Tag Archives: sherrytalksback

Why Are There M16s Outside Macy’s?

I hadn’t owned a watch in years and when I saw Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan was having a sale I decided to endure the phalanx of perfume purveyors and doodad distributors on their ground floor in the interest of punctuality.

Fifty-three clams lighter, I popped out onto 34th Street and was practically beheaded by an upheld M16 machine gun toted by a Ninja Turtle suit that I assume had a human being somewhere inside. In all fairness, I know nothing about guns so for all I know it was a Kalashnikov or Uzi, but you get my point.

Why are there solders carrying high-powered weapons outside Macy’s—and, as I soon discovered, on many Midtown streets?

New Yorkers who have lived here since 9/11 seem to take the regular presence of soldiers with automatic weapons in public places in stride. Having moved away for some years, it is still shocking to me that this along with random searches of bags in subways—well, not so random if you’re Black or Brown—has become part of regular life under the “war on terror.”

I detest the militarization of Gotham and I don’t believe any of us are safer for it.

First of all, that guy who left his SUV with an unexploded bomb in it did so in the most patrolled area of the United States—Times Square—and yet he was only noticed by a civilian. Second, there are probably few things more potentially deadly on the packed streets of Midtown than a soldier firing off an automatic weapon. Third, for those who buy into the logic that this might deter a terrorist attack, I fail to see what those soldiers could have done to prevent 9/11.

None of this in my opinion makes Americans any safer. In fact, this steroid-infused security operation is about justifying the expense and continuance of wars and occupations around the world. What’s more, it plays into the fearmongering of bigots who want us to think that our Muslim and Arab neighbors may be harboring secret plans to do us in.

The same goes for those continual subway announcements about reporting suspicious people and unusual happenings. Should I turn in the impeccably coiffed guy in a stunning Italian suit sitting next to a homeless man in rags on the F train? What counts as suspicious and unusual?

Anyway, I don’t feel any safer. To be honest, these soldiers and announcements and cops riffling through Brown men’s bags make me feel downright agitated.

My next public talk is on Fighting the Right, Friday, Oct. 15th , Rochester Inst. of Technology, Library’s “Idea Factory,” 7PM

Thanks to MELISSA WILKS for the cool new logo—I’ve been branded!

If you’re looking for a campus speaker on LGBT and gender issues or fighting the right, check out some snazzy things that folks who’ve invited me to their campuses have to say:

Sherry Wolf knows her stuff, and delivers smart political analysis with astonishing dynamism and wit that will have you out of your seat and laughing until you cry. Her rip-roaring presentations—about the failure of liberal politics today to deliver real change for minorities, gays and lesbians, immigrants, and the poor—are great for many audiences, including students and activists. Bring her in to speak. You’ll learn more than you bargained for and leave the auditorium wanting to change the world. —Dana Cloud, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Director of Graduate Studies, University of Texas at Austin

Thinking of inviting Sherry Wolf to your campus? You should—and right away.  Sherry has that rare ability to make big ideas accessible to diverse audiences, and to do so in a way that invites people to think along with her to open up dynamic and challenging conversations.  What’s more, Sherry brings humility, confidence, and a sharpsense of humor, to her presentations that will keep everyone engaged.  A variety of faculty, staff and student LGBT associations brought Sherry to speak about her book at Michigan State University in February 2010. The room was packed.  What struck me about the event was Sherry’s ability to clarify important disagreements and debates in the discussion that helped everyone in attendance to learn more about gender and sexual equality.  Her visit was worth every penny of the (already modest) speaker’s fee.—Jeff Bale, Assistant Professor of Second Language Education Faculty Liaison to GLFSA, Michigan State University’s  LGBT faculty and staff association

The Right’s New Tough Love

The headlines read like an Onion spoof of the right’s anti-government, privatize everything mantra: “No pay, no spray: Firefighters let home burn.” If it weren’t for the fact that Gene Cranick and his wife lost their mobile home, three dogs and all of their possessions in that blaze, it might even be funny.

David Crocker, the mayor of South Fulton, which provides firefighting services to that area of rural Tennessee for a $75-a-year fee perfectly expressed the each-man-for-himself logic afoot here when he said, “It’s a service we offer. Either they accept it or they don’t.”

To punctuate this sentiment, the fire chief even refused Cranick’s on-site offer to pay the fee while his home burned, supposedly to teach the rest of that rural area a lesson. But what is the lesson? When government is run like a business—you get what you pay for—then we enter novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand’s objectivist ideal, a world where individualism reigns.

The right wing in this country loves that concept. From Tea Partiers like Glenn Beck to Libertarians like Ron Paul, individualism is touted as the great American ideal.

They cite as their mentor Ayn Rand, author of the classic 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged—which is having a bit of a resurgence these days according to the Economist and my own perception of reading preferences among suits on the subway. Individualism, however, is the enemy of anyone who wants to live—excuse the hippie reference—in social harmony with others.

As I explained a few years back in “The Freedom to Starve”: There is a scene in Monty Python’s satire Life of Brian where Brian, not wanting to be the messiah, calls out to the crowd: “You are all individuals.” The crowd responds in unison: “We are all individuals.”

The right wing , using pseudo-iconoclastic logic, transforms this comical send-up of religious conformity into their own secular dogma in which we are all just atomized beings. “Only an individual has rights,” not groups such as workers, Blacks, gays, women, and minorities, they argue.

True, we are all individuals, but we didn’t just bump into one another. Human beings by nature are social beings who live in a collective, a society. Under capitalism, society is broken down into classes in which some individuals—bosses, for example—wield considerably more power than others—workers.

To advocate for society to be organized on the basis of strict individualism, as the right wing does, is to argue that everyone has the right to do whatever he or she wants. Sounds nice in the abstract, perhaps. But what happens when the desires of one individual infringe on the desires of another?

Libertarians like Paul are more blunt about the logical ramifications of their argument. “The dictatorial power of a majority” he argues ought to be replaced by the unencumbered power of individuals, in other words, the dictatorial power of a minority.

So if the chairman of Dow Chemical wants to flush his company’s toxic effluence into rivers and streams, so be it. If General Motors wants to pay its employees starvation wages, that’s their right too. Right-wingers often appear to not want to grapple with meddlesome things like economic and social power. As the bourgeois radical Abraham Lincoln observed of secessionist slaveowners, “The perfect liberty they seek is the liberty of making slaves of other people.”

And so Gene Cranick is now the latest victim of shrink government, praise individualism gone amuck. This is madness that must be challenged.

Trillions exist for wars and occupations, bank bailouts and corporate giveaways that the New York Times earlier this week detailed have led not to hiring workers but to further corporate speculation and profiteering. I wish we could challenge this by walking into a ballot box in November and pulling a lever, but all historical examples point to the need for a fightback among working people and the poor.

May I offer up the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) as a bold example of how we can begin to turn the tide? Just yesterday, the CTU—a union of 30,000, newly run by radicals, including open reds—announced a victory for teachers facing illegal firings. The new leadership earned its chops on the streets fighting school closures, privatization and the business model destroying America’s schools.

I’ll write more about the CTU in future posts. But suffice it to say that in a country where the right and the tepid Democrats who mimic their policies tell us we have no choice but to accept watching as our neighbors’ homes burn, there are alternatives to this new tough love.

Sherry Wolf  is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Sexuality and Socialism, How Can We Unite and Fight the Right and other topics at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of theInternational Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation(Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.

Socialists Attacked by Glenn Beck

And why exactly are we supposed to think that socialists who believe that the people who produce society’s wealth—workers—shouldn’t democratically control it? Ya know, as opposed to billionaire parasites. There’s something weirdly satisfying about being attacked by Glenn Beck. Respect from the enemy?

But with Obama’s FBI raiding the homes of solidarity activists under the pretext of “terrorism,” Becks’ attacks on socialists also feed into the witch-hunt. It’s a bizarre time when the presidential target of the right is aligned with the left who themselves are under attack by….the president! A bit chilling, frankly.

Watch and decide.

And Then They Came For My Blackberry

Why does the federal government want the ability to know that I’ll be five minutes late to my pooch’s vet appointment? Or that my girlfriend, a refined literary type, would rather perish than text “gr8″ or “c u.” Her missives are syntactically impeccable—she once texted the word “incongruous.” Naturally, I was smitten.

Articles in the New York Times and Washington Post yesterday morning make it clear—as if last Friday morning’s raids on social justice activists’ homes were not evidence enough—that the Obama administration is swiping a page from the Bush playbook when it comes to the national security apparatus. Glenn Greenwald’s excellent analysis piece on this is a must-read.

Like the obscurantist regimes in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. government aims to monitor every means of communication among its citizens. This is very bad news.

The pretext, of course, is that the feds must be able to read our currently encrypted Blackberry and Skype communications to fight “terrorism.” Is there any word in the English languish today more hollowed of meaning and less descriptive than the word “terrorism?” This once potent-sounding word has become a catch-all for anything the government wants to suppress.

Horrified by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and want to bring aid to suffering people? You’re a terrorist. Gripped with fear for the world’s future because the planet is getting warmer and governmental inaction has driven you to protest? You’re a terrorist.

Everything of course is terrorism to the American state except what they do with their stealth drones over Pakistan or with their hundreds of thousands of mercenaries—unaccountable and unknown in places unspoken. Don’t even ask about Guantánamo. Really. Don’t. Nobody’s saying.

Do they really aim to convince the American public that Jewish lesbian socialists like me pal around with Al Qaeda? Are they familiar with our slightly differing zeitgeists? Of course they are. The aim here in targeting all dissenters is to stifle all dissent. It’s an old game—throw enough shit at the wall and see what sticks.

This is a volatile moment in our history. With the economy in shambles and the globe at war—of the “soft” trade type or the hot bomb type—we on the broad left have a responsibility to pose a collective alternative to state-sponsored madness. War abroad has always been accompanied by intensified repression at home. In the face of the state’s attempts to frighten and divide, it really is going to come down to our solidarity versus theirs.

So in the interest of making it simple for those interested, here are the highlights of what’s in my Blackberry for the week: At 4:30PM today, I’ll be outside the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan, 26 Federal Plaza, protesting their raids on solidarity activists. Afterwards, at 7PM, I’ll try and encourage others to join me at the book launch for Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Tuesday, Sept. 28, click for details.

Wednesday at 6:30 I’ll be at the LGBT Center on 13th St. in Manhattan for a meeting of activists working to raise funds for a US boat to Gaza, come join us! And this Saturday, October 2, I’ll join the socialist contingent at the One Nation March in Washington. D.C., a rally for jobs, peace and justice called by the labor movement and NAACP and joined by hundreds of progressive groups. Thankfully, many different socialist groups are coming together at that rally to pose an alternative pole to the left of the “vote Dems” mantra that will dominate from the stage. Find out more about it here.

Where I’m taking my gal for her birthday dinner, however, is our secret.

Sherry Wolf  is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Sexuality and Socialism, How Can We Unite and Fight the Right and other topics at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.

More on Obama’s Raids on Reds

Yesterday, I posted the piece below and received an unusual uptick in hits to my blog looking for info about the raids, where to go to protest and the analysis piece I wrote below about why this crap happens in the first place and a brief history of counterintelligence ops in the United States.

In addition to reposting this info today, I wanted to relate that more groups have added statements of solidarity and plan to mobilize in opposition to these outrageous attacks on all of our civil liberties. The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) has posted a statement, as well as the International Socialist Organization and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) sent out e-mails to the tens of thousands on their listserves about local protest actions. Please circulate this info to ensure the maximum turnout. The folks at the top may have money, media and power, but we have our numbers and the potential to build solidarity—USE IT!

From Sunday, Sept. 26:

Obama’s FBI raided the homes of Latin America and Palestine solidarity activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities Friday morning. The news is a chilling reminder that whether this country is run by warmongering bigots like Bush or sweet-talking Dems like Obama—who may not monger for war, but he certainly pursues it with zeal—minority elites  must monitor and stifle dissent among the majority population. It is a prerequisite of empire.

I am heartened to see that these raids are being condemned by progressives across the country—from the 150 peace activists who attended a Twin Cities emergency response meeting within hours of the raids and protests outside FBI bureaus to a statement by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

Here’s the updated list of protests (Sept. 27)

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

Minneapolis, 4:30 p.m., FBI office, 111 Washington Ave. S.

Chicago, 4:30 p.m., FBI office, 2111 W. Roosevelt Road

Kalamazoo, Mich., 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 410 W. Michigan Ave.

Salt Lake City, 9 a.m., Federal Building

Durham, N.C., 12 Noon, Federal Building, 323 E. Chapel Hill St.

Buffalo, N.Y., 4:30 p.m., FBI office, corner of S. Elmwood Avenue and Niagra Street

Gainesville, Fla., 4:30 p.m., FBI office

Boston, 4 p.m., JFK Federal Building, Government Center

Houston, 5-6:30PM, Mickey Leland Federal Building, Smith and St. Josephs

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

New York City, 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza

Newark, N.J., 5 p.m., Federal Building, Broad Street

Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 6th and Market

Washington, D.C., 4:30 p.m., FBI Building, 935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Boston, 5 p.m., JFK Federal Building

Detroit, 4:30 p.m., McNamara Federal Building, Michigan Avenue at Cass

Raleigh, N.C., 9 a.m., Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave.

Asheville, N.C., 5 p.m., Federal Building

Atlanta, 12 Noon, FBI Building

Los Angeles, 5 p.m., Downtown Federal Building, 300 N. Los Angeles St.

Tucson, Ariz., 5 p.m., Federal Building

San Francisco,  5pm at the Federal Building, 7th St. and Mission, San Francisco

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

Albany, N.Y., 5 p.m., Federal Building

Below I have reposted an article that I wrote after the Bush administration was exposed for widespread spying on activists a few years ago called  “Spies, Lies and War: Lessons of COINTELPRO,” (COINTELPRO, Counter Intelligence Program), originally published in the International Socialist Review. Tragically, this piece is once again timely. Please feel free to circulate widely.

Spies, lies and war: The lessons of COINTELPRO

By SHERRY WOLF

SURVEILLANCE AND infiltration are weapons in the arsenal of the state machinery—from dictatorships like Egypt to Western democracies like the United States. How else could minority elites hope to monitor and stifle dissent among their exploited and oppressed majorities? Especially in times of war, when the façade of diplomacy is lifted and the true brutality of states is unleashed, a premium is placed on silencing or crushing any domestic discord that threatens national unity. War abroad, to put it bluntly, is always accompanied by intensified repression at home.

This is the context of the political bombshell dropped by the New York Times on December 16, 2005, when it exposed the Bush administration’s wiretapping and spying on thousands of citizens and non-citizens through the National Security Agency (NSA). The corporate media focuses on the narrow debate inside the Beltway over whether or not the administration should be getting easily obtained warrants before intruding on the privacy of citizens and others. But part of the real scandal lies in the fact that the supposed opposition party, the Democrats, are in full agreement with the state’s monitoring of e-mails, phone calls, and meetings. As Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) put it, “We all support surveillance.”1 As with the war on Iraq, the debate is over form, not content.

The American state has never hesitated to break its own laws—or make up new ones—in order to spy on and intimidate those who dare to disagree with its policies. Nor has it hesitated to use the tactics of scapegoating and fear-mongering to further these aims. The post 9-11 hysteria against Arabs and Muslims, the heated passage of the Patriot Act, the surveillance, roundup, interrogation, detention, and deportation of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, is just the latest round. The tactic in each case is to target one part of the population, whip up hatred and hysteria, and use the new political climate to justify using similar measures against an ever-wider list of organizations and classes of people.

The Espionage Act of 1917, and an amendment, the Sedition Act of 1918 made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States,” punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to twenty years in prison. During the Palmer Raids in the aftermath of the First World War, the Bureau of Investigation-forerunner of the FBI-rounded up 6,000 radicals and exiled 1,000 foreign-born socialists and anarchists, using these acts as justification. During the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1940s and 1950s, a coalition of government bureaucrats, employers, and right-wing activists hounded and fired thousands of communists, leftists, trade unionists, and civil rights activists. These legal suspensions of democratic rights, often initiated by Democrats and almost always supported on both sides of the aisle, were promoted in the name of defending national security.

Each time these activities expanded the scope of state repression. Radical historian Noam Chomsky describes how following the Second World War, Senate liberals including Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) and Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) proposed “the ultimate weapon of repression: concentration camps to intern potential troublemakers on the occasion of some loosely defined future ‘Internal Security Emergency.’”2 Not much has changed since then. Don Goldwater, son of the late senator Barry Goldwater and GOP candidate for governor in Arizona, recently called for the creation of forced labor camps for undocumented immigrants.3 The so-called liberal media, such as the New York Times, which sat on the NSA story for a year at the request of the Bush administration, applauded the expulsion of a socialist assemblyman following the Palmer Raids. In the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, theWashington Post editorialized against “hairsplitting over infringement of liberty.”4

A new generation of antiwar and social justice activists needs to learn the lessons of the last wave of state repression, spying, and infiltration. There is far too much ground to cover on this broad issue than can be done justice in the scope of a single article, therefore I’ve chosen to focus on a few highlights [lowlights?] of the government’s intervention in the Black liberation and socialist movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Sherry Wolf  is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Sexuality and Socialism, How Can We Unite and Fight the Right and other topics at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.

Obama’s Raids on Reds

Obama’s FBI raided the homes of Latin America and Palestine solidarity activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities Friday morning. The news is a chilling reminder that whether this country is run by warmongering bigots like Bush or sweet-talking Dems like Obama—who may not monger for war, but he certainly pursues it with zeal—minority elites  must monitor and stifle dissent among the majority population. It is a prerequisite of empire.

I am heartened to see that these raids are being condemned by progressives across the country—from the 150 peace activists who attended a Twin Cities emergency response meeting within hours of the raids and protests outside FBI bureaus to a statement by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

Minneapolis, 4:30 p.m., FBI office, 111 Washington Ave. S.

Chicago, 4:30 p.m., FBI office, 2111 W. Roosevelt Road

Kalamazoo, Mich., 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 410 W. Michigan Ave.

Salt Lake City, 9 a.m., Federal Building

Durham, N.C., 12 Noon, Federal Building, 323 E. Chapel Hill St.

Buffalo, N.Y., 4:30 p.m., FBI office, corner of S. Elmwood Avenue and Niagra Street

Gainesville, Fla., 4:30 p.m., FBI office

Boston, 4 p.m., JFK Federal Building, Government Center

Houston, 5-6:30PM, Mickey Leland Federal Building, Smith and St. Josephs

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28

New York City, 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza

Newark, N.J., 5 p.m., Federal Building, Broad Street

Philadelphia, 4:30 p.m., Federal Building, 6th and Market

Washington, D.C., 4:30 p.m., FBI Building, 935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Boston, 5 p.m., JFK Federal Building

Detroit, 4:30 p.m., McNamara Federal Building, Michigan Avenue at Cass

Raleigh, N.C., 9 a.m., Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave.

Asheville, N.C., 5 p.m., Federal Building

Atlanta, 12 Noon, FBI Building

Los Angeles, 5 p.m., Downtown Federal Building, 300 N. Los Angeles St.

Tucson, Ariz., 5 p.m., Federal Building

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29

Albany, N.Y., 5 p.m., Federal Building

Below I have reposted an article that I wrote after the Bush administration was exposed for widespread spying on activists a few years ago called “Spies, Lies and War: Lessons of COINTELPRO,” (COINTELPRO, Counter Intelligence Program), originally published in the International Socialist Review. Tragically, this piece is once again timely. Please feel free to circulate widely.

Spies, lies and war: The lessons of COINTELPRO

By SHERRY WOLF

SURVEILLANCE AND infiltration are weapons in the arsenal of the state machinery—from dictatorships like Egypt to Western democracies like the United States. How else could minority elites hope to monitor and stifle dissent among their exploited and oppressed majorities? Especially in times of war, when the façade of diplomacy is lifted and the true brutality of states is unleashed, a premium is placed on silencing or crushing any domestic discord that threatens national unity. War abroad, to put it bluntly, is always accompanied by intensified repression at home.

This is the context of the political bombshell dropped by the New York Times on December 16, 2005, when it exposed the Bush administration’s wiretapping and spying on thousands of citizens and non-citizens through the National Security Agency (NSA). The corporate media focuses on the narrow debate inside the Beltway over whether or not the administration should be getting easily obtained warrants before intruding on the privacy of citizens and others. But part of the real scandal lies in the fact that the supposed opposition party, the Democrats, are in full agreement with the state’s monitoring of e-mails, phone calls, and meetings. As Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) put it, “We all support surveillance.”1 As with the war on Iraq, the debate is over form, not content.

The American state has never hesitated to break its own laws—or make up new ones—in order to spy on and intimidate those who dare to disagree with its policies. Nor has it hesitated to use the tactics of scapegoating and fear-mongering to further these aims. The post 9-11 hysteria against Arabs and Muslims, the heated passage of the Patriot Act, the surveillance, roundup, interrogation, detention, and deportation of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, is just the latest round. The tactic in each case is to target one part of the population, whip up hatred and hysteria, and use the new political climate to justify using similar measures against an ever-wider list of organizations and classes of people.

The Espionage Act of 1917, and an amendment, the Sedition Act of 1918 made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States,” punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to twenty years in prison. During the Palmer Raids in the aftermath of the First World War, the Bureau of Investigation-forerunner of the FBI-rounded up 6,000 radicals and exiled 1,000 foreign-born socialists and anarchists, using these acts as justification. During the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1940s and 1950s, a coalition of government bureaucrats, employers, and right-wing activists hounded and fired thousands of communists, leftists, trade unionists, and civil rights activists. These legal suspensions of democratic rights, often initiated by Democrats and almost always supported on both sides of the aisle, were promoted in the name of defending national security.

Each time these activities expanded the scope of state repression. Radical historian Noam Chomsky describes how following the Second World War, Senate liberals including Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) and Estes Kefauver (D-Tenn.) proposed “the ultimate weapon of repression: concentration camps to intern potential troublemakers on the occasion of some loosely defined future ‘Internal Security Emergency.’”2 Not much has changed since then. Don Goldwater, son of the late senator Barry Goldwater and GOP candidate for governor in Arizona, recently called for the creation of forced labor camps for undocumented immigrants.3 The so-called liberal media, such as the New York Times, which sat on the NSA story for a year at the request of the Bush administration, applauded the expulsion of a socialist assemblyman following the Palmer Raids. In the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Washington Post editorialized against “hairsplitting over infringement of liberty.”4

A new generation of antiwar and social justice activists needs to learn the lessons of the last wave of state repression, spying, and infiltration. There is far too much ground to cover on this broad issue than can be done justice in the scope of a single article, therefore I’ve chosen to focus on a few highlights [lowlights?] of the government’s intervention in the Black liberation and socialist movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Click here to read the rest of this article.

Sherry Wolf  is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Sexuality and Socialism, How Can We UNite and Fight the Right and other topics at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.

Techdud Chats With Glenn Greenwald

A couple of hundred newbies and seasoned politicos managed to breach the phalanx of trial lawyers in training at Brooklyn Law School last evening to attend a really fantastic event on the Mavi Marmara Flotilla massacre—the Turkish humanitarian aid ship attacked in international waters off Gaza on Memorial Day, leaving 9 dead.

Speaking were Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald, Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi and Gaza Flotilla survivor Fatima Mohammadi. Greenwald will be posting a video of it on his blog, which I enthusiastically recommend.

Afterward I had an opportunity to chat with Greenwald, whose writings and TV appearances have provided a rare whiff of sane commentary to a mass audience in the United States. He lives part-time in Brazil with his partner, giving him bragging rights over all of us on commuting nightmares. Naturally, techdud—that would be me—managed to record every fart and burp in the room during two hours, but I’m tearing my hair out trying to find what appears to be a lost recording of the five minutes I snagged with Greenwald at the end.

I won’t attempt to recreate it all—since you’re likely to think I just pulled it out of my ass—but I do want to comment on the sense of what he said to me as well as those in the room. And at the end I do post Greenwald’s recorded response to a young fellow wondering—like more than a few of us—if it will take riots to win some change.

Since Greenwald posted the snarky commentary last week by President Obama about liberal criticisms of his administration at a $30,000-per-plate dinner, complete with chortles, I asked Greenwald about the posture of the Obama administration regarding the left. Previously that sort of snippiness was outsourced to Obama’s Uzi-toting, potty-mouthed chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel.

Greenwald responded that under siege by the right, Obama and co. really do feel they are unjustly attacked by the left. Rather than blame their own inept policies, the administration is pointing fingers at liberals and the left for their lack of enthusiasm and will blame us if they go down in flames during the midterms.

When I asked him about the inevitable liberal drum beat over the coming weeks leading into November—that the barbarians are at the gates and we must circle the wagons and support “our team” (the Dems)—I thought his response was spot on (and will forever kick myself if I don’t locate his actual words).

Greenwald said that every election year we are told is the most important of our lives and this one will be no different. But that because there are only two political parties—according to his Wikipedia page, Greenwald doesn’t vote for either of them, making us kindred spirits—we are trapped in this narrative of one or the other. Inevitably it means that the Dems take us for granted because where else would the left go and so there is no weaker position than buying into that because it guarantees that the left will never get anything  without a fight.

Amen brother.

One last thing that I did capture on tape. A young man of about 20 was the first to ask a question in the room. Keep in mind that this was in a law school, not an anarchist co-op. He said quite simply that the electoral process isn’t working, the world is a mess, so “should we just wait for the rioting to escalate around the world in order for there to be change?”

Greenwald responded: “A lot of sunshine and optimism in that question. I think it’s a hard question to answer and a complex topic, so I’ll just try to answer it as follows. I think if you look at the current administration there are clearly rhetorical changes and symbolic gestures that are different than the prior administration and would have been if John McCain had been president. The sentiment, the sort of flavor and atmosphere when you talk about the Middle East would have been different. But the substance is relatively, in ways that matter, unchanged.

“So you can ask yourself whether Obama doesn’t really believe in the claim that things ought to be different or he’s pretending that they should for political advantage. Or it could be the fact that he does authentically believe things ought to be different but there are impediments that he is incapable of overcoming even using the power of the presidency in order to consolodate those changes that he thinks ought to be brought about.

“You see that today with these leaks from Bob Woodward’s book where he says Obama was supposedly internally extremely opposed to escalating things in Afghanistan yet he did it anyway. I think one of the important things is that there really are permanent important power factions in Washington that exist separate from and beyond and at times have even more power than an elected president has. The reason that their allowed to exert that power is that it’s essentially unchallenged.

“I think some of the things that Professor Khalidi was just talking about as far as the changes that we’re seeing and the reasons for optimism is that is these orthodoxies are starting to erode further and the way in which this power is exerted  becomes more apparent, that’s when I think change can start to happen. You start to open up the debate and make Americans realize the extreme burdens that they’re undertaking not for their own interests, but the interests of a foreign country.

“And then when the population starts demanding real change—and you see this in a whole variety of areas in the United States over the last four decades—then I think it [change] becomes quite possible.”

Sherry Wolf  is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on The Struggle for LGBT Liberation, How Can We Unite to Fight the Right and on Breaking the Siege of Gaza at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of the Progressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.