von Genkartoffeln bringen Innenminister Lorenz Caffier (CDU) in Erklärungsnot. 2010 und 2011 kreisten Hubschrauber der Landespolizei insgesamt 26 Stunden über den Anbaufeldern des AgroBiotechnikums Groß Lüsewitz (Landkreis Rostock). Hinzu kamen 31 Wacheinsätze und 40 Personenkontrollen mit über 200 Einsatzstunden. Gesamtkosten: mehr als 112 000 Euro. Das geht aus einer Antwort der Landesregierung auf eine Kleine Anfrage der Grünen-Landtagsabgeordneten Ursula Karlowski hervor, die der OZ vorliegt. Damit dürften die Gen-Knollen von Groß Lüsewitz die teuersten Kartoffeln der Welt sein. Immer wieder hatten Umweltaktivisten Anbaufelder besetzt und verwüstet. Trotz der Sachschäden übte Grünen-Fraktionschef Jürgen Suhr Kritik am Polizeieinsatz. „Kosten und Nutzen stehen in keinem Verhältnis.“ Das Innenministerium in Schwerin begründete die Polizeieinsätze mit Sachschäden von 385 000 Euro. Caffier sagte, in Groß Lüsewitz sei „Gefahr im Verzug“ gewesen. Die wichtigsten Erkenntnisse aus der Landtagsanfrage (Drucksache 6/358) (Links zu Pressetexten und Anfrage auf • Der Staat hat nicht nur mit den Fördermitteln für Haus, Land und die gefälschten Biosicherheits-Versuche die Gentechnik-Seilschaften unterstützt, sondern auch noch mit seinen Polizeitruppen. • Die Sachschäden von 385000 Euro sind trotz der kostenintensiven Bewachung entstanden - also war das Verpulvern von Steuergeldern auch noch wirkungslos. • Den vermeintlichen Feldbesetzungsversuch 2010 hat die Polizei frei erfunden, um ihre Hilfsaktionen für die Gentechnik-Seilschaften zu legitimieren. • Auslöser fast aller Einsätze ist das Wachpersonal, d.h. also die Polizeieinsätze werden von den Gentechnikseilschaften und ihren Bediensteten veranlasst. • Betroffen ist vor allem die Allgemeinheit, z.B. von insgesamt 40 Verkehrskontrollen innerhalb von drei Jahren. • Im AgroBioTechnikum dürfen neu gegründete Firmen eigentlich nur fünf Jahre arbeiten, weil diese Arbeit stattlich gefördert ist. Ausnahmen sind bis acht Jahre zulässig. Das Firmenkonsortium von Kerstin Schmidt und Uni-DozentInnen ist seit 2005 dort tätig, d.h. also im siebten Jahr. Die Ausnahme ist die Regel. Um deren Weiterarbeit zu sichern, wird das AgroBioTechnikum saniert. Peinlicher Patzer auch am Schaugarten Üplingen Blindes Huhn find … ein bisschen war es so und nun ein Zufall, dass wir mit einer zunächst scheinbar unsinnigen und unscheinbaren Handlung vielleicht etwas Interessantes erreichen. Wir wollten ja den Vortrag im Hofgut Üplingen halten. Die BioTechFarm hat uns das ja verboten. Doch das steht, wie wir inzwischen mitbekamen, im Widerspruch zu Aussagen der Landesregierung, die auf Nachfragen nach den Fördergeldern für den Ausbau öffentlich gesagt hat, das Begegnungszentrum hätte mit der BioTechFarm nichts zu tun. Könnte sein, dass der ganze Vorgang doch ein ziemlicher Patzer von denen ist – und hoffentlich Wut vor Ort schafft. Direkt ausgewirkt hat sich das aber noch nicht – leider! Ca. 30 KritikerInnen des Schaugartens Üplingen waren letztes Wochenende bei Veranstaltungen und Spaziergängen in und um das Dorf dabei – ein Bericht findet sich unter Unter Beteiligten sind einige weitere Ideen für die nächsten Wochen diskutiert worden, z.B. Besuche örtlicher Feste (am 30.6. ist 900 Jahre Warsleben, am 7.10. der Tag der Regionen in Oschersleben. Besonders in den Fokus soll die Stiftung Braunschweiger Kulturbesitz genommen werden, die Flächen und Tagungszentrum bereitstellt für die GentechniklobbyistInnen. Weiter mobilisiert wird natürlich auch für das am ersten Montag/Dienstag im September zu erwartende InnoPlanta-Forum. Ca. 200 Personen haben bislang ihr Interesse in Listen signalisiert. Konzerntricks Skandalös agieren mal wieder die Konzerne: BASF hatte mit der Ankündigung des Verzichts auf Felder in Deutschland gelogen (und die Umweltverbände waren mal wieder reingefallen). Der Konzern macht nun doch Felder, aber mit dem Nachfolgemodell der Amflora (heißt: Modena). Bislang bekannt: In Sachsen-Anhalt. Unglaublich schwer, jetzt den Ort zu erraten … Warnende Stimmen: Alois Heissenhuber (TU München) und Friedhelm Taube (Uni Kiel) Die formulierten: „In Deutschland müssen wir uns fragen, ob wir uns in der Agrarforschung nicht zu stark auf den Bereich der biotechnologischen Möglichkeiten fokussieren, während klassische Ansätze kaum mehr gewürdigt werden, wenn es um die Bereitstellung von Forschungsgeldern geht. De facto sind nämlich die Getreideerträge in Deutschland trotz intensiver Züchtungsforschung in den vergangenen 20 Jahren kaum noch gestiegen. Die Ursachenforschung verweist teilweise auf klimatische Effekte; aber auch die landwirtschaftliche Praxis mit immer engeren Fruchtfolgen, reduzierter Bodenbearbeitung und dem daraus resultierenden vermehrten Druck von Krankheitserregern dürften zum Ursachenkomplex beitragen. An den Universitäten werden die klassischen agrarischen Disziplinen abgebaut, weil vor allem in molekularen Forschungsansätzen Innovationen gesehen werden. Und dieser Trend setzt sich in den Ressortforschungseinrichtungen bis hin zu den Beratungsinstitutionen auf dem flachen Land fort. Holistische agronomische Ansätze werden also zugunsten der vermeintlich attraktiveren spezialisierten molekularen Forschung zunehmend vernachlässigt.“ (Quelle: Es geht weiter: Maulkorbverfahren in Saarbrücken Das Oberlandesgericht Saarbrücken hat jetzt unsere Belege zu den Betrugsvorwürfen angefordert – das Verfahren kommt also wieder ingang. Interessant: Es wird die gleiche Kammer sein wie letztes Mal am OLG. Inzwischen haben wir (der mich unterstützende Anwalt Tronje Döhmer aus Gießen und ich) dem Gericht die Liste unserer Belege zugeschickt. Der Schriftsatz ist unter anzusehen. Mal sehen, wie die KlägerInnen (Schrader, Schmidt, Rehberger) darauf reagieren, dass jetzt auch schon die Ostseezeitung über Filz, Mauscheleien, Tricks usw. bei der Fördermittelvergabe schreiben … Andreas Sentker – Preisträger InnoPlanta 2011 (Journalist) Er hatte Feldbefreiungen als „Terror“ bezeichnet. Seiten Jahren hetzte er als Ressortchef „Wissen“ der ZEIT gegen die KritikerInnen der Agrogentechnik. Dafür bekam er letztes Jahr den Preis für den objektivsten Journalisten im Land. Seine Dankesrede ist im Internet – und lohnt sich, anzuhören. Peinlich schon der doppelte Beginn. Erst nennt er diesen Gefälligkeitspreis eine „große Ehre“. Dann zitiert er einen Ex-Fernsehintendanten: „Einen guten Journalisten erkennt man daran, dass er sich nicht gemein macht mit einer Sache, auch nicht mit einer guten.“ Danach folgt ein ideologischer Schwall pro Gentechnik. Nach Sentkers eigener Logik also ein Beweis dafür, dass er kein guter Journalist ist – was aber ohnehin klar war. Der Mitschnitt seines Vortrags: ******************** WEITERE NACHRICHTEN ZUM THEMA Neue Superschädlinge auf dem Acker? Anbau von neuem 'Gen-Mais' in der EU könnte Probleme bereiten Testbiotech veröffentlichte am 26.3.2012 ein Dossier mit überraschenden Details zum Anbau des gentechnisch veränderten Mais MON88017, der ein Gift gegen Insekten produziert. Wie eine aktuelle Laboruntersuchung aus den USA zeigt, könnte dieser Mais dazu beitragen, die Ausbreitung von Fraßinsekten zu beschleunigen. Nach den Versuchsergebnissen entwickelt der sogenannte Maiswurzelbohrer nicht nur eine Resistenz gegen das Gift des gentechnisch veränderten Mais, sondern er kann gleichzeitig die Entwicklung seiner Larven beschleunigen und mehr Nachkommen produzieren. Dies würde dazu führen, dass sich der von Landwirten gefürchtete Schädling noch schneller auf den Feldern ausbreitet. ( Wieder nur halbgut: Neue Pachtverträge auf Kirchenland Das war zu lesen: „Die Kirchenleitung hält die Folgen beim Anbau von genetisch verändertem Saat- und Pflanzengut für nicht hinreichend abschätzbar“, heißt es in dem Beschluss. In neuen Landpachtverträgen möge daher ein Zusatz aufgenommen werden, in dem es heißt: „Gentechnisch veränderte Organismen (GVO) in Form von Saat- und Pflanzengut dürfen auf den Pachtflächen nicht ausgesät oder angepflanzt werden.“ Vorausgegangen war eine entsprechende Beschlussempfehlung des Kirchenleitungsausschusses für Umwelt und Nachhaltigkeit.“ Mein Kommentar: Seit Jahren – auch in Schleswig-Holstein! – weise ich darauf hin, dass die Pachtverträge so nicht schlau formuliert sind. Statt „Keine GVO auf Kirchenland“ wäre viel besser: „Nur Verpachtung an Betriebe, die INSGESAMT gentechnikfrei arbeiten“. Dass diese nirgends beachtet wird, zeigt auch, wie wenig Nicht-Eliten in diesem Land beachtet werden. Es gibt so gut wie keine Chance, aus den Kreisen der vielen Basisgruppen, unabhängigen AktivistInnen einmal Impulse in die Apparate von NGOs, Kirchen, Parteien usw. hineinzubringen. So funktioniert die Elitestruktur dieser Welt! Und das beschreibt auch einen der Hauptgründe, warum politische Arbeit oft so wirkungslos bleibt. Es sind oftmals die vermeintlich eigenen Leute, die als BremserInnen fungieren – wenn es ihnen in der Hauptsache um Fördergelder, Spenden, öffentliches Image und die eigene Rolle an den Tischen der Reichen und Mächtigen geht. Für meine Kritik an diesen Strukturen ernte ich ja oft Kritik. Ich halte das Wegsehen für einen zentralen Fehler! Buchvorstellung Hanns Wienold Leben und Sterben auf dem Lande (2007, Westfälisches Dampfboot in Münster, 218 S.) Es ist schon ein paar Jahre alt, aber behandelt wichtige Fragen, die auch und gerade in gentechnikkritischen Kreisen unpräzise bis manchmal falsch behandelt wird. Es geht um die Lage der BäuerInnen und Bauern in den ländlich geprägten Regionen der beiden großen Schwellenländern, aber weiterhin auch Agrarnationen Brasilien und Indien. Unter anderem wird dort Genaueres berichtet über die Selbstmordwellen in Indien und deren Hintergründe. Es ist nicht in erster Linie die Gentechnik, sondern insgesamt eine Entsozialisierung der Gesellschaft sowie die Zerschlagung einer unabhängigen und selbstbestimmt durchführbaren Landwirtschaft. Das Buch ist empfehlenswert, um die Kritik an der Gentechnik einzubetten in eine Gesamtkritik der Bedingungen im ländlichen Raum. ******************** ALLE TERMINE AUF EINEN BLICK Freitag, 27. April, ab 8.30 Uhr in der Messe Köln-Deutz (Eingang Nord, Messehalle 7, Deutz-Mülheimer-Straße 111): BAYER-Hauptversammlung mit Gegenreden, -anträgen und (hoffentlich) -aktionen 27.4. bis 1.5. in der Projektwerkstatt Saasen: Gerichtete Gerichte und jubelnde Justiz? ( Austausch-Treffen zu Erfahrungen vor Gericht und hinter dessen Kulissen. Eingeladen sind alle Menschen mit Gerichtserfahrungen, die ihre Ideen und Wissen weitergeben sowie von Anderen Tricks, Kniffe und Probleme erfahren wollen. Gestaltet als Open Space, eingeladen vom Laienverteidigungsnetzwerk! 5. bis 28. Mai läuft übrigens eine Fahrrad-Protesttour gegen Tierhaltungsbetriebe und die ganzen Neubauten von Schlachthöfen und Mastanlagen im Raum Celle - Braunschweig. Ich werde da auch ein Stück mitfahren, wahrscheinlich vom 6. bis 11.5. und ab ca. 16.5. Näheres unter Auf jeden Fall gibt es während der Tour einmal den Vortrag „Monsanto auf Deutsch“, also die Ton-Bilder-Schau zu den Seilschaften. Und zwar in Königshorst Nr. 1 (Tagungshaus bei Wustrow im Wendland). Die vier Programmpunkte der ersten Tage: • So, 6.5. um 11 Uhr in Königshorst: Training "Kreativer Polizeikontakt" • So, 6.5. um 20 Uhr in Königshorst: Ton-Bilder-Schau "Monsanto auf Deutsch - Seilschaften zwischen Behörden, Forschung und Gentechnikkonzernen" (zum Inhalt siehe 3.6., Ankündigung) • Mo, 7.5., um 11 Uhr in Königshorst: Workshop "Direct Action/kreativer Widerstand" (mit Vertiefungsworkshops an den Folgetagen, die am 7.5. vereinbart werden) • Mo, 7.5. um 20 Uhr in Königshorst: Lesung und Diskussion "Freie Menschen in freien Vereinbarungen" Sonntag, 13.5. östlich von Rostock an den Versuchsfelder des AgroBioTechnikums: Kritischer Spaziergänge und mehr • 15 Uhr: Rundgang (Inspektion) an den Feldern in Sagerheide (Treffpunkt Birkenallee 10/11, d.h. am Ortseingang von der B110 aus) • Anschließend Kaffee, Kuchen und Zeit für Fragen/Diskussion auf dem Nachbargrundstück • 17 Uhr auf dem Grundstück Birkenallee 10/11 (bei schlechtem Wetter im Haus): Vortrag und Diskussion "Den Kopf entlasten - Kritik anti-emanzipatorischer Positionen in politischen Bewegungen" Monsanto ist schuld. Nein, die Bilderberger. Quatsch, der Finanzkapital macht alles kaputt. Völkerrechtswidrige Kriege lehnen wir ab - demokratisch bomben ist schöner. Härtere Strafen für Nazis, Vergewaltiger und Umweltsünder. Was nichts kostet, ist auch nichts wert. Mehr Kontrolle für Richter und Polizei. Leitungsnetze ausbauen für die Windenergie. Stärke des Rechts statt Recht des Stärkeren. Der Mensch ist halt ein Herdentier (oder neu: Schwarm). NPD-Verbot jetzt! So oder ähnlich klingen viele politische Forderungen. Was sie gemeinsam haben: Sie blenden Machtebenen aus, verkürzten komplexe Herrschaftsanalysen und spielen mit den Mitteln des Populismus. Statt Menschen zu eigenständigem Denken und kritischem Hinterfragen anzuregen, wollen sie billige Zustimmung einfangen - zwecks politischer Beeinflussung, Sammeln von AnhängerInnen und WählerInnen oder auf der Suche nach dem schnöden Mammon in Form von Spenden und Mitgliedsbeiträgen. Auf diese Weise betreiben viele Gruppen das Geschäft derer, die an den Hebeln der Macht sitzen. Sie wollen Einzelprobleme lösen und verschärfen dabei die Ursachen von Profit, Ausbeutungen, Unterdrückung und Umweltzerstörung. Wer das Gute will, dabei aber die Befreiung der Menschen außer Acht lässt, wird schnell zur Hilfstruppe derer, die immer mehr Kontrolle und Steuerungsmittel wollen - und auch immer das Beste versprechen. Im Vortrag (bzw. Workshop) werden Prinzipien anti-emanzipatorischer Theorien, politischer Konzepte und Welterklärungen benannt und dann Beispiele vorgestellt, über die jeweils auch kurze Debatten möglich sind. Montag, 14. Mai 2012 um 9.30 Uhr im Amtsgericht Oschersleben: Prozess gegen den Anmelder der Demonstration gegen das InnoPlanta-Forum 2011 wegen angeblichem Verstoß gegen Auflagen Montag, 14.5., 19 Uhr an der Uni Rostock (Raum 323 im Haus 1 Ulmencampus): Ton-Bilder-Schau "Monsanto auf Deutsch - Seilschaften zwischen Behörden, Forschung und Gentechnikkonzernen" Am 1. Und 2.6. gibt es in Berlin ein paar Aktionstrainings. Mehr in Kürze auf Sonntag, 3.6. um 13 und 16 Uhr auf dem Hoffest der Schlossimkerei Tonndorf (südlich Erfurt/Weimar): Ton-Bilder-Schau "Monsanto auf Deutsch - Seilschaften zwischen Behörden, Forschung und Gentechnikkonzernen" Montag, 18.6. um 11 Uhr am Verwaltungsgericht Magdeburg (Breiter Weg 203, Saal 11): Prozess wegen der Klagen gegen die Polizeimaßnahmen im Rahmen des InnoPlanta-Forums 2010 (Festnahme von zwei DemonstratInnen mit Gewahrsam, siehe 19.-21.6. in Bernburg: DLG-Feldtage - Werben für industrielle Landwirtschaft, u.a. ein Themenzentren "Gentechnik", "Pflanzenschutz" (=Giftspritzen) und "Energie vom Feld" sowie Veranstaltungen von Monsanto und anderen Voraussichtlich am 3./4.9. in Üplingen: InnoPlanta-Forum (Liste zum Eintragen für Interessierte: ******************** P.S. Wie immer das Nachwort: Von der Broschüre „Organisierte Unveranwortlichkeit“ und dem Buch „Monsanto auf Deutsch“ sind noch genügend Bestände vorhanden. Bestellungen über das Infoformular auf unserer Internetseite, unter oder in der Projektwerkstatt. Da andere Verlage – teilweise mit erstaunlich widerlichen Unhöflichkeiten – die brisanten Botschaften nicht verlegen wollten, wird „Monsanto auf Deutsch“ wohl erstmal die einzige Enzyklopädie der Agrogentechnik“mafia“ bleiben. Außerdem gibt es die aktuelle Aktionszeitung "Es reicht!". Infos auf der Bestellseite Und: In der Projektwerkstatt und anderen Aktionshäusern sind immer wieder Sachspenden gefragt. Auf der Seite findet Ihr eine Liste. Wer was Passendes übrig hat ... wir freuen uns!!! -- Verfasst in der Projektwerkstatt Saasen, 06401/90328-3, Fax -5, 01522-8728353 Ludwigstr. 11, 35447 Reiskirchen-Saasen (20 km östlich Giessen) ++ Tagungshaus ++ politische Werkstätten ++ Archive und Bibliotheken ++ Direct-Action-Plattform ++ Bahnanschluß ++ ReferentInnenangebote ++ Sachspenden gesucht: Was gerade fehlt, steht immer unter ++

Montag, 2. April 2012

Gallery review: A rolling Tank Girl roils Cairo

26 March 2012. By Samuel Albert. Nadine Hammam knows something about tank girls. She was one of the iconic young women who scrambled onto a tank in Tahrir Square in January 2011, during the 18-day revolt that brought down Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The protesters welcomed the soldiers. They thought the army was coming to their defence against Mubarak's murderous police and his civilian thugs hurling cinderblocks and rocks down on the square from the safety of surrounding rooftops and a motorway overpass. With hopes born of equal parts of illusion and desperation, many demonstrators chanted, "The army and the people are one hand." Yet the military failed to stop the rooftop assaults by surrounding and searching the buildings and overpass, or arresting the killers standing in plain sight. Instead soldiers stood by and watched.

Since Mubarak's resignation, the army has taken over the job of killing, torturing and imprisoning Egyptian youth and others who defy the ruling power in the streets. Those who risked and sacrificed so much for what they hoped would be a revolution have seen, instead, the spectre of an unholy, if uneasy and unpredictable, alignment between the US, the Muslim Brotherhood, remnants of the old regime and the military junta.

Hammam, an Egyptian artist born in 1974, says she'd like to take back her gesture of a year ago. "We were naïve to think the army was there to protect us." But in revisiting that moment in her current solo show at the Gallery Misr in Zamalek, across the Nile from Tahrir Square, she is not just looking back at lost illusions. The image of a young woman riding a tank that is the show's centrepiece reflects more than the bitter frustration of a revolt that got rid of a hated head of state but not the state structure he sat on and the economic and political relationships it represents. Her work also announces a determination to continue rebelling against much that is unacceptable in Egyptian society and the world. At a time when some people are saying that the Tahrir youth went too far and brought on themselves the backlash they now face, this piece is unrepentant.

Tank Girl, a large painting installation, has a room to itself in this show. The pink outlined figure of a pony-tailed young woman, done in smooth acrylic paint and shiny foil that suggests the muscles and blood vessels under her skin, sits astride the turret of a pink tank. The only detail in this silhouette portrait is her bright red bra. All Egyptians would understand this is a reference to – and joyous transformation of – the so-called "girl in the blue bra", the young woman stripped of her abaya and headscarf by military police who beat her with long batons and stomped on her chest in a Tahrir square protest against military rule last December.

This tank girl is not a humiliated victim. She has not lost her "honour" – her nakedness proclaims it. She and the stencilled tank are the same size; she not only rides it but has conquered it. From its cannon between her legs spurts a stream of rats, running down the side of the painting and the wall beneath, and fleeing across the gallery floor.

Hamman has offered different explanations of the significance of the rats, once saying that the military are rats and another time that the rats represent the country's panicked billionaires whom Mubarak and now the military serve and protect.

The artist wrote a statement on this piece: "You can beat us, strip us, gas us and virginity-test us, but in the end we will prevail."

The show also includes a series of paintings called Heartless, five silhouettes of women made of silver foil that speak to the way the reduction of women to their body parts impedes the human relationships they long for. These pieces are pretty in form, in a customary "feminine" style (in the choice of colours and the jewel trimmings highlighting the women's desirability and value), and violent in their content.

While Egyptian art has long included nude paintings of women by men, the situation has changed lately. Religiously-sanctioned "temporary" and secret "second" wives have been added to the possibilities offered rich men alongside Western-style mistresses. Females covered from head to toe are for sale on Cairo's streets. While women are still supposed to be sexual playthings (and breeders) in private, in public – and now often in the arts – they must cover the hair that assaults men with sinful thoughts. The bodies for which they are prized are considered dangerous to public order.

There is a growing, widely-felt danger that whatever some people consider Islamic standards are going to be enforced on all, by law, intimidation or simply the silent acceptance of custom and tradition. A photographer documenting a traditional neighbourhood's history found that he could not make portraits of women for public display – his show includes pictures of local women in decades past but not today. Adel Imam, one of Arab cinema's most famous actors, has been convicted in absentia and sentenced to three months hard labour for “offending Islam” in his film and stage roles. The late Nobel prize-winning novelist Naguib Mafouz is reviled as simply a purveyor of pornography.

In part this is because the morality associated with the West and Mubarak's regime has become so utterly exposed and hated, but what's being offered, supposedly in opposition, is also reactionary. It's not a minor fact that Persepolis, an autobiographical animated film recounting the violent collision between a rebellious Iranian girl from a secular family and the Islamic Republic, can no longer be shown in Egypt or Tunisia, banned not by law or decree, or even, ostensibly, because of its political content, as in Iran, but by social pressure because it is considered "blasphemous". Under the cover of not "offending" religious sensibilities, many people who seek social change confuse people's right to practice their religion with religion's demand for the "right" to define society.

On occasion this has provoked women artists and other women in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries to portray themselves naked as a scream of protest. When the blogger and political activist Alias El-Mahdy posted a photo of her naked self online last October, she was denounced as if she had committed the worst crime imaginable, an evil much of the country could unite against, as if a woman taking off her own clothes was far more dangerous to the prevailing society than what soldiers have been doing to women in public and private. Women in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, including Iran and Israel, posted group portraits of themselves naked and holding banners in solidarity with her.

It tells us something about the current cowardice among some Egyptian intellectuals that Hammam's show has been attacked for dealing with sex and nudity, not just from the predictable religious authorities but also from some cynical critics identified with global art culture and Western publications. They accuse her of choosing her topics because "sex sells" and her work is selling very well right now, along with setting off a big ruckus in the media.

But as the other work in this exhibition underlines, this is more than topical art, and the opposite of porn, soft-core or otherwise. The flatness and anonymity of her female figures – ironically achieved only by many layers of paint – references the way that women are flattened by the dominant role played by the men in their lives from birth to death, and robbed of their identity as they are turned into fungible commodities. Even in her more "sexual" two previous gallery shows in Cairo, Aikl Aish (Making a Living, 2008) and I'm for Sale (2010), her portrayals of women as they have been rendered by the male gaze are more disquieting than erotic. They challenge the prevailing relations between men and women by revealing the power relations and commodity exchange that shape them.

Hammam's work is closely linked to its context. Her exhibition is taking place in a city where the tanks and armoured cars have now become a common sight downtown. It opened on 8 March, International Women's Day, as hundreds of women marched on parliament. Their official demands were confined to admitting more women to the committee writing a new constitution (in which a main debate is preserving the unbearable status quo for women or instituting Sharia law) and a parliament that has been little but a fig leaf for the military and its increasing subservience to the US. But video footage of the marchers, covered and uncovered alike, and interviews, seem to reveal a deeper and potentially explosive dissatisfaction.

Shortly after, on 11 March, an army court acquitted a military doctor accused of performing "virginity tests" on seven women arrested when the army broke up a Tahrir sit-in a year ago. Few people expected any other outcome from a trial of the military by the military (lawyers for the civilian plaintiffs were not allowed to take part). The military has concluded that a civilian court ruling that the army must cease these deliberately degrading practices cannot be applied because now it has been "proven" that they never happened in the first place!

A military spokesman reaffirmed that the army will continue to regard women taking part in political activity as suspected prostitutes and "who knows, even spies". To hide its obsequiousness to the US, the military often labels its critics Israeli agents. This is especially convincing to people who consider that the essence of the Palestinian question is Israel versus Islam, so that anyone considered anti-Islamic must be pro-Israel.

Yet at the same time Hammam's work is not narrowly topical at all. It can have universal meaning, long after today's events. In part, this is because it strains against a fatally false dichotomy that has become all too widely accepted: either you are a "real Egyptian" (and therefore worship all the backward institutions and traditions that weigh down on the people, and in fact have often been bolstered by the country's occupiers and oppressors, including the US today), or you are subservient to the fashions and values prevailing in the West and don't care for the Egyptian masses.

One of the striking features of Hammam's work, as textured intellectually as it is technically, is that she links the particular situation of women in Egypt with women's universal status as lesser beings. If anything, in addition to deliberately riling up backward forces in her own country, her work is especially critical of Western culture, where women's worth is even more clearly determined by their value as commodities, often even in their own eyes.

Artists and the art public may be a very small segment of Egyptian society (as some critics take malign pleasure in pointing out), but the issues Hammam addresses touch all women and are basic to the question of what kind of society Egypt will be. What has been identified as an upsurge among Egyptian artists a year after Mubarak's downfall may be happening now because they were too busy in the streets to work in their studios until today's relative lull. It is also, very likely, an explosion of expression in the field of art of sentiments that have been deeply frustrated and, right now, are having difficulty finding a political outlet.


Cairo artists have launched a campaign to "open" the seven concrete barricades the military erected around the Ministry of the Interior and other sinister sites of power by "painting through the walls." They called on neighbourhood residents to come into the streets to take part starting on 9 March, the anniversary of the day when the army first attacked Tahrir square and inflicted the "virginity tests". Hammam's work and some of these wall paintings can be seen and are discussed on the following English-language Web sites: