Progressive Calendar 12.02.07
From: David Shove (
Date: Sun, 2 Dec 2007 03:52:12 -0800 (PST)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E R D A R   12.02.07

1. Stillwater vigil 12.02 1pm
2. Moore/SiCKO/free 12.02 1:45pm
3. Peace witness    12.02 7pm
4. KFAI/Indian      12.02 7pm

5. Human rights     12.03 9am
6. uhcan planning   12.03 2:45pm
7. MonroeDoc/LatAm  12.03 7pm
8. OnlineVideoWksp  12.03 7pm
9. Labor v war      12.03 7pm
10. 9-11/violence   12.03 7pm
11. SDS/Seattle/RNC 12.03 7pm

12. HealthCare/CTV  12.04 8am/5pm
13. Dementia        12.04 6:30pm
14. Women/labor/f   12.04 6:30pm
15. Get Newtered    12.04 6:45pm
16. ParentiEmpire/f 12.04 7pm
17. BlackPanthersBk 12.04 7:30pm
18. Nonprofit class 12.04

19. Kevin Zeese  - Putting peace first
20. Green Party  - Bush, hands off Venezuelan vote
21. Lee Sustar   - What's really happening in Venezuela?

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From: scot b <earthmannow [at]>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 12.02 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560

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From: Diane J. Peterson <birch7 [at]>
Subject: Moore/SiCKO/free 12.02 1:45pm

The Green Party of St. Paul presents
Michael Moore's
A two-hour documentary on health care.
Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2
Free Admission
Roseville Public Library
2180 North Hamline Avenue
Corner of County Road B and Hamline, Roseville

Movie begins at 1:45
Doors open with popcorn and lemonade served at 1:20
Approximately one hour of discussion time follows the film.  Library hours
are 1:00 to 5:00.

--------3 of 21--------

From: "wamm [at]" <wamm [at]>
Subject: Peace witness 12.02 7pm

A Time for Peace

Sunday, December 2, 7:00 p.m. Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church, 511
Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis. Interfaith Worship and Witness: Stop the
Violence of War and Torture. Featuring Bishop Sally Dyck of the United
Methodist Church, Rabbi Amy Bernstein of Temple Israel Duluth, Rick Hanson
of Military Families Speak Out, and Brandon Day of Iraq Veterans Against
the War. Performances by singer/songwriter Sara Thomsen and the Three

--------4 of 21--------

From: Chris Spotted Eagle <chris [at]>
Subject: KFAI/Indian 12.02 7pm

KFAIıs Indian uprising for December 2, 2007 from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CST

Theatrical films (movies) made under the auspices of Hollywood entrepreneurs
and by Independent filmmakers, to include documentaries and television
specials, have a powerful effect on viewers about their understanding and
beliefs of humans, culture, history and current events. And, all theatrical
films are musically scored to sway and influence the emotions of the viewer
in accord with the story being presented.

Historically, most movies (and other media) made about or containing
content on Native Indigenous peoples have been produced by non-Natives.
They create stories according to their own values and perceptions of
Indigenous people, by and large, are misguided, consequently delivering
distorted views. Those distortions are underpinnings of the status quo and
white racism prevalent in the U.S. and elsewhere.

It is urgent that Native Indigenous people magnify their efforts to tell
and produce their own stories of truth, as they know it, as advocates,
using mass media such as film/video and via electronic means, to properly
inform the public. Storytellers also need to be mindful that many
oppressed peoples, unfortunately, having been invaded and then colonized
over the centuries, do come to believe or are passive about such lies and
distortions made about them, and not to unintentionally reinforce such
views.  Guests are:

Drew Hayden Taylor (Ojibwe from Ontario, Canada), is an award-winning
Canadian playwright, a journalist/columnist, short-story writer, novelist
and scriptwriter.  Most notably, he wrote and directed Redskins,
Tricksters and Puppy Stew, a documentary on Native humor for the National
Film Board of Canada.

Georgia Wettlin-Larsen (Assiniboine/Nakota), Program Director, First
Nations Composer Initiative c/o the American Composers Forum (non-profit),
St. Paul, MN. FNCI provides a virtual gathering place for all interested
in American Indian music in all its forms-performance, composition,
theater and film, dance-both contemporary and traditional.

N. Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache), Programmer for Native
American Initiatives at the Sundance Institute, Beverly Hills Office, Los
Angeles, CA. Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization based in Park
City <> , Utah
<> , and founded by
actor/director/producer Robert Redford
<> in 1981.

Rhiana Yazzie (Navajo), a playwright whose work has been performed from
Mexico to Alaska. She writes a column, ³A Navajo in the North² for, and is a host of WomenSpeak (, a weekly
radio program on KFAI in Minneapolis. She is a graduate of the University of
New Mexico and the University of Southern California, Masters of
Professional Writing Program.

Eliminating the Hurts of White Racism by Patty Wipfler.  "Racism is one of
the key issues in our world today. The economic and cultural domination of
people of Caucasian descent over people of color has infected cultures the
world over. People of color of varying races and backgrounds must contend,
in general, with fewer resources and more limited access to power over
their environments than white people. They also must do battle with
disrespectful and limiting stereotypes about them that are passed down
from generation to generation among people of the dominant culture." For

* * * *
Indian Uprising a one-hour Public & Cultural Affairs program for and by
Native Indigenous People broadcast each Sunday at 7:00 p.m. CST on KFAI 90.3
FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul, Minnesota. To listen via the internet
visit Programs are archived for two weeks.

--------5 of 21--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Human rights 12.03 9am

Monday, 12/3, 9 am to 4 pm, Annual Human Rights Day Conference with theme
"Voices from Silence: What We Need to Hear About the Impact of 9/11 on
Refugees, Immigrants and Religious Minorities," U of M Law School, 229 -
19th Ave S, Mpls.

--------6 of 21--------

From: Joel Albers <joel [at]>
Subject: uhcan-mn planning 12.03 2:45pm

What;Planning meeting for the upcoming Forum "Building  a Grassroots
Health Care Media Campaign"

When:Monday, Dec 3, at 2:45 PM at the Overflow Cafe, 2929 University
Ave SE,( near the U of MN, and 2 doors down from the post office).

--------7 of 21--------

From: John Peterson <jp [at]>
Subject: MonroeDoc/LatAm 12.03 7pm

"The Monroe Doctrine and Latin America" and film showing of "No Volveran!"
December 3, 2007  7pm
Mayday Bookstore 301 Cedar Ave. S, Minneapolis

December 2nd is the 184th Anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine - the
beginning of U.S. intervention in Latin America. Also on December 2nd,
millions of Venezuelans will go to the polls in a referendum to
democratically accept or reject proposed changes to their Constitution.
Join Colombian trade unionist Gerardo Cajamarca and John Peterson from
Hands Off Venezuela for a discussion on U.S. intervention past and
present, and a showing of "No Volverán" - an exciting new documentary
chronicling the 2006 Venezuelan Presidential Elections and the struggle to
establish Socialism of the 21st Century, where political power is
transferred to the common people.

--------8 of 21--------

From: Jonathan Barrentine <jonathan [at]>
Subject: OnlineVideoWksp 12.03 7pm

Online Video
Rondo Library (University and Dale)
Monday, December 3
7:00 - 8:30 pm

Video can be a powerful medium, and today it is easier than ever to
produce and publish your own video clips using the internet. As part of
our ongoing E-Tools For All series at the Rondo Library, St. Paul
E-Democracy will be offering a workshop on this topic on Monday, December
3, 7:00 - 8:30 pm. This workshop will feature examples of how online video
is being used by citizens and community groups, as well as how you can
create your own online videos using free software and websites.

As always, the workshop is free, all are welcome to attend, and no
registration is required.

Please go to for a
complete schedule.

--------9 of 21--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Labor v war 12.03 7pm

Monday, 12/3, 7 pm, meeting Labor Against War, Merriam Park library, 1831
Marshall Ave, St Paul.  Thomas Dooley 651-645-0295.

--------10 of 21--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: 9-11/hate violence 12.03 7pm

Monday, 12/3, 7 pm, film "Divided We Fall" about hate violence in the
aftermath of 9/11, Coffman Union, 300 Washington Ave SE, Mpls.

--------11 of 21--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: SDS/Seattle/RNC 12.03 7pm

Monday, 12/3, 7 pm, Anti-War Committee and Students for a Democratic
Society present film "This Is What Democracy Looks Like" about Seattle
1999, then discussion concerning relevance to RNC 2008, Carlson School,
room L-114, U of M, 321 - 19th Ave S, Mpls.  info [at]

---------12 of 21--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: HealthCare/CTV 12.04 8am/5pm

Dearest Minneapolis Television Network (MTN 17) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and
Tuesdays at 8am.  Households with basic cable can watch!

Tues., 12/4, 8am "Action for Universal Health Care"  Interview of
Joel Albers, Dr. Pharmacy and health care economist with Universal Health
Care Action Network (UHCAN-MN).  Hosted by Eric Angell.

Most excellent St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN 15) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts in St. Paul on Tuesday evenings at 5pm and
midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am.  All households with basic cable
can watch!

12/4 5pm and midnight and 12/5 10am ** "Action for Universal Health
Care"   Interview of Joel Albers, Dr. Pharmacy and health care economist
with Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN-MN).  Hosted by Eric

--------13 of 21--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Dementia 12.04 6:30pm

Salon Tuesday, Dec. 4, A talk about dementia and the social and
psychological affects of it.  Rosemary Gollias has worked w/dementia
people for 10 years and will be the speaker.

Pax Salons ( )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN
Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.

--------14 of 21--------

From: wsac [at]
Subject: Women/labor/film 12.04 6:30pm

The Women's Student Activist Collective presents
Labor and Women Film Series part three: ***Mama Wahunzi***
Tuesday Dec 4th 6.30 pm in WSAC Coffman 202

A film by Lawan Jirasuradej

In Kenya and Uganda, poor healthcare, disease and economic disparity have
created an overwhelming shortage of wheelchairs, with more than 200,000 in
demand yearly. In both countries there only exist 5 production shops,
where 250 wheelchairs are built yearly. Of these, a staggering 1% are
given to women. MAMA WAHUNZI, literally meaning "women blacksmiths" in
Swahili, is an inspiring documentary about three disabled East African
women who countered conventional wisdom and expectation by learning how to
build wheelchairs for themselves and their community. Trained at a metal
workshop sponsored by the American organization, Whirlwind Wheelchairs
International, the women share how they gained control of their mobility
and became self-sustaining entrepreneurs. This uplifting film shows how
they single-handedly combated stereotypes of disability, gender and
poverty, while finding a local solution to an international development
problem. Their courage and hard work presents a universal and powerful
tale of resilience, strength and hope.

Facilitated discussion will follow! Free food!

Questions? wsac [at]

Women's Student Activist Collective, 300 Washington Ave SE, Suite 202,
Minneapolis, MN 55414

-- The mission of the Women's Student Activist Collective is to empower
women and transpeople to make positive changes in society through the
elimination of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, classism, and all
interrelated forms of inequality.

wsac [at],, 612.625.1611
300 Washington Ave. SE, Suite 202

--------15 of 21--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Get Newtered  12.04 6:45pm

    the 5th Annual Victory Celebration

I pass this along for your information. I HAVE NO INTENTION of attending
inside, but since Newt Gingrich is the man who brought us "The Contract ON
America" I am hoping that something might be organized to highlight, once
again, who Norm Coleman thinks his friends are. I certainly think that
Newt Gingrich does not represent the values of the average Minnesotan.
  - Dann Dobson

From: "Coleman for U.S. Senate" <info [at]>
Subject: Please Join Us for the 5th Annual Victory Celebration

Tuesday, December 4, 2007
U.S. Senator Norm Coleman and
Special Guest Speaker Newt Gingrich
6:45 pm: Cocktail Reception | $250 per person
8:00 pm: Victory Celebration | $25 per person
(doors open at 7:00 pm)
The Downtown University Club
Saint Paul, Minnesota
If you have questions, please contact: Sara Myers at (651) 645-0766

--------16 of 21--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Parenti/empire/f 12.04 7pm

Tuesday, 12/4, 7 pm, Michael Parenti's video "Lies, War and Empire,"
followed by discussion. Mayday Books, 301 Cedar Ave, Mpls. or 612-333-4719.

--------17 of 21--------

From: david unowsky <david.unowsky [at]>
Subject: BlackPanthers/bk 12.04 7:30pm

7:30pm, Tuesday December 4 at MAGERS AND QUINN BOOKSELLERS.

They've been calling us niggers, thugs, and hoodlums for 400 years, that
ain't gon' hurt me, I'm going to check out what these brothers is
doing.--Bobby Seale (1967)

Framing the Black Panthers is a fascinating look at how the Black Panthers
became symbols of black militancy in America. The Sixties may be over, but
the Black Panthers - the ultimate symbol of black power, radical
inspiration, and the excesses of the decade - live on. Books on the
Panthers continue to be written, hip-hop artists continue to draw
inspiration from them, and so many films are made about the Panthers that
there is now an annual Black Panther film festival.

In Framing the Black Panthers, cultural historian Jane Rhodes examines the
extraordinary staying power of the Panthers in the American imagination by
probing their relationship to the media. Rhodes argues that once the media
and pop culture latched onto the small, militant group, the Panthers
became adept at exploiting and manipulating this coverage - through
pamphlets, buttons, posters, ubiquitous press appearances, and photo
ops - pioneering a sophisticated version of mass media activism.
Paradoxically, the news media participated in the government campaign to
eradicate the Panthers while simultaneously elevating them to a celebrity
status that remains long after their demise.

Lucidly written and featuring many never-before-published photographs,
Framing the Black Panthers is a breakthrough reconsideration of a
fascinating phenomenon that is sure to receive wide attention.

Jane Rhodes is Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and chair of the
American studies department at Macalester College. She is the author of
Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth
Century. She lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

--------18 of 21--------

From: Tim Erickson <tim [at]>
Subject: Nonprofit class 12.04

I just heard about a series of free workshops in nonprofit leadership
offered by Hamline University and the Greater Minneapolis Council of
Churches. Registration is required but there's no fee. Word following the
first on Tuesday is that it was excellent.
More info:

Dec 4  - Grant writing

--------19 of 21--------

Putting Peace First
by Kevin Zeese
November 30th, 2007
Dissident Voice

In recent debates the candidates were asked whether they will support the
nominee of their party. Despite increasingly harsh rhetoric between the
candidates only two candidates had the courage to put peace before their
party and refused to issue blanket support for their party nominee. Rep.
Ron Paul and Rep. Dennis Kucinich responded they would not support the
nominee unless the nominee opposed war as an instrument of foreign policy.

This deserves loud applause from the peace movement. No doubt both
candidates will pay a political price for taking such a stand. They may
get the "Gravel Treatment" - presidential candidate Mike Gravel was
harshly critical of the top tier candidates of the Democratic Party and
now is excluded from the debates because the Democratic National Committee
no longer considers him a serious candidate and the corporate media, which
walks lock-step with the corporate parties, has refused to invite him to
any debates. His campaign has all but disappeared.

Kucinich and Paul face other potential repercussions for putting the life
and death issue of war and peace before party loyalty. Both are incumbent
congressmen and if they are unsuccessful in getting their party's
presidential nomination will seek re-election to Congress. Will they find
themselves with a well-funded primary challenger? And, if elected, will
they find their committee assignments downgraded? Will they be appointed
to subcommittee or committee chairmanships or passed over in favor of
party loyalists? There are many ways for a political party to punish lack
of party loyalty. So, Kucinich and Paul deserve a great deal of credit for
publicly standing up for peace before party.

And, Kucinich and Paul did not just come out in opposition to the current
disastrous occupation of Iraq. They came out more broadly for an end to
the aggressively interventionist U.S. foreign policy that is dominated by
militarism. This is the type of paradigm shifting policy change that is
needed in U.S. foreign policy.

The fact that the U.S. spends as much as the whole world combined on the
military ensures that every other aspect of American civil life is
underfunded. It is why the debt is increasing, infrastructure is failing,
the U.S. remains addicted to oil, college is overpriced, health care for
all unachievable, and pre-school for children widely unavailable. If the
U.S. wants to build economic security at home it needs to stop spending
half the federal government's discretionary spending on the military. If
we want to build security from terrorism the U.S. needs to stop creating
enemies faster than we kill them. If the U.S. wants "them" to stop hating
"us" we need to stop behaving like an empire.

Sadly, at least one peace group, Friends Committee on National
Legislation, is turning its back on these real peace candidates. FCNL
whose slogan is "War is Not the Answer," has published a voter guide that
excludes Kucinich, Paul and Gravel - the three candidates who really
believe war is not the answer. FCNL readers will not learn about these
peace candidates in their on-line voter guide. Why? FCNL decided on an
arbitrary cut-off point in polling that excludes these candidates. All the
candidates that are included keep the military option for Iran on the
table and do not advocate cutting military expenditures, only one (Bill
Richardson) calls for complete withdrawal from Iraq. Are these "war is not
the answer" candidates?

For Kucinich and Paul this stab in the back from a peace group comes at a
bad time. Kucinich recently won a straw poll by the progressive Democracy
For America and in early returns Kucinich is leading in the Progressive
Democrats of America straw poll. Paul has been doing extremely well in
straw polls around the country as well as in fundraising and in some polls
is bettering candidates like John McCain. Both seem to be getting some
traction but if the peace movement is not going to even report on their
positions - a movement which should be the base of their support - then
what hope do they have?

Sadly, the FCNL view is not uncommon among peace voters. Too many look at
which candidate is most likely to win. Peace voters need to learn that
voting for peace candidates is the way to increase their power. Voting for
candidates who support the occupation or waffle on whether they will
remove the troops in their first term is voting against the interests of
peace. It is voting for war as the primary instrument of foreign policy
and empire as the goal of U.S. policy - because that is the view of the
candidates covered by FCNL. Peace voters need to have the courage to vote
for peace candidates.

Paul and Kucinich differ on many issues - Paul is a free-market thinker
who sees the solutions to economic disparity, lack of access to health
care, poor education, the environment and the housing crisis in less
government and more market-based solutions. Kucinich, while agreeing with
Paul on bolstering civil liberties and individual rights, sees the
solution to health care as ending the for-profit dominated health
insurance industry and replacing it with a non-profit single payer system
provided by the government. Similarly on environmental issues Kucinich
favors a major government investment in alternative energy that is clean
and sustainable, Paul doesn't. Kucinich favors abortion rights, Paul
opposes federal government involvement in abortion.

Peace voters have a choice between two solid peace candidates with two
very different views of government and the economy, but they have more.
Mike Gravel is another long-term peace advocate who has been active
against war since the Vietnam era. Some peace voters may also see a
candidate in Governor Bill Richardson who favors a complete withdrawal
from Iraq, but is keeping the military option on the table for Iran and
does not advocate shrinking the U.S. military.

And, in the General Election, peace voters will have other options no
matter what the two establishment parties decide. The Green Party recently
acquired a new member in Cynthia McKinney. The former Member of Congress
recently registered as a Green in California and filed with the FEC to
seek the Green presidential nomination. She has been strongly anti-war for
her whole career and during her last congressional term sought impeachment
of President Bush for his illegal invasion of Iraq.

Ralph Nader, the long-time consumer activist and former presidential
candidate who has been working against the Iraq invasion and occupation
since before the war began, is also considering a run for the presidency,
possibly as a Green or as an independent. He has tirelessly worked to end
the Iraq occupation and throughout his career has been an advocate for
less spending on the military and more spending on the necessities of the
people. Nader has also been a long-term advocate for impeachment of
President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their deceptions and
manipulations that led to the Iraq invasion.

Another Green candidate worthy of mention is Jared Ball. He is an
assistant professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, has a radio
show in Washington, DC, and is founder of FreeMix radio which puts
together a monthly hip-hop compilation. He is a veteran of Desert
Shield/Desert Storm and an opponent of the Iraq occupation.

The Libertarian Party also has several candidates running and they are
likely to nominate a peace candidate as well. The LP's official position
on the Iraq occupation is: "It is time for U.S. forces to withdraw from
Iraq as quickly as possible in a manner consistent with the safety of our

Peace voters will have choices in 2008. There are several candidates who
oppose both the Iraq occupation and the use of aggressive military force
as the dominant approach to foreign policy. Peace voters make up the
majority of Americans, but will they have the courage to vote their
convictions or will they be manipulated by the two parties and the
corporate media? Will they work and financially support peace candidates?
It is a test for the peace movement to see whether it as the courage to
put peace first.

Kevin Zeese is director of Democracy Rising and co-founder of Voters For

This article was posted on Friday, November 30th, 2007 at 4:58 am and is
filed under Anti-War, Elections.

--------20 of 21--------

From: Rhoda Gilman <rhodagilman [at]>
From: Scott McLarty <scottmclarty [at]>
Date: Fri, 30 Nov 2007 12:14:56 -0800 (PST)
Subject: GP RELEASE Greens to Bush & CIA: Don't interfere in
Venezuelan vote


For Immediate Release:
Friday, November 30, 2007

Scott McLarty, Media Coordinator, 202-518-5624,
mclarty [at]
Starlene Rankin, Media Coordinator, 916-995-3805,
starlene [at]

Greens, citing revealed memo, urge Bush to cancel CIA plans to interfere
in Venezuelan referendum and destabilize the Chavez government

WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders called on President Bush to cancel
an order directing the CIA to interfere with a December 2 voters'
referendum in Venezuela and to cease actions intended to destabilize the
Chavez government.

"President Chavez and the people of Venezuela are not America's enemy.
We demand that the White House respect the sovereignty of other countries
and the democratic will of the Venezuelan people, who have repeatedly
affirmed their support for President Chavez and his policies," said Jill
Bussiere, Wisconsin representative to the Green Party's International

"The memo describes secret US-supported actions against the Chavez
government that constitute acts of war against a nation at peace with the
US.  These operations are consistent with other US acts of aggression
against Venezuela, including the failed 2002 coup attempt, to which the
Bush Administration lent active support," Ms. Bussiere added.

The Venezuelan government uncovered an alleged confidential memo on
November 26 from US embassy official Michael Middleton Steere to the CIA
director Michael Hayden which reveals clandestine operations to influence
the referendum and to coordinate a military overthrow of the elected
Chavez government.  The referendum will measure public approval for
constitutional amendments proposed by Chavez and the National Assembly;
polls show 60% support for the amendments.

Greens note that the Bush Administration has targeted President Chavez for
numerous reasons: his nationalization of several industries, especially
oil, which has angered US corporate interests; provision of financial
security, jobs, and health care for Venezuela's severely impoverished
multiracial majority; and expansion of democracy in a nation formerly
ruled by a small white elite.

"President Chavez has refused to take Washington's orders to make his
country a source of cheap oil and other resources for US corporate
profits," said Clifford W, Thornton, Jr., co-chair of the Green Party of
the United States.

"That's why the CIA's 'Operation Tenaza' [Operation Pincers] has been
authorized -- to reopen markets for the benefit of corporations, and to
teach Venezuela and all of Latin America a lesson."

"The US media blackout on the uncovered memo recalls the blackout by most
media on the revelation of Republican operations to manipulate the US
election in Ohio and other states in 2004," said Mr. Thornton.

--------21 of 21--------

What's Really Happening in Venezuela?
by Lee Sustar / November 29th, 2007

Venezuelans will vote December 2 on constitutional reforms proposed by
President Hugo Chavez and his supporters, capping weeks of
sometimes-violent protests by right-wing opposition forces, a defection by
a top Chavez political ally, and mass mobilizations by Chavez supporters.

For the U.S. mainstream media, Venezuela's vote on constitutional reforms
December 2 is simply the latest power grab in authoritarian President Hugo
Chavez's bid to crush dissent, make himself president for life and impose
a state-controlled economy.

The view from the streets of the Caracas barrio of 23 de Enero, however,
is very different.

A densely populated, impoverished neighborhood seldom visited by U.S.
reporters, it is famous for its role in mobilizing in January 1958 to
overthrow a Venezuelan military dictator on the date that gave the barrio
its name.

These days, it is home to an active local branch, or battalion, of the
United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV, according to its Spanish
initials). On a rainy mid-November evening, activists gathered to
distribute copies of the proposed reform by going door to door.

Of the 30 or so people who turned out - all but four of them women - just
two had prior political experience in Chavez's original political party,
the Fifth Republic Movement (MVR). Only one - Rosaida Hernndez - is an
experienced politico, having served as a functionary of the Fifth Republic
Movement and won election to Caracas' municipal council.

More typical was Iraima Daz, a neighborhood resident in her 30s who had
long supported Chavez and benefited from his government's social programs,
but hadn't been politically active. "I got involved to solve the problems
of my community," she said.

Another activist, Lz Estella, a social worker whose father lives in the
area, also became active recently, fed up with the opposition media and
wanting to get involved.

Now Daz and Estella find themselves members of Chavez's own PSUV battalion
- the president often turns up at the weekly Saturday meetings held at the
military museum in the neighborhood.

The facility also serves as a place for enrollment in government
"missions" - national social welfare programs initiated by Chavez in 2003,
which evolved from offering free medical care to literacy and education
programs, subsidized grocery stores and a great deal more, thanks to
revenues from oil exports and some of the fastest economic growth rates in
the world.

Despite its well-known member and proximity to local missions, the 23 de
Enero PSUV battalion faces a challenges common to its counterparts across
the country - how to mobilize the 5.7 million people who have registered
for the party since it was formed earlier this year through a merger of
parties of Chavez's governing coalition.

Nevertheless, as the group, singing campaign songs, made its way through
the narrow streets on steep hillsides of the barrio, people came to their
windows to take copies of the reform and discuss it briefly - an elderly
man alone in his small apartment; a young woman of African descent
breastfeeding an infant; the proprietor of a tiny store situated in what
was once a living room, with a window facing the street; a group of young
men in their 20s gathered outside a small restaurant.

The impact of Chavez's reforms is visible on the streets of 23 de Enero
and other barrios - people are better fed and better dressed.

As is often the case in Venezuela, the political direction in the barrios
is the opposite Caracas. well-off neighborhoods and the suburbs, where the
upper middle class and the wealthy live in luxurious gated communities and
drive Hummers and Land Rovers.

As opposition to Chavez's reforms sharpened - first with protests by
largely middle-class college students; then the defection of a longtime
Chavez ally, former army chief of staff and defense minister Ral Baduel -
the mass of Chavez supporters began to mobilize.

Nevertheless, the opposition, tainted by the coup of 2002 and the
subsequent lockout of oil workers by industry bosses, has been able to
refresh its image.

Key to this was the student mobilization last summer over the government's
refusal to renew the broadcast license of the privately owned,
opposition-controlled RCTV channel.

Wrongly portrayed in the Western media as a "closure" of a media outlet,
the decision was made as the result of RCTV's active role in supporting
the coup. Nevertheless, the government's refusal to renew the channel's
broadcast license gave Venezuela's right the opportunity to claim the
mantle of "democracy," a theme it has continued in protests aimed at
forcing a delay in the vote for constitutional reform.

Significantly, the student protests took shape as a national social
movement, led mainly by middle class and wealthy students who predominate
at Venezuela's elite universities, such as the UCV in Caracas.

While portraying themselves as nonviolent in the face of allegedly armed
Chavista students - two students were wounded on the UCV campus November 7
- the opposition student protests have often turned violent. The U.S.
media focused on the supposed gunplay of Chavista students, but it was the
right-wing protesters who besieged pro-Chavez students in UCV's law and
social work schools, physically destroying both.

Still, the student protesters have carried the day politically on campus,
with the opposition winning a reported 91 percent of votes in student
government elections soon afterward.

The opposition got another boost when it was joined by Baduel, the former
general and defense minister.

A key figure in preventing the 2002 military attempt to oust Chavez,
Baduel has used the word "coup" to describe the impact of Chavez.s
proposed constitutional changes.

While Baduel's impact on the reform vote is probably limited, his turn may
point to something more serious - concern among senior military brass over
a constitutional reform that would reorganize and centralize the armed
forces and give the president authority to promote all officers, not just
top generals.

Already, Chavez has dropped a call to convert the reserves into
"Bolivarian Popular Militias" to support the regular armed forces,
presenting it in the constitutional reforms instead as a "National
Bolivarian Militia".

In any case, the retooled opposition presents a new challenge for
activists of the "Bolivarian revolution".named for the 19th century
anti-colonial leader.

In the past, Chavez could mobilize his base among the poor on clear-cut
issues - protesting the right-wing coup attempt of April 2002, voting to
keep him in office in the recall election of 2004, re-electing him as
president a year ago.

The constitutional reforms, however, are more complicated and
controversial within the Chavez camp itself.

At issue is the balance between the creation of communal councils to
enhance what Chavez calls "popular power," and measures that would
strengthen the powers of the presidency and the central state in several

These include the removal of presidential term limits and lengthening the
term from six to seven years; the ability to appoint an unrestricted
number of secondary vice presidents; the authority to determine boundaries
of proposed .communal cities. of municipalities and states; and control
over the use of foreign currency reserves with no constitutional limits.

The right to recall the president still exists, but the number of
signatures required to trigger a vote would increase from 20 percent to 30
percent of eligible voters.

Other constitutional measures debated on the left would give the president
and National Assembly the ability to impose states of emergency in which
the right to information is waived - probably a response to the private
media's complicity in the 2002 coup. The National Assembly would also gain
the right to remove Supreme Court judges and election officials through a
simple majority vote.

These changes hardly amount to the "Chavez dictatorship" conjured up in
the mainstream media, and the Venezuelan constitution would remain more
democratic in many respects than the U.S. Constitution, a relic of the
18th century.

The question, however, is whether the constitution promotes a transition
to "popular power" and "socialism," as Chavez would have it.

Essentially, the reforms reflect the contradiction at the heart of
Chavez's project - an effort to initiate revolutionary change from above.

The expansion of communal councils and creation of workers councils are
seen by grassroots Chavista activists as a legitimate effort to anchor the
"revolutionary process" at the grassroots.

However, the additional powers for the presidency and the reorganization
of the armed forces highlight the fact that Chavez apparently sees the
presidency - and the centralized state - as the guardian of the

Tellingly, it is the military, the most rigidly hierarchical institution
in society, which is to protect the newly decentralized democracy, while
remaining aloof from such changes internally.

Chavez's effort to combine what he calls an "explosion of popular power"
with greater centralism may reflect his military past. But if the
government is able to portray itself as creating "motors" of revolutionary
change, it's because grassroots organizations, social movements and
organized labor have so far failed to create sizeable organizations of
their own.

While there is no doubt of Chavez's popularity, particularly among the
poor, their role thus far has been to defend Chavez from the right during
the coup and lockout, and turning out for elections. The constitutional
reforms, along with the creation of the PSUV at Chavez's initiative, are
intended to close the gap between these periodic mass mobilizations and
the lack of day-to-day organization.

To consolidate this base, the proposed constitutional reforms offer
further social gains. For example, virtually unmentioned in U.S. media
accounts is the fact that the reforms would provide, for the first time,
social security benefits to the 50 percent of Venezuelan workers who toil
in the informal sector as street vendors, taxi drivers and the like. The
workweek would be limited to 36 hours.

There are other advances as well, including the consolidation of land
reform, outlawing discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation,
lowering the voting age from 18 to 16, guaranteed free university
education, gender parity in politics and political parties, public
financing of political campaigns, recognition of Venezuelans of African
descent, and more.

Critics on the right claim these measures constitute a bribe to the mass
of Venezuelans - handouts in exchange for political support, a version of
the traditional clientleism used Latin American populists such as
Argentina's Juan Peron.

In fact, Peron and other 20th century populists went far beyond Chavez in
terms of nationalizing industries - Venezuela's oil company, PDVSA, has
been government owned since the 1970s, and the recent state takeover of
the telecommunications and electrical power companies are

But the Chavez project aims at a more thoroughgoing social transformation
than populists of the past. The aim is to build what Chavez calls
"socialism of the 21st century" by trying to bypass the capitalist state
with new structures and enshrining new forms of "social," "public" and
"mixed" property to promote "endogenous" economic development - that is,
growth not dependent on the oil economy.

These efforts are, in turn, supposed to mesh with "communes" created by
communal councils - which, under the proposed constitutional changes, will
receive at least 5 percent of the national budget to manage local affairs.
The text of the reform proposal explains: "The state will foment and
develop different forms of production and economic units of social
property, from direct or communal-controlled, to indirect or
state-controlled, as well as productive economic units for social
production and/or distribution".

Moreover, the proposed reform on "popular power" also calls for the
creation of councils for workers, students, farmers, craftspeople,
fishermen and -women, sports participants, youth, the elderly, women,
disabled people and others.

This new "geometry of power," as Chavez calls it, is apparently designed
to engineer social change while avoiding direct confrontation with big
business, whose property rights are in fact safeguarded in the
constitutional reforms. As Chavez himself said last summer, "We have no
plan to eliminate the oligarchy, Venezuela's bourgeoisie".

Funds for social reforms have so far come from state oil revenues, rather
than any transfer of wealth through higher taxes, and the nationalization
of companies has been achieved by paying market price for stock market

The question on the Venezuelan left is whether all this amounts to a
transition to socialism, as Chavez and his supporters would have it.

For Orlando Chirino, a national coordinator of the National Union of
Workers (UNT) labor federation, Chavez's reforms herald the
"Stalinization" of the state and state control of the labor movement
"along the lines of the Cuban CTC labor federation," he said in an

Chirino, a key leader of the C-CURA class-struggle current of the
factionalized UNT, is among the most prominent figures on the left to
oppose the reforms. He made waves on the left when he granted an interview
with a leading opposition newspaper and appeared on the platform with
leaders of the CTV, the corrupt old trade union federation implicated in
the 2002 coup.

Today Chirino, along with an oil workers union official, Jos Bodas, is a
founder of a new group calling for an independent workers party.

Chirino's and Bodas' opposition to the reforms put them at odds with the
majority of UNT national coordinators and organizers in C-CURA, such as
Ramn Arias, general secretary of the public sector workers. union
federation, FENTRASEP. Arias is a supporter of the Marea class-struggle
current of trade unionists in the PSUV, which calls for purging of
employers, bureaucrats and corrupt elements in the new party.

Despite some criticisms of the centralizing aspects of the constitutional
reform, including the new provisions for states of emergency, the Marea
current has joined the majority of the Venezuelan left in calling for a
"yes" vote to achieve social gains and defeat the opposition.

Arias and his C-CURA allies are already at loggerheads with prominent
members of the PSUV, including Oswaldo Vera, a member of the National
Assembly and leader of the Bolivarian Socialist Labor Front (FSBT), a
faction of the UNT that also controls the ministry of labor.

The labor ministry refuses to negotiate a contract with FENTRASEP - which
covers 1 million workers - because, it says, there is a dispute over union
elections. As a result, many public sector employees are among the 73
percent of Venezuelan workers who earn the minimum wage - which, although
the highest in Latin America, is still low in relation to the soaring
prices caused by Venezuela's rapid economic growth, to say nothing of
enduring economic inequality.

Arias and other FENTRASEP leaders say that public sector workers are
casualties of a larger factional struggle between the FSBT and C-CURA.
This in turn is part of an internecine conflict that has prevented the
wider UNT labor federation from holding a proper congress since it adopted
a provisional structure at its founding event in 2003.

Now, C-CURA, the largest grouping in the UNT, is itself split over the
PSUV and constitutional reform, which means organized labor's voice is
barely heard in the political debates of the day.

This sets the stage for a battle over the workers' councils to be formed
in the future, in which both factions of C-CURA expect to contend with an
effort by the FSBT to exert control over the labor movement.

On the political terrain, the C-CURA activists of the Marea current inside
the PSUV aim to make alliances with others on the left who have succeeded
in being elected as spokespeople and delegates to the founding conference.

With the PSUV founding conference still in the future - it has been
postponed repeatedly - it isn't clear if, or how, such groupings will
exist within the party, which already has a provisional disciplinary
committee that reportedly expelled a prominent Chavista (the commissioners
subsequently denied that this was the case).

Certainly the PSUV is a highly contradictory formation, and includes key
members of the government apparatus and local elected officials who are
unpopular among grassroots Chavistas. Marea's slogan calls for a PSUV
without bosses, bureaucrats and corrupt elements.

Whether the far left will be able to operate openly, be expelled or decide
to leave to organize openly are open questions.

In any case, stormy weather is ahead, said Stalin Prez Borges, a UNT
national coordinator and supporter of the Marea current. Political
polarization and class conflict, ameliorated in recent years by rapid
economic growth, are unavoidable, he said.

"The constitutional reform marks Chavez's consolidation of power, so the
oligarchy can't just wait for him to go," he said. "Chavez wants to
discipline and control the bourgeoisie. But they want to be in control

Lee Sustar writes for Socialist Worker. Read other articles by Lee, or
visit Lee's website.

This article was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2007 at 5:00 am and is
filed under Socialism, Venezuela.


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