Monthly Archives: May 2009

When All the Lights Go Out – Anti-Flag

From their new album, due to be released June 9th.

One billion workers stand up from their chairs.
Their faces no longer struck with their fears.
Attack/Attack.
Stabbed in the back.
Disgraced/Disgraced.
Traitors trade face to face.
Revolution: the engine for history.

When all the lights go out.
When all the world is in doubt.
When all the goods cease to move.
I won’t be alone.
When all the swords become plows.
When all the fields are afoul.
When all the cogs cease to turn.
I won’t be alone.

Punching the clock, stabbing the boss.
We don’t need the CEO’s they need us.
Attack/Attack.
Outsourced for a hack.
Disgraced/Disgraced.
Displace and replace.
Proletarians of the world unite;
you have nothing to lose but your chains.

When all the lights go out.
When all the world is in doubt.
When all the goods cease to move.
I won’t be alone.
When all the swords become plows.
When all the fields are afoul.
When all the cogs cease to turn.
I won’t be alone

We are not numbers.
We are names.
We won’t be alone.
We are not crime reports.
We are history.
We won’t be alone.
No, we are not folklore.
We are culture.
We won’t be alone.
We are not human resources.
We are human beings.
I won’t be….We won’t be alone.

When all the lights go out…
When all the lights go out…

When all the lights go out.
When all the world is in doubt.
When all the goods cease to move.
I won’t be alone.
When all the swords become plows.
When all the fields are afoul.
When all the cogs cease to turn
I won’t be… We won’t be alone

Protests Erupt Over California Prop 8 Ruling

Elizabeth Schulte rounds up reports from around the country on demonstrations to protest the California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a gay marriage ban. Respoted from Socialist Worker.

Some 15,000 people turned out in Los Angeles to show their anger with the court decision upholding Prop 8

Some 15,000 people turned out in Los Angeles to show their anger with the court decision upholding Prop 8

THE MOOD was angry and defiant at protests throughout California and across the country May 26 after the state Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

In Los Angeles, where some 15,000 people took to the streets, chants of “Gay, straight, Black, white–same struggle, same fight!” and “No justice, no peace–equal rights now!” rang out into the early morning hours. Protesters held a rainbow flag with the words “These Colors Don’t Run, They Fight” written on it.

Thousands more turned out in other California cities–5,000 in San Francisco, 3,000 in San Diego–and across the country after the news emerged that the California Supreme Court had upheld the anti-gay referendum passed last November, even while deciding to recognize some 18,000 same-sex marriages that happened before the measure passed.

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson–two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit decided by the California high court, who were married last year after 16 years together–were at protests in Los Angeles. Tyler, a founder of the Day of Decision Web site, which helped organize the protests nationwide, said in a statement:

Even though our marriage is preserved by today’s decision, we take no joy in the fact that marriage equality for almost everyone else has been removed from our state. The upholding of Proposition 8 by the court is a cowardly retreat from the pro-equality stance it took last year, and makes our state a laggard behind pro-equality states like Iowa and most New England states.

California should be following in the footsteps of states like Iowa, Maine and Vermont, which recognized equal marriage rights in the last few months, while the California Supreme Court was deliberating over Prop 8. Instead, the California justices voted 6-1 to uphold last November’s ballot initiative that denies same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples.

In May 2008, the same court ruled, in a 4-3 decision, that denying same-sex couples the right to marry amounted to state-sanctioned discrimination. Chief Justice Ronald George said that the court majority based its decision on a 1948 ruling that ended a California prohibition on interracial marriage–20 years before the U.S. Supreme Court did the same.

Last year, George wrote:

[I]n contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation–like a person’s race or gender–does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.

With the decision announced yesterday, George and the other California justices dodged this fundamental question of civil rights and hid behind a narrow legal question–whether Prop 8 is an amendment or a revision to the state constitution.

Under the California constitution’s equal protection clause, a majority of voters can’t revoke equal rights intended for everybody–a “revision” of that clause requires two-thirds approval in the legislature and then a popular vote. But the justices ruled that Prop 8’s language–defining marriage as a union “between a man and a woman”–was narrow enough to pass.

This is cold comfort to same-sex couples who are being told to accept separate-but-equal status. As the sole dissenting judge, Carlos Moreno, argued: “Granting same-sex couples all of the rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, except the right to call their officially recognized and protected family relationship a marriage, still denies them equal treatment.”

Prop 8 opponents also rightfully opposed the so-called “compromise” in the decision that sanctioned the 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples performed after the state Supreme Court overturned the previous ban and before Prop 8 passed last November. Plaintiff Diane Olson said that “half-measures accomplish nothing.”

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EQUAL MARRIAGE supporters have been organizing for Day of Decision demonstrations for months. More than 100 cities had scheduled responses by May 26–protests or celebrations, depending on the Supreme Court’s decision.

– In San Francisco, shouts of “Shame on you!” rang out from about 1,000 people gathered at City Hall to hear the court’s decision when it was released at 10 a.m. From there, protesters marched to the intersection of Grove and Van Ness, led by the group One Struggle One Fight (OSOF), where 150 people took part in a civil disobedience action–holding hands and sitting in a circle–with around 250 people supporting them.

OSOF activist Seth Fowler explained that the group organized civil disobedience “to peacefully and nonviolently elevate the issue of marriage rights into popular consciousness, and to push a civil rights narrative into the mainstream so that it is not seen as merely a narrow gay issue.”

Another protest organizer, Ashley Simmons, said, “We chose to have a nonviolent civil disobedience because civil rights struggles come from the bottom up.” Fowler added, “There is a place for legislative action, but it’s more than appropriate to use civil disobedience to stand up for our rights when the system fails us.”

Later in the evening, 5,000 people turned out to a rally and march organized by Equality California. The demonstrators marched from the Civic Center to Yerba Buena Gardens. When police started to arrest a woman, protesters gathered around, and another march through the streets began–as about 1,000 people headed toward the Castro. There, some 300-400 people took part in a sit-in at Castro and Market.

Marchers, many of them young, were angry and focused on organizing the next step in the fight for marriage rights. “Every negative can be turned into positive,” said one protester. “This can be fuel to enlarge the fire.”

“This is just a stumble in the fight for equality for all,” said a marcher named Danny. “We will continue to march until this battle is won.”

– In Los Angeles, several protests took place on the Day of Decision. A demonstration organized by the Latino Equality Alliance in East Los Angeles at the county clerk’s office turned out 200 people, most of them young and Latino. A favorite chant was “Gay, straight, Black, white, marriage was a civil right.”

Lt. Dan Choi, who is being dismissed from the National Guard under the federal government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, spoke at the rally. “The time to ask for things is over,” Choi said. “It’s time to tell people what we want. Rosa Parks didn’t ask for civil rights. Dolores Huerta didn’t ask for labor rights.”

Organized labor was represented at the rally, with the LA County Federation of Labor’s Maria Elena Durazo featured as a speaker.

Later that evening, more than 15,000 people rallied and marched, the mood upbeat and angry. “I don’t get why Obama won’t come out for gay marriage,” said 17-year-old Rachelle. “What’s wrong with two people loving each other? The court decision is wrong. It makes me so angry. I brought my mom and little brothers and my aunt.”

Rachelle’s mother Norma added: “I’m here for equal rights. They can’t say 18,000 being married is okay, but not overturn Prop 8.”

– In San Diego, about 3,000 people marched and rallied. Protesters were in high spirits, chanting, “Justice won’t wait. Repeal prop 8!”

Demonstrators Michael and Brian said they planned to go to the county administration building tomorrow with supporters. “Hopefully, we’re going to get out marriage license,” they said. “If not, we’re going to have a sit-in. We’re not going to leave until they give it to us. Prop 8 is not the cause of the problem. We have to go deeper than Prop 8.”

– In Seattle, where opponents of equal marriage are trying to get an anti-gay marriage initiative on the state ballot, some 1,500 people rallied downtown. Outrage over the California court’s decision was clear from the handmade signs: “Separate is never equal” and “What’s next, Prop 9? Separate drinking fountains for str8’s and gays?”

Chris, a Highline Community College student, said, “I’m out here today because I hate being a second-class citizen, and I want to be part of a movement for LGBT equality.”

The protest was organized by Join the Impact, Equal Rights Washington, Pride at Work, Stonewall Democrats and Queer Ally Coalition (QAC). Afterward, 500 people joined an impromptu march to a park in the LGBT Capital Hill neighborhood for a meeting called by QAC to discuss the next steps in the fight for full liberation.

– On the other side of the country, in New York City, as many as 5,000 people answered California’s Supreme Court ruling with an angry and spirited march that started at Stonewall Inn, the site of a 1969 riot that helped spark the gay liberation struggle of the 1970s.

Most people had heard about the protest only hours before, or joined in along the march route, but they wanted to send a message to Californians that this is New York’s fight, too. With a gay marriage bill passed in the New York State Assembly, but awaiting approval in the Senate, the urgency to demonstrate could be felt in the streets.

The lesson many took from the ruling today was the need to take the fight to the national level and build a movement to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal. “If we want change,” said protester Ed Davis, “we must fight for it. We can’t just wait to be saved.”

The New York march ended in Union Square, where one organizer summed up the mood: “This [ruling] didn’t scare me. This galvanized me.” Corey, another march organizer, spoke about the lessons of the civil rights movement: “Civil rights never won with a piecemeal, state-by-state approach. We need to fight for a federal law.”

– New York City was hardly the only place where solidarity with the fight in California ran deep.

In Chicago, 1,200 people turned out to march in the rain. In Atlanta, 125 came out. Tom, who came all the way from Greensboro, N.C., said, “It’s exciting to see that a decision made all the way in California could bring so many out to the streets to stand up for justice for all.” Some 100 protested in Northampton, Mass., 100 in Providence, R.I., 40 in Rochester, N.Y., 80 in Champaign, Ill., and 30 in New Haven, Conn.–the list goes on and on.

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MANY EQUAL marriage activists in California are looking to further their own ballot measure as a next step. The California secretary of state has given the group Yes on Equality until August 17 to collect some 700,000 signatures needed to qualify an initiative repealing Prop 8 for the 2010 ballot. Another measure would strike the word “marriage” from all state laws.

Equal marriage forces have a wide range of views on what kind of measures are needed, and whether we need more, or less, time to prepare. Some activists say that 2010 is “too soon,” and some fear a contentious referendum fight would hurt the Democratic Party’s chances in the elections.

But there has been a sea change in opinion nationwide since the wafer-thin 52 percent win on Prop 8 in November. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last month reported nearly half (49 percent) of all Americans said they were in favor of legal marriage for same-sex couples, an increase of 13 percentage points since June 2006.

It would be a crime to fritter away the momentum created by a wave of states recognizing equal marriage.

And equal marriage activists can’t worry about “hurting” Democrats at the polls. Our demands will only be taken seriously if we put them first and build a struggle that is independent of any political party.

We must also take this fight to the federal level and demand that Barack Obama repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and undo the discrimination the last Democratic president helped put in place.

Sam Bernstein, Jeff Boyette, Blair Ellis, Rick Greenblatt, Robin Horne, Cindy Kaffen, Lauren Masters, John Osmand, Leia Petty and Arturo Sernas contributed to this article.

Kwame Nkrumah: Pan-Africanist, Socialist and Revolutionary

In celebration of this years 51st African Liberation Day I am re-posting this biography of African revolutionary leader Kwame Nkrumah.

nkrumah2

Kwame Nkrumah

Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, or simply Kwame Nkrumah was born September 21st, 1909. He would become one of the most influential pan-Africanists, socialists and revolutionaries in the world, as well as the first leader of independent Ghana, and before that, its predecessor state, the Gold Coast.

In 1909, Madam Nyaniba gave birth to Francis Nwia Kofi Ngonloma in Nkroful, Gold Coast, a British Colony in the west of Africa. Nkrumah graduated from the Achimota School in Accra in 1930, later studying for the Roman Catholic Seminary and teaching at the Catholic school in Axim. In 1935 he decided to leave Ghana for the United States. In the United States he received his BA from Lincoln University in 1939, where he was also pledged to the Mu Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. He continued his academic studies in 1942, receiving his STB (Bachelor of Sacred Theology). He also went on to earn a Master of Science in education from the University of Pennsylvania, also 1942, and a Master of Arts in philosophy the following year. While lecturing in political science at Lincoln he was elected president of the African Students Organization of America and Canada. As an undergraduate at Lincoln he participated in at least one student theater production and published an essay on European government in Africa in the student newspaper,The Lincolnian.

Over the course of his studies in the US, Nkrumah visited and preached in black Presbyterian Churches in Philadelphia and New York City, as well as read books on politics and divinity. It was during this time that he encountered the ideas of of pioneering pan-Africanist and black revolutionary Marcus Garvey. He also had a job tutoring fellow students in philosophy. Also at this time, in 1943, he met the Afro-Trinidadian Marxist and Trotskyist C.L.R. James. He would later describe how it was from James that he learnt how an underground movement worked.

Following his stint in the US he left for London, England, arriving in May 1945. He had intended to study at the London School of Economics, however, after meeting with George Padmore, another influential Afro-Trinidadian Marxist, he decided to help organize the Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester. After that he founded the West African National Secretariat to work for the decolonization of Africa. He also became Vice-President of the West African Students’ Union.

He was invited to serve as the General Secretary to the United Gold Coast Convention in fall, 1947 under Joseph B. Danquah. This convention had the intention of exploring paths to independence for the then British Colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Nkrumah accepted the position and left immediately to return to his native home. After a series of brief stops in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast, he arrived in the Gold Coast in December 1947.

In February, 1948 the colonial police fired upon a protest being lead by ex-African servicemen. They were protesting the rapidly rising cost of living. The shooting itself went onto spur a series of riots across the capital of Accra, as well as Kumasi and elsewhere. The British authorities suspected the UGCC to have behind the protests and therefore took action by arresting Nkrumah and the other leading members of the movement. The imperialists soon realised their error, that the UGCC and Nkrumah had not been responsible for the riots, but it was already to late, for after his imprisonment by the colonial government, he emerged as the primary leader of the Ghanaian independence youth movement in 1948.

After his release from imperialist imprisonment, Nkrumah decided to journey around the country of his native country by way of hitch-hiking. In community after community that he visited he would proclaim that the Gold Coast needed self-government. On the basis of his community to community travels he was able to build a large base of support towards the cause of self-determination. Many rushed to his cause, such as the rural cocoa farmers who disagreed with British policy concerning the containment of swollen shoot disease. He also appealed greatly to women to become a part of the political process. This was at a time when women’s suffrage was new to, even to Western ‘Democracy’. His movement also found allies amongst working-class organisations, such as the unions. By 1949 he had coalesced these diverse groups into a new political party: The Convention People’s Party.

The British, who were making moves towards self-government for the Gold Coast, called for the drafting of a New Constitution that would grant local authorities some responsibility for policy decisions. The new constitution, which was drawn up under the influence of the Ghanaian national bourgeoisie, made wage and property requirements were the basis for suffrage. In opposition to this Nkrumah brought together his own “People’s Assembly” composed of representatives of party members, youth organizations, trade unions, farmers, and veterans. In contrast to the new bourgeoisie constitution, their proposals called for universal suffrage without property qualifications, a separate house of chiefs, and self-governing status under the Statute of Westminster. These amendments, known as the Constitutional Proposals of October 1949, were rejected by the colonial administration.

The colonial administration’s rejection of the People’s Assembly’s recommendations led directly to Nkrumah’s call for “Positive Action” in January 1950. His idea of Positive Action included civil disobedience, non-cooperation, boycotts, and strikes. In response the imperialist administration again arrested Nkrumah and many of his supporters in the CPP. Nkrumah was sentenced to three years in prison.

Under the ever increasing weight of both international protests and internal resistance, the British decided to pull out of the Gold Coast. They organized the first general election to be held in Africa under universal franchise; it was held on 5-10 February, 1951. Though in jail, Nkrumah won the election by a landslide, with the CPP taking 34 out of 38 elected seats in the Legislative Assembly.

On 12 February Nkrumah was released from prison, and on the 13th was summoned by the British Governor Charles Arden-Clarke and asked to form a government. On 20 February the new Legislative Assembly met, with Nkrumah as Leader of Government Business and E.C. Quist as President of the Assembly. A year later, on 10 March 1952, the constitution was amended to provide for a Prime Minister, and on 21 March Nkrumah was elected to that post by a secret ballot in the Assembly, 45 to 31, with eight abstentions. On 10 July 1953 he presented his “Motion of Destiny” to the Assembly, which approved it. The motion requested independence within the British Commonwealth “as soon as the necessary constitutional arrangements are made”.

As the leader of Ghana during the transition to independence he was faced with three major challenges: firstly he needed to learn the art of government on the job, secondly he needed to create a unified nation of Ghana from the four territories of the Gold Coast and finally he needed to win his nation’s independence.

On March 6, 1957, at 12 am, Nkrumah declared Ghana to be an independent nation. In celebration and in respect he was given the title of Osagyefo by the people, which translates roughly as “redeemer” or “the victorious one” in the Akan tongue.

On the same date three years later he introduced proposed constitutional changes, primarily that Ghana become a republic. In a truly revolutionary and internationalist move, the new set of proposals also called for the eventual surrender of Ghana’s sovereignty to a federal union of African states. On 19, 23, and 27 April 1960 a presidential election and plebiscite on the constitution were held. The constitution was ratified and Nkrumah elected president. Nkrumah was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union and Ghana also became a charter member of the Organization of African Unity in 1963.

While the Gold Coast was already one of the most wealthy and socially advanced territories in Africa, with schools, railways, hospitals, social security and an advanced economy. Under Nkrumah’s leadership, Ghana took steps towards a more socialist state. Nkrumah created a welfare system, started various community programs, and established schools. He ordered the construction of roads and bridges to further commerce and communication. In the interest of the nation’s health, he had tap water systems installed in the villages and ordered the construction of concrete drains for latrines.

In terms of his own personal politics, Nkrumah considered himself to be a non-aligned Marxist. He believed that the malign effects of capitalism and imperialism were going to stay with the newly independent states of Africa for a long time thereafter.

He was clear on distancing his Marxist socialism from the so-called “African socialism” of many of his contemporaries, such as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Ahmed Sékou Touré of Guinea. He argued that socialism was the system that would best accommodate the changes that capitalism had brought, while he still respected African values. His main piece articulating the differences between his Marxist socialism and African Socialism was “African Socialism Revisited”. In it he says:

“We know that the traditional African society was founded on principles of egalitarianism. In its actual workings, however, it had various shortcomings. Its humanist impulse, nevertheless, is something that continues to urge us towards our all-African socialist reconstruction. We postulate each man to be an end in himself, not merely a means; and we accept the necessity of guaranteeing each man equal opportunities for his development. The implications of this for socio-political practice have to be worked out scientifically, and the necessary social and economic policies pursued with resolution. Any meaningful humanism must begin from egalitarianism and must lead to objectively chosen policies for safeguarding and sustaining egalitarianism. Hence, socialism. Hence, also, scientific socialism.”

However, it is probably not for his socialism that he was best known, and best remembered for, but rather for being a pioneering advocate of pan-Africanism. He was inspired deeply by his interactions by his fore fathers in the field, people like Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. DuBois, George Padmore and C.L.R. James. Nkrumah would himself go onto inspire and encourage Pan-Africanist positions amongst a number of other African independence leaders and activists from the African diaspora, with perhaps Nkrumah’s biggest success in this area coming with his significant influence in the founding of the Organization of African Unity.

Towards this end he created the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party with the goal of creating and managing the political economic conditions necessary to the emergence of an All-African People’s Revolutionary Army. The A-APRA would the Africa-wide struggle against settler colonialism, Zionism, neo-colonialism, imperialism and all other forms of capitalist oppression and exploitation. The A-APRP still exists to this day, based out of Ghana, but with branches in many countries around Africa, the Caribbean, North America and Europe.

In February 1966 while he was away on a state visit to Vietnam, his government was overthrown in a CIA backed military coup. Following this, Nkrumah would never again return to Ghana, but nevertheless he continued to push for his vision of African unity from elsewhere. In particular he spent much of his exile in Conakry, Guinea, where he was the guest of Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of Guinea. He spent his time reading, writing, corresponding, gardening, and entertaining guests. Despite his retirement from public office, his fear of western intelligence agencies did not abate.

In August, 1971, with failing health he was medevaced to to Bucharest, Romania. In April, 1972 he passed away from skin cancer at the age of 62. He was buried in Ghana in a tomb (which is still present) at the village of his birth, Nkroful, but his remains were later transferred to a large national memorial tomb and park in Accra.

Today, Nkrumah is still one of the most respected leaders in African history. His legacy lives on today in the continued existence of the All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, still based out of his home of Ghana, but also in other radical pan-Africanists and socialists such as the African People’s Socialist Party and the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, both of which are based out of the United States.

So on this 51st celebration of African Liberation Day, let us remember not just Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah, but all the others who have struggled in Africa for liberation, and also those who have struggled around the world. Rest in Uhuru.