Audiotape of my talk at war and conscience weekend


Here is the tape of my keynote speech at the War and Conscience Weekend at the Unitarian Church in Golden on October 23. It can also be downloaded here. In the talk, I explore what I call exemplary activism, the psychology and leadership of radical activists of conscience, like Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, who regardless of what any one in a hierarchy tells them especially that of the Catholic Church, act to save humanity. The challenges of militarism are real; the actions, even if the press does not notice, even if they spend years in jail and even if a New York Times book reviewer regrets the poor, weak wings of a jet on which an 85 year old Daniel Berrigan beat with his ostensibly John Henry like fists…Berrigan could do no other. Seehere and here.

I distinguish these acts from other, more mass forms of political, and often nonviolent resistance, such as the repeated wave of strikes against the war at Columbia, Kent State, Jackson State et al (I took part in the Harvard strike of 1969) and large demonstrations in Washington. These are mass political actions designed to bring the war or war-supporting entities to a halt.

The distinction is not rigid. In Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi burned himself. This, too, was an exemplary act. But then ordinary people rose up and overthrew the US and French-sustained tyrant Zine El Abedine Ben Ali. In Vietnam, Thich Quang Duc burned himself - there is an eerie photo of his sitting calmly in a meditation position in the flames. This awakened the conscience of the world and inspired many to resist (though Thich Nat Hanh came to the United States, ultimately influencing King’s decision to give his speech on Vietnam on April 4, 1967, because he realized that the way of his friend was not sufficient). Norman Morrison, a Quaker, followed Quang Duc’s example at the White House with less startling though I think still profound results. This is a particularly terrifying form of exemplary activism, one whose sadness there are no words to express.

Often, exemplary activism ends in jail or death, and without sparking the huge movement against injustice for which it is an angry prayer. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, leading a multiracial band of 50 activists, is a paradigm. And yet when the South hanged Brown, the gatherings all over the North and Canada, led by Thoreau and Emerson (Emerson spoke of “the gallows glittering like the cross”), mobilized abolitionist sentiment from below, repelled the slave-owners, and crystallized Civil War. Blue coats marched into battle singing “John Brown’s body lies amouldering in the grave, but his soul goes marching on.” The Battle Hymn of the Republic ingloriously replaces these too honorable and incendiary words. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote it, is a great figure, but the supplanting of one by the other still has this fairly racist significance. What the Battle Hymn says wrongly is that ours is not a republic of freedom upheld by great struggles against the odds to overthrow slavery for which many paid with their lives. Yet at its best as in “John Brown’s body,” America is, “America will be,” as Langston Hughes put it.

I detail the war complex, the “great demonic destructive suction tube at war with the poor” in Martin Luther King’s words. Recently, Deborah Avant spoke at my school of the increasing role of mercenaries, privately manipulated by the Executive in American wars beyond any popular, democratic or Congressional control. Of course, the mercenaries, 7 for every 3 soldiers currently in Afghanistan, have also eaten out the military from within; as I have emphasized elsewhere, the American military is now a privatized shadow. See here and here. But Avant brought up a 2004 Bush escalation which she asked how many people, in an audience of 100, at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, knew about. Not one of us did (not even me, who, a scholar of these matters and anti-War activist, would certainly aspire to know such things). Bush sent 70,000 mercenaries into Iraq without a whisper of public discussion…

I recently spoke with my dean Chris Hill, who had just left the foreign service as ambassador to Iraq in August before coming to the University of Denver. He told me there were 50,000 troops but 72,000 mercenaries still there: a total of 122,000. Outside the corporate press, the figure 75,000 mercenaries has occasionally appeared. But in the New York Times, even last week, the figure of American occupying troops was 55, 000 rather than 127,000. Avant hopes that her research, and perhaps democratic attention will lead to the corporate press responding. She emphasizes the remarkably anti-democratic character of these arrangements; they strengthen what Schmitt and Strauss (see hereherehere, and here) call sovereignty or Fuehrer power – Schmitt on the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 – or “commander in chief power.” This is a frightening development in its independence from democratic scrutiny or control. I hope she is right about protest and urge everyone to expose these practices and act against them. But militarism, as King says, is a great weight. It extends, through the war complex even into last week’s dishonest coverage of the somewhat diminished occupation of Iraq under Obama. May this war and conscience weekend be the first of many exemplary and mass acts of resistance…*

*The church did not lend itself to recording. I would like especially to thank Scott Houck and Adrienne Christy for painstakingly creating a good tape.

ALAN GILBERT:  is john Evans professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and author of Marx's Politics:Communists and Citizens (Rutgers, 1980), Democratic Individuality (Cambridge, 1990), Must Global Politics Constrain Democracy (1999) and Emancipation and Independence (Chicago 2009 fortchcoming),  Gilbert is also an active member of the Metro State Faculty Federation, AFT Colorado and an activist with Colorado Jobs with Justice.


Liberals vs. Radicals

Liberals utter bold words at meetings; they strut, grimace belligerently, and then issue a weasel-worded statement "which has tremendous implications, if read between the lines." They endlessly pass resolutions and endlessly do nothing. They sit calmly, dispassionately, studying the issue; judging both sides; they sit and sit still. The radical does not sit frozen by cold objectivity. He sees injustice and strikes at it with hot passion. He is a man of decision and action.

Liberals protest; radicals rebel. Liberals become indignant; radicals become fighting mad and go into action. Liberals do not modify their personal lives and what they give to a cause is small part of their lives; radicals give themselves to the cause. Liberals give and take oral arguments; radicals give and take the hard, dirty, bitter way of life. Liberals frequently achieve high places of respectability, ranging from the Supreme Court to Congress; the names of radicals are rarely inscribed in marble but burn eternally in the hearts of man. Liberals have tender beliefs and are filled with repugnance at the grime, the sordidness, the pain, the persecution, and the heart-break of battle; radicals have tough convictions which are calloused by the rough road of direct action. Liberals play the game of life with white and occasionally red chips; with the radical it's only blue chips, and all the chips are always down. Liberals dream dreams; radicals build the world of men's dreams.

There were those few, and there will be more, who really liked people loved people—all people. They were the human torches setting aflame the hearts of men so that they passionately fought for the rights of their fellow men, all men. They were hated, feared and branded as radicals. They wore the epithet of radical as a badge of honor. They fought for the right of men to govern themselves, for the right of men to walk erect as free men and not grovel before kings, for the Bill of Rights, for the abolition of slavery, for public education, and for everything decent and worthwhile. They loved men and fought for them. Their neighbor's misery was their misery. They acted as they believed.

The radical believes the complete man needs a complete job—a job for the heart as well as the hand—a jobs where he can say to himself, "What I do is important and has its place."

The radical will fight conservatives, whether they are business or labor leaders. He will fight any concentration of power hostile to a broad, popular democracy...


Excerpt from Reveille for Radicals by Saul Alinsky

posted by Russell Bannan


Over 200 Union Members Shut Down Bankers Summit

Shouting "Where are the jobs?" and "Where is the money?" the over 200 union members of The Laborers’ International Union of North America, the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the AFL-CIO shut down a Mortgage Bankers Association summit in Washington D.C. for about 10 minutes on Wednesday, taking over the stage to protest against home builder PulteGroup Inc.

The Unions reported that taxpayers have provided $900 million in tax breaks to Pulte with the goal of creating jobs. Instead the have only seen layoffs.

They protested the summit held by the Mortgage Bankers Association of America because "this is where Pulte is, and the mortgage bankers should know," says  Marc Norberg, who led the protest. "Pulte used that money for land acquisition, and that land isn't being used," continued Norberg.

The Union workers stated "We're with the AFL-CIO."

posted by Russell Bannan

AFT Colorado Members and Leaders Join Call for New Era

State AFT Leader Joins Jobs Rally at Capitol
To Call for New Era of Economic Security in Colorado

DENVER—AFT Colorado members and leaders joined hundreds of others on the west steps of the Capitol to call on state legislators and other elected officials to support an agenda that will get people back to work in 2011.

“We all must stand together and fight to establish a new era of economic stability for Colorado and prosperity for our state’s families,” said Andy Pippin, vice president of AFT Colorado. He was one of several speakers at today’s rally, which was organized by the AFL-CIO and included Colorado WINS, which represents state workers.

“All Coloradans, including its teachers and public employees, understand the state’s difficult budget crisis, but we have to be careful not to make a bad situation worse. We need fixes that won’t jeopardize essential state services that the public depends on, and that won’t lead to the loss of experts who perform important state functions or teachers and other school staff,” Pippin said.

continue reading Call for New Era

reposted by Russell Bannan


Labor Board to Sue Utah, Arizona, South Carolina, and South Dakota for Unconstitutional Amendments

NLRB advises four states that constitutional amendments conflict with federal labor law 

On January 14, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board advised the Attorneys General of Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah that recently-approved state constitutional amendments governing the method by which employees choose union representation conflict with federal labor law, and therefore are preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The states were also advised that the Board has authorized the Acting General Counsel to file lawsuits in federal court, if necessary, to enjoin them from enforcing the laws. 

Below are links to the advisory letters, Press Release, and Fact Sheet.


posted by Russell Bannan


Rhode Island JwJ Wins Victory Against Anti-Immigrant "Secure Communities"

By Camilo Viveiros, on January 11th, 2011

Earlier this month, Rhode Island Jobs with Justice won a great victory with our new Governor Chaffee rescinding the anti-immigrant executive order by the former Governor to implement Secure Communities—which would open the doors for local law enforcement to turn over immigrant records to ICE. But we still need to defeat attempts by the Attorney General to put it into operation!
Our New Attorney General Kilmartin (who had strong Labor support) is still pushing for the police to implement the policy. There is still some confusion about whether or not particular police departments can opt out, and we have heard opposing opinions from the Rhode Island ACLU and others.
Rhode Island JwJ and Rhode Island JwJ members (including the Olneyville Neighborhood Association, English for Action, and FL) pushed hard to get Chafee (and all gubernatorial candidates) to to commit to rescinding the former Governors’ anti-immigrant executive order. Rhode Island JwJ specifically worked with many unions who endorsed Chafee to firm up his commitment, including SEIU 615, which is comprised of mostly immigrant workers doing janitorial work. Rhode Island JwJ and Ocean State Action spent months educating and mobilizing Latino voters around this issue.
We will monitor the next step needed, a clear communication to police agencies, in order to rescind the remaining Secure Communities aspects of the executive order.
Last week, RI JwJ followed up the Governor’s press conference announcing the change with an action at Attorney General Kilmartin’s offices.  We sent the message that this is only to first action that we will take against any efforts to bring secure communities to Rhode Island.  Secure Communities will not be implemented without a fight.


Community Leaders Outraged by "Secure Communities Program"


DENVER, CO- Concerned community members, human rights advocates, journalists, clergy, business owners, authors, political activists, labor union leaders, and educators are outraged at Governor Bill Ritter’s Executive Order to introduce Colorado into the federal Secure Communities Program. This program authorizes law enforcement agencies to execute federal immigration laws, creating an environment conducive to racial profiling, harassment and discrimination targeting immigrants and Latinos residing or visiting the State of Colorado.  

“This Executive Order is bad social and economic policy at a time when the Latino and immigrant community are besieged by anti-immigrant sentiment and additional funds necessary to implement this order will further strain limited state resources. The Executive Order is a wrongheaded approach to solve the immigration issue in Colorado. The implementation of these policies can hinder rather than attain public safety when it increases community mistrust of the police; the same people we should trust to protect us rather than racially profile us and separate us from our families.” stated Solomon Juarez, President of the Denver Metro Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA). “The impact of this policy will be felt not just by immigrants but also the broader Latino community.”

“Any legislation that will jeopardize the wellbeing of children and families in Colorado should not be implemented.  Governor Ritter’s Executive Order will tear families apart and hurt the social fabric of communities in Colorado.   Our communities deserve commonsense legislation that promotes public safety while ensuring the well-being of our children.  We reap what we sow and we can do better than policies that leave households without breadwinners and children without their loved ones,” declared Bernadette Jiron, Denver Federation of Paraprofessionals and Nutrition Service Employees President.

Over 30 community leaders signed the Open Letter to Governor Ritter to address their concern of the Secure Communities Program.  “We will not tolerate such an undemocratic order which incentivizes racial profiling, condones authoritarianism, and potentially divides our communities,” the letter continues by stating “Allowing the implementation of the Secure Communities Program would send a very troubling message and be viewed, by many, as a sign that state democracy and human rights are not valued or tolerated within Colorado. In our view, this would have negative consequences for the families directly affected, the state of Colorado itself, and the United States as a whole.”

Now more than ever, community leaders urge reversing the Executive Oorder that dishonors the rights and dignity of all people. The well-being and security of our nation depends on it.

An Open Letter of Concern To Governor Bill Ritter About the Secure Communities Program

posted by Russell Bannan


SAVE THE DATE! Jobs with Justice National Conference

By Allison Fletcher Acosta, on January 3rd, 2011

Build power.  Fight back. WIN!
Jobs with Justice National Conference
August 5-7, 2011 in Washington, DC
This year – starting now – we are expecting an array of serious attacks on workers’ rights to hit state legislatures, including Right to Work for Less laws, paycheck deception, anti-prevailing wage bills, anti-immigrant bills, and continued attacks on the public sector.  Corporations want to use the failing economy as an excuse to reverse every worker protection put in place over the last century, but we won’t let that happen.
Come to the Jobs with Justice conference to learn from and strategize with labor leaders, rank & file workers, students, religious leaders, community activists, workers excluded from labor law protection, and many, many more about how to build a powerful movement of working people to defeat the corporate agenda.
Please save the date & stay tuned to learn more about the program, action, and celebrations planned at the 2011 Jobs with Justice

National Rite Aid Action Reports

Final Wrap Up Report - Jan 4 2011