US Ciggie Companies Vie For Fresh Blood

*Note: Slanted for your protection.

Hey, smokers! If you thought you were highly profitable to the Big US. Cigarette Companies, think again. In fact, you’re small change compared to the hot new markets in developing countries, where laws are lax and the global economy beckons.

That’s right, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and B.A.T., makers of Lucky Strikes, are working hard to bring many impoverished folks around the world fresh, quality cigarettes, the only legal product around that is harmful when used as intended. Cuba, China, Poland, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brazil, Kazakstan, Russia, Portugal…the list of affected countries bleeds on and on. And it seems the Big Cigarette Companies collective efforts are paying off. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms this with the staggering figures of 1.1 billion people over the age of 15 addicted to cigarettes, and 72 per cent of them are in developing and underdeveloped countries, to use their terminology. So even though US. consumption of cigarettes has fallen (the number has dropped 17 per cent in the last decade), you don’t have to worry about those Big Ciggie Companies. They can sleep well tonight, knowing that the global market (and global lives) is safely in their control.

Here are some horrendous facts to wet your whistle of indignation: In this year’s first quarter, international sales accounted for 71 per cent of Philip Morris’ total tobacco sales of 9.9 billion. Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and British American Tobacco, the Big Three in industry parlance, account for a full third of the 5.5 trillion cigarettes sold annually worldwide. The Big Three’s exports rose 259 per cent in the last decade. So how does this translate into human lives? Vietnam has the highest male smoking rate in the world, with 72.8 per cent. In the Philippines, 73 per cent of adults smoke, and 50 percent of children aged 7-17 are addicted to cigarettes. In Japan, 50 per cent of adult men smoke: the highest rate among developed nations. Among Japanese women, the number is 35 per cent: also extremely high. And what about deaths? The WHO places the number of deaths from cigarettes at 3 million annually.

Of course this assault has not come without its backlash. Many countries have moved to place trade or ad restrictions on US. cigarettes. That tactic does not last long, however. US. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, at the behest (or at the beck and call, rather) of the major cigarette companies, has seen to that. Representative Barshefsky has wielded the mighty carrot of economic prosperity and the fearful stick of economic ruin over the heads of the mostly impoverished countries, and they can but cower under the threat that they will be run over in the global market. Plus, if these countries ever do pass laws restricting US. cigarettes in any way, they are severely reprimanded by Rep. Barshefsky for violating free trade agreements.

If you think the new global tobacco deal is going to change any of this (and I don’t insult your intelligence enough to believe you do), guess again. Firstly, although it is being touted as a global measure, in fact there’s nothing global about it. The US. companies will be as free to do their profiteering off of death and misery in other countries as they were before this proposed agreement. The facts of this new deal are so egregious that it prompted tobacco control advocates from 19 countries to release a joint statement condemning the spineless American deal as unethical, since it does nothing to address international tobacco control issues. Indeed, it makes it even more desirable in terms of profits and lax restrictions to market to other countries, a situation that will happen even if the agreement does not go through.

I wish I could end this article with an optimistic ring for the future, but obviously there is nothing optimistic about the continued rampage of the Big Three into other countries. They will continue to reach for fresh hordes of disposable people with no disposable income, and will keep on ripping their last cents away as these adults and children suffer through the throes of nicotine addiction. Can you say Nuremberg Standards? If you can, then you should apply them here. Taking orders from the mighty God of Profits and killing millions of innocent people in the process should not be sanctioned by anyone, and this phenomenon should not go unpunished, though it undoubtedly will.

Ruchell Cinque Magee: Sole Survivor Still

Slavery is being practiced by the system under color of law. Slavery 400 years ago, slavery today;  it’s the same thing, but with a new name. They’re making millions and millions of dollars enslaving Blacks, poor whites, and others – people who don’t even know they’re being railroaded.

— Ruchell Cinque Magee*

If you were asked to name the longest held political prisoner in the United States, what would your answer be?

Most would probably reply Geronimo ji jaga (Pratt), Sundiata Acoli, or Sekou Odinga,all 3 members of the Black Panther Party or soldiers of the Black Liberation Army who have been encaged for their political beliefs or principled actions for decades. Some would point to Lakota leader, Leonard Peltier, who struggled for the freedom of Native peoples, thereby incurring the enmity of the US Government, who framed him in a 1975 double murder trial. Those answers would be good guesses, for all of these men have spent hellified years in state and federal dungeons, but here’s a man who has spent more.

Ruchell C. Magee arrived in Los Angeles, California in 1963, and wasn’t in town for six months before he and a cousin, Leroy, were arrested on the improbable charges of kidnap and robbery, after a fight with a man over a woman and a $10 bag of marijuana. Magee, in a slam-dunk trial, was swiftly convicted and swifter still sentenced to life.

Magee, politicized in those years, took the name of the African freedom fighter, Cinque, who, with his fellow captives seized control of the slave ship, the Amistad, and tried to sail back to Africa. Like his ancient namesake, Cinque would also fight for his freedom from legalized slavery, and for 7 long years he filed writ after writ, learning what he calls guerrilla law, honing it as a tool for liberation of himself and his fellow captives. But California courts, which could care less about the alleged rights of a young Black man like MaGee, dismissed his petitions willy-nilly.

In August, 1970, MaGee appeared as a witness in the assault trial of James McClain, a man charged with assaulting a guard after San Quentin guards murdered a Black prisoner, Fred Billingsley. McClain, defending himself, presented imprisoned witnesses to expose the racist and repressive nature of prisons. In the midst of MaGee’s testimony, a 17 year old young Black man with a huge Afro hairdo, burst into the courtroom, heavily armed.

Jonathan Jackson shouted Freeze! Tossing weapons to McClain, William Chirstman, and a startled Magee, who given his 7 year hell where no judge knew the meaning of justice, joined the rebellion on the spot. The four rebels took the judge, the DA and three jurors hostage, and headed for a radio station where they were going to air the wretched prison conditions to the world, as well as demand the immediate release of a group of political prisoners, know that The Soledad Brothers (these were John Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and Jonathan’s oldest brother, George). While the men did not hurt any of their hostages, they did not reckon on the state’s ruthlessness.

Before the men could get their van out of the court house parking lot, prison guards and sheriffs opened furious fire on the vehicle, killing Christmas, Jackson, McClain as well as the judge. The DA was permanently paralyzed by gun fire. Miraculously, the jurors emerged relatively unscratched, although Magee, seriously wounded by gunfire, was found unconscious.

Magee, who was the only Black survivor of what has come to be called The August 7th Rebellion, would awaken to learn he was charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, and further, he would have a co-defendant, a University of California Philosophy Professor, and friend of Soledad Brother, George L. Jackson, named Angela Davis, who faced identical charges.

By trial time the cases were severed, with Angela garnering massive support leading to her 1972, acquittal on all charges.

Magee’s trial did not garner such broad support, yet he boldly advanced the position that as his imprisonment was itself illegal, and a form of unjustifiable slavery, he had the inherent right to escape such slavery, an historical echo of the position taken by the original Cinque, and his fellow captives, who took over a Spanish slave ship, killed the crew (except for the pilot) and tried to sail back to Africa. The pilot surreptitiously steered the Amistad to the US coast, and when the vessel was seized by the US, Spain sought their return to slavery in Cuba. Using natural and international law principals, US courts decided they captives had every right to resist slavery and fight for their freedom.

Unfortunately, Magee’s jury didn’t agree, although it did acquit on at least one kidnapping charge. The court dismissed on the murder charge, and Magee has been battling for his freedom every since.

That he is still fighting is a tribute to a truly remarkable man, a man who knows what slavery is, and more importantly, what freedom means.

Cinque’s supporters have organized the Ruchell Magee Defense Fund, PO Box 8306, South Bend, IN 46660-8306 [E-mail]


Column Written 5/27/97

1997 Mumia Abu-Jamal

All Rights Reserved

*from radio interview with Kiilu Nyasha Freedom is a Constant Struggle, KPFA-FM (12 Aug., 1995)

Shopping in Berkeley

I’m always ranting about supporting small local businesses instead of the big chain stores, but then I go into the small businesses like Watson’s or Morley’s and bargain with them until they sell to me at cost. I see if the bakery will give me half-price at the end of the day. I give the rotting old guy on the corner of Euclid and Ridge Road a dollar sixteen plus half a cigarette and a small plastic giraffe for two books, instead of the two dollars he’s asking. Who can put a price on stories, knowledge, and history? But then the books turn out to be two of the best books I’ve ever read, and I have to return to that corner every weekend trying to find the rotting old guy to appease my guilt. Probably he was a dollar short on rent, got kicked out on the street, and caught pneumonia. No wonder the small businesses are dying. I’m killing them.

I’ve got all these systems. A small coffee in a large cup. One large coffee split between three large cups. A small burrito in a large tortilla. Confusion tactics. It’s almost impossible for them to give me as little as I’m paying for without feeling like a cheapskate, though of course I’m the cheapskate. I dream my cheapskate ideal: cooking only rice while buying sauces by the quart from every restaurant in town. Knowing a bartender who’s trying to invent their own drink and wants to use me as the test subject. A dry cleaner who’ll give me all the unclaimed clothes, plus friends at the ice cream place and movie theatre. Unfortunately, even a free bagel is getting hard to come by now that my friends are successful musicians. I was happy for them when they got to quit their lousy day jobs, but sad for me. You can’t eat, or wear, promo records, although they do help pay the rent.

It’s hard to support smaller businesses when the chain stores are the only ones that can afford to stock up on low-selling items like size fifteen shoes. They are a rare item, also a conversation piece, so I end up meeting more people while I’m out looking for a new pair than I do at any other time of year. Everyone has something to say about large feet, and it’s usually sort of sleazy. It’s also hard to avoid office supply chainstores and go to Barlow’s instead, especially when I find out that Barlow is a scumbag. I cry everytime I pay a dollar fifty each for pens, twice the price of Office Depot, but I’d still rather support a local scumbag than a multi-national one.

I go out shopping in Berkeley, and I end up in the middle of a moral crisis. Should I get beer from the liquor store which shortchanges me and rips me off, or the grocery store which overcharges and rips off the entire community? Should I go to the copy shop owned by Iranian refugees who fled persecution from the shah and who now support the Ayatollah, or the copy shop owned by the Iranian refugees who supported the shah and who were later persecuted by the Ayatollah because they are Jews? What business is it of mine anyway? But in Berkeley everything is everybody’s business. It’s think globally, act locally taken to its lowest common denominator.

Even at a garage sale, I get all involved in someone else’s life. There’s the usual tell-tale trinkets from lost lovers, exercise bikes, and clothes that no longer fit, just like garage sales everywhere, but in Berkeley there’s also ideologies, movements, and lifestyles that no longer fit. With the rows and rows of self-help books, you feel like you’re at a 12-step meeting, except there’s no free coffee. Men who Beat the Men who Love Them, Men who Hate Women and the Women who Love Them, Women who Drink, Women who Love Sex, Women who Walk Through Fire, Women whose Lives are Food, Men whose Lives are Money. Children of Alcoholics, Children of Intermarriage, Children of Dune. How can anything be a bargain when you know that by buying the junk, you also get the emotional burden that comes with it? No wonder old photos are so cheap. I got a funny feeling when I bought a strobe light for a dollar at Country Joe’s yard sale, and, sure enough, he’s looked younger ever since.

Bicycling Over the Rainbow: Redesigning Cities — and Beyond

Critical Mass is nearly three years old. In terms of sheer numbers it is still growing, but the more profound goals associated with a developing political culture are substantially unmet. As a founder of CM and someone who has been on each and every ride in San Francisco I’d like to blurt a bit:

The growing pains we’ve experienced during the last six months, while not much fun, are in any case inevitable as an event takes on a life of its own. The July ride, nearing 3,000 riders, was an impressive display of statistical growth, but conversely it was what I’ve dubbed the Stepford Wives ride: it was characterized by an unusual zombie-like silence and lack of energy which underscored the basic anonymity in which even we regulars found ourselves engulfed.

Of course when we started out with 45 bicyclists in September 1992, I fantasized about Critical Mass becoming a big mass event, but it was never an important goal. Far more important to me was the lived experience of new communities, new friends, new social spaces, and most importantly, a new political space. Now that CM is so big, those of us who seek communitarian and utopian moments will have to make a greater effort to make them happen and can count less on the spontaneous combustion that has been a hallmark of the Critical Mass experience in the past.

I and a bunch of others informally planned routes and published most of the maps, Missives, and many other xerocratic documents, stickers, etc., during the first two years. A couple of dozen people found their way into the process, which was amorphous and a bit clique-y but emphatically open. (We did jealously guard the secrecy of the process from those who might have shared it with the police, since it was and is our feeling that police involvement would inevitably destroy the free-spirited quality of the event.)

My guess is that the silent majority of riders for the most part would be happier if the police stayed home and don’t want to deal with police one way or the other — they neither want to fight the cops nor submit to them. In general we’ve always sought to ignore the police, since we are merely using the city’s roads to go where we’re going, just like any other commuter or traveler. Our flouting of traffic norms (essentially red lights and stop signs) was designed to ensure the safety of the mass of bicyclists AND that of the isolated motorist who unexpectedly and suddenly finds herself surrounded by hundreds of boisterous bicyclists in what can be an intimidating experience. We also run lights and stop signs to keep moving and bring the minor traffic delay to an end that much sooner, since individual motorists are not our enemy.

The tension provided by police attention has been an attraction to some Massers and a disincentive to others. In any case it, and our varied responses to it, have shaped our political culture. I, for one, hate it when the police cheerfully welcome us to our own event, as though they thought it up and were providing it to us as a service! Their presence insults me, but the police are not the issue. If I let my opposition to state authority tilt my CM participation towards engaging in antagonistic encounters with the police, they win! The police crave recognition, and the one thing that really gets their goat is to be ignored. I’ve seen this again and again during the years of Critical Masses — the police go out of their way to attack anyone who attempts to cork or establish dialogues with motorists or in various ways break out of the acceptable norm of a police-sanctioned and -controlled parade. (There is at least one individual who is seeking order, predictability and legal standing for Critical Mass, cooperation with the police, and a trajectory towards a bicycling Bay to Breakers, which may grow into a mega-event with refreshments, commercial sponsors, and entertainment at the end!)

To avoid the inevitable progression into an oversized, predictable and dull parade we might consider our original pretense: that we are merely RIDING HOME TOGETHER and break into 5 or 7 alternate groups heading for different neighborhoods at a designated midpoint, like the Civic Center or Market and Van Ness. I am already tired of the apparent attempt to visit every hilltop in town, and have never been interested in 17-mile endurance rides. This brings us to what must be a profound divergence among Critical Mass participants: are you participating to have a bike ride or a social experience? Most of us want both, I’m sure, but most of us can probably identify our primary motivation as one or the other. I want the social experience and I don’t need the bike ride to be really long or necessarily go to obscure parts of the city. I actually liked the early days when we looped through downtown and ended up at a bar, Dolores Park or Golden Gate Park for hanging out. I think those who want to take really long rides should do so, but there’s no particular reason to impose that on Critical Mass, certainly not every time.

We conceived Critical Mass to be a new kind of political space, not about PROTESTING but about CELEBRATING our vision of preferable alternatives, most obviously in this case bicycling over the car culture. Importantly we wanted to build on the strong roots of humor, disdain for authority, decentralization, and self-direction that characterize our local political cultural history. Critical Mass descends from the anti-nuke movement as much as it does from the bicycling initiatives of the past. It is as much street theater as it is a (semi-)functional commute, or at least it has been at its best. It is inherently anti-corporate even though there are more uncritical supporters of the American Empire and its monied interests riding along than there are blazing subversives, which is just another of the many pleasant ironies of Critical Mass.

The Bicycle itself embodies the counter-technological tradition that is the flipside of America’s infatuation with technological fixes. Like the pro-solar movement in the 1970s, today’s bike advocates tend to view the bicycle as something that is inherently superior, that brings about social changes all by itself, endowing it with causal qualities that ought to be reserved for human beings. I am a daily bike commuter, have been for most of the past 20 years, and am very fond of bicycling in cities. I greatly appreciate the bicycle for its functionality in short-circuiting dominant social relations, but let’s not forget that it is merely another tool, and has no will of its own. When I bicycle around town I see things happening and can stop and explore them in depth with no hassles. I also see my friends and acquaintances and can stop and speak with them directly. This, combined with the absence of mass media pumping into my brain in the isolation of my car, sets up organic links and direct channels of human experience and communication. These links are potentially quite subversive to the dominant way of life in modern America, which is one of the reasons I like bicycling.

But bicycling is not an end in itself, just like Critical Mass is really about a lot more than just bicycling. Our embrace of bicycling doesn’t eliminate an enormous social edifice dedicated to supporting the privately owned car and oil industries. Similarly, the infrastructural design of our cities and communities is slow to change in the face of our preferential choice of bicycling. Finally, we won’t see any real change if we continue to act as isolated consumer/commuters, and in part Critical Mass allows us to begin coming together. But Critical Mass is far from enough, and until we begin challenging a whole range of technological choices at their roots, our and the planetary ecology are likely to continue worsening. Our capitalist society doesn’t really care what we buy or which toys we like to play with, as long as we keep working within a system that systematically excludes us from decisions about the shape of our lives or the technologies we must choose.

The space we’ve opened up in Criti
cal Mass is a good beginning. Out of it must grow the organic communities that can envision and then fight for a radically different organization of life itself! We will never shop our way to a liberated society. So questions of utopia lurk beneath the Critical Mass experience. what kind of life would you like to live, if you could choose? What of all the work that this society imposes on us, is work worth doing? What kind of technologies do we need? What direction do we want science to go (e.g. do we want to dedicate millions to military defense and a space program, or shall science address the basic research associated with redesigning cities, transit and energy systems, etc.)? Why do we live in a democracy in which serious questions such as these are never discussed, and if they are, only in remote academic journals and around the occasional kitchen table? Why is politics primarily a detached and meaningless ritual of popularity and money?

In general our culture is quite retarded when it comes to politics: genuine arguments are greeted with horror and discomfort because the antagonists aren’t being nice. Substantive disagreements regularly descend into personality squabbles wherein the real issues are quickly lost beneath the heated rhetoric of personal contempt. Most people seem to think politics is about elections and governments rather than the day-to-day compromises we have to make with each other to live. By that way of thinking, many Critical Massers on both sides of the question have concluded that Critical Mass is apolitical either because it eschews demands, lobbying, and policy declarations, or because it is celebratory and fun and not confrontational and angry.

Critical Mass is one of the MOST POLITICAL events of this depressing decade; its lack of formal leaders or agenda has opened it up for everyone to claim it for their own demands and desires. It has no further purpose than its continued existence, which in itself is an affirmation of communities that are otherwise invisible and easily ignored. How the newly self-discovered communities within Critical Mass evolve into more contestational political movements remains to be seen, and is a challenge that faces us all. Maybe some folks will begin direct action campaigns around open space, transit corridors, park and wildlife corridors, etc.? Perhaps others will band together at work to demand that their employer dedicate 10% of their hours to work in the city helping build an ecologically sound urban alternative? Clearly, the daunting task of remaking city life on a humane and ecological basis is going to take a serious challenge to the status quo, one unlikely to emerge from existing entities that claim to be political. So take heart my friends, be patient but not lazy, wait but don’t dawdle, act with intelligence, an open mind, and good will, and reject the easy ideological clichés. Life is very different these days, but not nearly as different as we would like it to be, and certainly not different in the ways that would make for an equitable, enjoyable, ecological and fulfilling human life for all of us.

Chris Carlsson

Not Our Town

No New Police Station!

Police supporters in Berkeley are trying to jump on the bandwagon of "War on Crime" hysteria and the blitzkrieg expansion of the criminal justice industry to build a new fortress police station. The building will undoubtedly stand as a symbol of the fact that even in Berkeley repression is winning out as the solution to social problems.

Over 60% of the cases currently in the criminal justice system are from the drug war. History has shown us however, that reliance on the criminal justice system to solve social problems such as drug abuse merely perpetuates a cycle of crime and punishment, leaving the social problems unsolved.

With the ongoing economic, racial, and political polarization of American society, some would legislate the economically expendable out of existence, warehousing them in prisons. Instead of spending $18 million on a new police station, we should be building institutions of inclusively, of economic access for all to the goods of society, to solve the social problems and drug problems.

Since so many police services are drug related, if Berkeley moved from criminalization to a harm reduction drug policy, there would be no need for the proposed 66,000 square foot monstrosity. The police force could be downsized from its current size of 321 officers and the extra money spent on a whole array of social and cultural programs. Furthermore, billed as a "Public Safety Building," city planners are attempting to conceal the draconian nature of police by placing them in the same building as the fire department.

And finally, the City will need to divert money from seismic retrofit funds, a misuse of that funding. In the past the people of Berkeley voted for a seismic upgrade of the existing police station, not a new four story repression facility with a weight room, gymnasium and shooting range. This backroom decision by City leaders is a manipulation of the democratic process.

This issue must be opened up to the public for discussion. We need to consider the alternatives to the insane jail-everyone policy that has much of our society currently under its grip. Opposition to this proposed facility could represent a coalition against all kinds of repression.

Coalition for Alternatives
Berkeley, CA
(510) 841-7460

Free Trade in Action: Disney Contractor Pulls Out of Haiti

H.H. Cutler, the largest manufacturer of Disney clothing in Haiti, announced on July 17 that it will pull all production out of Haiti. The National Labor Committee of New York claims Cutler will relocate to China, where wages are approximately 13 cents an hour, as opposed to Haiti, where the minimum wage is 28 cents, but where a living wage is at least double that amount. 2300 workers, mainly women, will be left jobless. One woman worker interviewed at a bus stop said If I lose my job, I might die, but I’m half-dead already.

Cutler blames the pullback on slumping sales of Disney children’s clothing, but Disney and Cutler have been targets of a worldwide campaign protesting starvation wages and miserable working conditions. Human rights organizations will be unable to monitor Cutler production in China. Cutler had previously moved most production out of its home base in Grand Rapids, MI, to relocate to Haiti. It thus follows the path of Nike, which moved production from the U.S. to Korea and now to Indonesia, Viet Nam and China.

To protest this textbook example of free trade in action, and to ask Cutler to stay in Haiti and pay a living wage, write to:

Tom Austin, President Michael Eisner, CEO
H.H. Cutler Walt Disney Company
120 Iona Avenue SW 500 South Buena Vista
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Burbank, CA 91521

Encuentro Paper

In late July 4,000 people attended the Second International Encounter For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism held in Spain. Below we reprint excerps of a report issued from the working groups: Work and the Means of Production and Creating Conditions for a Life with Dignity

I. Introduction

We came together to help make a world of dignity and justice and well-being for all humanity. This should include the dignified, democratic participation of us all, women and men, in producing the material things we need, redistributing the wealth, raising our children, and taking care of each other. But neoliberal capitalism offers us misery and exploitation so that to work is to create the chains of poverty and subservience for most of us and wealth for a few.

II. Work

1. Changing North/South/East Relations

Today, there are similarities and differences in the forms of exploitation between north and south. The similarities are increasing, but there remain old forms of imperialism which are now being renewed by neoliberalism. Neoliberalism stimulates both development and underdevelopment in both north and south, so that we find the north in the south and the south in the north. Additionally, the workers in the east are now being prepared for various forms of exploitation by northern corporations. Workers in the north do not fundamentally benefit from imperialism — it is the ruling class and the transnational corporations, and particularly speculative financial capital, that benefit — but there is a lot of complexity and inequality in relations between the working class in the north and the working class in the south. Workers in every part of the world lose under neoliberalism, but the workers in the south lose more.

2. Many Faces of Work

Capitalists try to reduce all of human life to work and consumption in the market. Capitalist work is thus exploitation, so that the demand for capitalist work is the demand to be exploited. Many ways are used to force us into this exploitation. However, to work as humans is to produce and reproduce our conditions of life and means to relate with each other. The human way to work is not of competing atomistic individuals, but of social individuals working in cooperative, dignified, and democratic arrangements. The question of human work therefore opens the political question of direct democracy from below to determine the production and reproduction of our lives. However, we must all live, and to live today it often requires that we participate in one of the many forms of capitalist work.

Today, neoliberal capital uses every kind of work in its efforts to suck profit out of the lives of people. Much of the work in the world, perhaps that of half the people of the world, is done in ways that are not directly or immediately part of the market. This comprises mostly forms of agricultrual work and life, but also includes the many areas of the informal economy. The rule of money finds ways to exploit this work, make profit from it, and to bring it under market control.

At this most recent phase of world capitalist development, in both north and south slavery increases, as well as many forms of work that are semi-slavery, such as debt bondage, child labor, forced prostitution, prison labor and workfare . In free trade zones and the maquiladora factories, workers labor in near-slavery conditions.

Neoliberalism depends on increased exploitation of the unwaged and more unpaid work from everyone. Unpaid work includes all the work traditionally done by women in the home to raise children, make men ready for work outside the home, nurse the sick, care for the elderly, and reproduce the entire domestic sphere. It includes unpaid forced overtime, time spent looking for work, and labor obligations for landlords and local political bosses. Neoliberalism also blurs the distinction between waged work and semi- slavery by imposing flex-time, on-call labor, self-employment, working at home — all ways in which the whole life is, like in slavery, reduced to work for capital.

III. Struggles and Alternatives: Reducing Work Time and Creating Non-Capitalist Work

Struggles to reduce capitalist work time, to control land and the means of production, and to build alternative ways to produce and reproduce our life can unite diverse people against the inhuman vampire called neoliberal capital. We recognize that to survive we engage in many particular struggles over immediate issues, but when linked these struggles can open the door to wider and deeper struggles.

We need therefore to develop principles with which we can analyze our struggles to see if they put us in a better position to overcome the inhuman way of life we are forced into, whether they reduce hierarchies and create wider spaces of shared democratic participants. Some of these principles include: to reduce the risk of being co-opted by capital; to ensure that our struggles and demands correspond to many sectors, needs and aspirations; and to ensure they embody a principle of human liberation. We must therefore be sure that reductions in work in one place are not at the expense of work in another. We can also develop principles that distinguish between projects imposed from the top or outside by capitalism, and those from the bottom and inside, from the people.

The struggle to reduce capitalist work allows more time to struggle against capital and more time to develop alternative was to produce, live and redistribute domestic chores. We simultaneously demand higher wages and equalization of wages, between men and women, citizens and migrants, north and south, different kinds of workers, and races. The struggle to reduce work time for capital is a struggle not only of the waged workers, but also of the unwaged workers, the millions of farmers and peasants, students, unemployed, elderly, housewives and indigenous of the world. For example, a well in a village could mean the reduction of arduous work by men and women. When we reduce work time, we must ensure the equal distribution of the work that we decide needs to be done. While we reduce work time, me must insist on conditions that ensure dignity and health for the work that remains to be done.

A guaranteed income assuring life with dignity for all residents of nation is also right. We say residents because this right belongs to migrants as well as citizens: we all have rights to inherit the wealth and knowledge that are products of centuries of collective human activity. This right is independent of requirement to work for capital. Income without work can also be gained through various struggles such as occupying houses or land, reappropriations , and refusing to pay for services.

In the south, and in some places of the north, rights to land, water, and other means of agricultural production are essential to life with dignity and the creation of just societies. These rights must not be limited by requirements to produce for the capitalist market.

Creating alternative spaces for production and social life is good in itself because these spaces enable relations that are outside of and beyond the market. They also can put limits to capitalist expansion and support creation of spaces in which struggles can grow and be protected. We can learn through this how to create many visions of ways to organize our lives and production. The satisfaction of needs outside of direct control of the capitalist market enables us to fight capital on a terrain that is more favorable to us. These forms of alternatives can develop out of traditional forms of work, but some traditional forms involve exploitation and also must be abolished. Many forms of third sector work (supposedly depending neither on the market nor the state) are not true alternatives to capitalist work, but instead are a new form of lower-waged capitalist work.

British Activists Destroy Genetically Engineered Crop

An experimental crop of rapeseed (canola), owned by the US based biotech corporation Monsanto, has been destroyed by local residents in a “Do It Yourself” public protest at a farm near Coventry, England.

The action took place in the interests of public safety on the evening of Wednesday August 6 at Tibs Hall Farm, Kingsbury near Tamworth, Staffs. The genetically altered crop containing mutant DNA was uprooted from its experimental plot by people wearing protective clothing. The plants were then broken before being mixed together with ‘normal’ plants to invalidate the experiment’s results.

In a statement issued this morning, local people said: The mutant DNA in this crop could easily spread to the surrounding area either through cross-pollination or through virus infection. No one can guarantee that this will not happen.

Our natural world is being tampered with for private profit. We are not prepared to see the people and plants of Staffordshire – or anywhere else in the UK – used as guinea pigs in somebody else’s experiment.

Despite Monsanto’s claims that their field trials of genetically engineered crops are entirely risk-free, several studies have shown that the pollen of transgenic rapeseed plants can cross-pollinate with traditional or wild species, spreading the genetic pollution.

The campaign against genetic engineering has also taken to the fields in Germany where testing is carried out. In 1996 at least 12 fields were destroyed by protesters, and action by local people stopped the planting of several more. Four fields are currently being squatted full-time by German activists determined to stop them being planted with Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant sugar beet.

Genetic Engineering: We are the Guinea Pigs

The genetic engineering industry, assisted by the US government, has been making moves that will soon put the fate (and the currency) of the world in their hands. Patented engineered crops have been pushed into the market with no responsible testing on humans as to allergens or long-term effects, and no regard for the consequences to the ecosystem when they escape and spread.

These crops will quickly boost the income of the already money-bloated chemical/ agribusiness/biotech industry by at least 4-5 times. With this much money at stake, the corporate sharks are in a feeding frenzy of such intensity that any thoughts of caution, not to mention ethics, must be quickly suppressed. No expense is being spared to lay the groundwork and to alter the public’s opinion of the biotechnology industry. One of many examples of its influence is the enactment of laws that enable private entities to apply for patents on research that was largely funded by the government.

The World’s Breadbasket: Monsanto?

Chemical giant Monsanto stands as a prime example of this blatant bad behavior. Their executives regularly cycle in and out of top positions in the FDA. Consequently the FDA enacts whatever policies will further Monsanto’s interests. In 1992, over 150 FDA officials owned stock in the drug/biotech companies they regulated.

Monsanto’s biggest cash-cow at $1.5 billion per year has been the widely used herbicide Roundup. The use of Roundup is the third most commonly reported cause of illness among agricultural workers in California; for landscape maintenance workers, it ranks highest. It also destroys soil life and leaves residues that show up in food planted a year after the soil was sprayed.

Use of Roundup was previously limited to killing weeds around the borders of cropland. However, Monsanto is betting the farm on its new line of Roundup Ready crops, which are specifically engineered to withstand massive dousing with Roundup. In fact, a year’s supply of Roundup is sold as a package with the seeds–for which farmers must sign a contract promising not to sell or give away any seeds or save them for next year’s planting. Monsanto inspects its customers’ farms for violations.

Monsanto expects that its sales of Roundup will increase to $4 billion per year in 5 years. By early next century, Monsanto fully expects to be THE source of the world’s food, and is doing whatever it takes to make its dream come true. Other agribiz/biotech corporations are desperately fighting for their share.

Who Will Pay for these Profits?

The Third World countries will pay the highest price, first as the unpaid sources for the genes that are being spliced into the new mega-profitable patented crops, and again as they are made more and more dependent on big agribusiness. Small farmers in all countries can see their extinction on the horizon. It may be that, after cross-pollination occurs and spreads, and after the drifting of ever-increasing clouds of crop-dusted pesticides kill off all non-resistant crops, only patented crops will be able to grow. Only giant agribusiness concerns will be able to afford the patented seeds and accompanying pesticides that allow these crops to flourish, and the only way to get food will be to get in line at the agribusiness foodstand.

The needs of corporate interests do not reflect the needs of people. The alternative to prolonged shelf life and long-distance trade is not the reengineering of fruits and vegetables. The alternative is to reduce ëfood miles’. Cuba, for example, has used the crisis of the US trade embargo to create thousands of urban organic gardens to meet the vegetable needs of each city from within its municipal limits.

Long distance transport for basic food stuffs which could be grown locally serves the interests of global agribusiness, not the small farmer.

–Dr. Vandana Shiva, ecofeminist, physicist and philosopher

So What’s Wrong with Frankenfoods, Anyway?

Because of lack of testing, there will be currently unforeseen consequences on human and animal health. We do know that people with food allergies will soon not be able to tell if the vegetable or the food product they are buying contains genes from something they are allergic to.

One imminent result from a new product already on the market, Maximizer corn, which contains a gene resistant to the antibiotic ampicillin, is the increased spread of antibiotic resistance into animals and humans. (Antibiotic resistance makes these sometimes-crucial drugs ineffective.) Other probable consequences include increased strain on immune systems, more new diseases, and increased cancer rates.

Already infectious diseases are on a global rebound, killing thousands more and evolving into antibiotic-resistant strains. The US death rate from infectious diseases rose 58% between 1980-1992, becoming the third-leading killer of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. European countries have banned most US beef, poultry and dairy products because of detectable levels of drugs.

–Lee Hitchcox, D.C, Strategies for Staying Alive,1996.

As for reports that bioengineered crops will be able to use less pesticide or less-toxic pesticides and herbicides, such reports have been greatly exaggerated by PR firms receiving mega-bucks from agribusiness. It’s notable that many times more research is being done on ways to use greater quantities of highly toxic chemicals than on less-toxic methods.

Boo-boos and Surprises

What has reached the market so far is only the start of an onslaught of products, as biotech companies rush to cash in on their patented products and to develop more. In April, one mistake that supposedly could never happen because of tight quality control and regulations came to light: Monsanto had to recall some seed that contained an incorrect gene which had been inserted by accident. Research done in Denmark has shown that genetically-manipulated genes in crops can make their way into nearby weeds under field conditions. In this way, genetic errors can propagate into the environment and permanently alter the natural world in ways that no one is prepared to understand (Peter Montague, Rachel‚s Environment and Health Weekly, #549).

Another surprise is the speed with which insects are meeting the challenge of bio-engineering through their capacity to mutate. It had been hoped that bio-engineering toxins into crops would repel insects without need for external application of pesticides, but the insects turn out to be more than equal to the threat, adapting in one generation to toxins that were supposed to fend them off for four generations.

There are effective non-toxic ways to deal with weeds and insects, but since the industry can’t get rich off them, they are not likely to get much respect from agribusiness.

Other Countries Fight US Agribusiness

Meeting at its World Congress in Geneva on April 15-18, the International Union of Food and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) threw the weight of its 320 affiliated unions in 112 countries behind a call for a ban on gene-altered foods.

Egypt is proposing an import ban on transgenic (genetically-altered) foods, but because of US pressure has agreed to suspend it for three months.

European Union (EU) members have stated for years that they do not want bio-engineered food. Since their protests were ignored by US agribusiness, their next demand was that bio-engineered food must be labeled. However, they are finding that the US does not intend to comply, because separating the sources of crops is not economically feasible.

In June, major US agribiz companies signed a letter to President Clinton urging him to threaten the European Union with sanctio
ns in order to force genetically modified crops on the European market. The letter instructs the President that the EU’s objections are based on emotions, not science, and clearly states that segregation of bulk commodities is not scientifically justified and is economically unrealistic.

Regulatory authorities in European countries such as the UK, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark objected to the approval of transgenic maize (corn) because of the possible spread of antibiotic resistance. However they were overruled by the EU Commission under massive pressure from the USA.

The Clinton administration is guilty of collusion in this money-grabbing scheme, force-feeding bio-engineering to the world by promoting it as another end to world hunger, while in fact it is one of the biggest scams going today–a scam to steal the resources, control, and most probably the health of the peoples of the world.

Greenpeace activists from across Europe launched a major protest June 26, 1997, after receiving a leaked copy of a document outlining a multi-million dollar public relations campaign (led by the PR company Burson Marsteller, best known for its work for US chemical company Union Carbide after the Bhopal chemical explosion in India) to overturn public opposition to genetically manipulated crops and the food made from them. The same companies who brought us dioxins, PCBs, DDT, CFC’s and dozens of other dangerous chemicals, which have long since been banned, are now telling us genetically manipulated organisms are safe and even environmentally beneficial, Greenpeace spokesperson Marie-Jeanne Schiffelers said.

Patent laws in Brazil, India, and Argentina forbid the patenting of pharmaceuticals on the grounds that drugs are of such great importance that no one should have the right to monopolize them. Colombian researcher Dr. Manuel Patarroyo recently gave the World Health Organization exclusive royalty-free rights on an antimalaria vaccine he developed. We wanted to do this for the benefit of humanity, he explained.

Ironically, the European attitude toward bioengineering is influenced by their history of colonialism and the taking of many resources from the new world without payment. They say that to now claim that such things can be patented and to require payment for their use would be contrary to their historical actions.

According to a Dutch Green Party member of the European Parliament, Ninety percent of the genetic resources which are used in our agricultural production come from the Third World. We have never asked if we ought to pay anything for them. And now for the biotechnology industry to demand monopoly property rights over them is utterly unjustifiable. Whether wild species or crop plants, genetic resources are the common heritage of humankind. All farmers must be guaranteed free access to them.

To take part in nation-wide October actions against genetic engineering, contact the Pure Food Campaign, 860 Highway 61, Little Marais, Minnesota 55614, (202) 775-1132 or (218) 226-4164. E-mail:

Disabled activists blockade Greyhound Station

Forty members of American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today (ADAPT), trapped eight Greyhound buses at San Francisco’s Transbay Terminal on August 8. Protesters from the disability rights organization blockaded the station for nearly three hours, trapping the buses by blocking their entrance and exit with their wheelchairs. Greyhound was forced to offload two buses below the station on Folsom St. After the CHP arrested eight protesters, Greyhound was finally able to resume normal operations. This action was done in solidarity with forty-three other actions, staged across the nation by ADAPT against Greyhound.

The action was to protest Greyhound’s refusal to equip its buses with lifts and make its facilities accessible for persons with disabilities, as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For years ADAPT has been pressuring Greyhound and other over-the-road bus (OTRB) lines to comply with the ADA in the same way as municipal buses, such as AC Transit and Muni. Beginning in 1988, ADAPT staged a two-year series of protests and freedom rides against not only Greyhound, but the American Bus Association (ABA) and the United Bus Operators of America (UBOA), the two lobby groups representing OTRBs. Through very powerful lobbying efforts, they convinced Congress and the Department of Transportation (DOT) that putting lifts on their buses was too hard. Both Congress and DOT gave Greyhound until 1996 to comply after the ADA regulations were written in 1990.

Congress formed a committee, composed of bus industry people, disability advocates, and bureaucrats, to study the best means to accommodate disabled people. In 1993 they concluded OTRBs must provide access to disabled riders. They also found lifts to be the easiest, safest, and most cost-effective way to do it, countering Greyhound’s claim. Despite these findings, DOT delayed drafting any new regulations forcing Greyhound to install lifts. DOT also allowed Greyhound to sneak an amendment into the Federal Highway Act not requiring them to buy lift-equipped buses until two years after any regulations came out.

This entire issue has become especially time-critical. Greyhound is now hurriedly replacing its entire fleet with inaccessible buses, in an underhanded attempt to beat any new regulations. These new regulations would not be retroactive to cover any new or existing buses. Since OTRBs have an operational lifetime of twenty years, Greyhound might not be accessible until the next century. Persons with disabilities are unwilling to have their rights to accessible transportation violated well into the twenty-first century.

Also of concern is the large number of disabled living in rural areas who badly need the type of affordable transportation OTRBs could provide. Sixty-eight million (or 23%) of the nation’s population live in rural areas. Fifteen million (22%) of these are disabled. Since disabled people are among the nation’s most impoverished citizens, affordable transportation is crucial. This is especially true for rural disabled who often are scattered and without any way to get to medical care, schools, and other activities necessary for a full, equal life.