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International Round-up

The 1st global street party

Tens of thousands of people around the world participated in the Global Street Party against globalization on May 16. A sampling of actions elsewhere: Geneva, Switzerland 4000 people wearing costumes and carrying flags and banners wound through the streets attacking banks, jewelry shops and local branches of McDonalds in an effort to Reclaim the Streets from global capitalism. Riot police stopped the demonstration from reaching the world headquarters of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Professor Swamy from the Indian Karnataka State Farmers Association addressed the crowd at the barricade The WTO kills people; we must kill the WTO. Moments later, a Mercedes limousine was overturned, sending a flutter of diplomatic papers into the air. The street party raged at a main intersection into the night.

Prague, Czechoslovakia Over 3,000 people spontaneously marched from the RTS street party to block Prague’s main road after a street party which featured 4 sound systems, 20 DJs, puppet shows, drums, live music, fire performances, etc. Without warning, riot police attached the crowd, starting a riot that lasted hours. Up to 100 people were arrested and severely beaten, 22 police were hospitalized, 3 McDonalds restaurants and a KFC were trashed, 6 cop cars destroyed. One RTS organizer was later arrested and may be facing 2 years in jail. Email letters of support to Slavomir Tesarek, tesarek@usa.net.

Toronto, Canada About 500 people reclaimed a major downtown street for an hour with dancing, puppets, drumming, children drawing chalk pictures on the street and balloons until police with knives and horses waded into the celebration to pop the balloons (!) and arrest a number of party-goers. Four were charged with crimes including one who suffered a broken arm, apparently in police custody.

Sydney, Australia About 4,000 people reclaimed the streets in the largest RTS event yet in Australia. The party featured 3 stages (Rock, Central Techno and Hip-Hop/Raggae/Dub), 25 foot tall tripods blocking the street, carpets, sofas, food fundraiser, skateboard rail, five terminal sidewalk internet station, sandstone sculptors, poets, fire twirlers, street gardeners, recycling and RTS supplied rubbish bins. Police were on hand but didn’t stop the party. Berlin, Germany Over 1000 people, in three groups, some on bikes, came together in the center of Berlin at the same moment for Berlin RTS. The party blocked a road crossing with a huge soundsystem, a drum group, furniture, etc. The party included dancing, drinking, volleyball, chess and artistical stuff. Because of media reaction to police violence on May Day, only 3 people were arrested and only a handful hit by cops. The police were taken by surprise by the protest.

Tel Aviv, Israel About 500 people reclaimed a major road with a rave and mobile sound system in a van. The party had a police permit to be near the location of the party and when they poured into the street, the cops were powerless to stop them.

Turku, Finland About 2000 people, marching from different locations, joined up to reclaim a city block of road in the central city, including one of the main bridges over the river. An advance action group blocked the street before the marches arrived. Banners and flags hung from the bridge and the police didn’t interfere: no problem with your illegal demo, but please a big less volume.

Utrecht, Netherlands 800 people blocked a six land highway with a street rave and a wild dance party for about five hours. The police didn’t interfere and even helped set-up the generator for the sound system. Valencia, Spain About 300 people reclaimed the Streets for 5 hours. First, we thought to take the market square, in the traffic-polluted heart of the city. But this wasn’t possible, only for half an hour, because the police isn’t a body which is made to dance. Later the party moved throughout the city, blocking streets and visiting the Virgin Mary at the Cathedral, who also didn’t dance.

York, UK 250 people blockaded the street, drummed and listened to a bike powered sound system.

Brisbane, Australia Police, some on horses, arrested a number of people, seized the sound system and towed it away, but the street party proceeded with drumming and whistling.

Ljubljana, Slovenia About 40 people reclaimed the streets with a Critical Mass ride. The group had such a good time that more rides were planned for the rest of the summer.

Tallinn, Estonia 50 cyclists and pedestrians blocked a 6 lane road where a cross-walk had been removed the previous year and replaced by fences, requiring bikers and pedestrians to walk half a mile to cross the road. Their banner red Kellele kiirteed, kellele piirded (Some get highways, others get fences). Lyon, France 200 people with costumes, bikes, signs and a float marched through the streets before blocking a road with a tripod. Police forced the crowd off the street into a park, where people danced and splashed in a fountain.

Stockholm, Sweden People with drums and flags marched through the streets for an hour and then danced in a park. The anarchists of Stockholm were more colorful than ever before.

Birmingham, UK London RTS, which called the Global Street Party, organized May 16′s largest party at the site of the G8 international meeting of world leaders. 8,000 people, some dressed as clowns with cream pies, reclaimed a traffic circle for several hours near the G8 meeting to laugh in the face of global capitalism. Ha Ha Ha. A huge kite with the names of other cities hosting street parties flew above the festivities. Police in riot gear were more obnoxious than at past RTS gatherings and one of them got a pie in the face for their efforts. A car abandoned in the midst of the gathering was flipped and trashed but, after much discussion, not set alight. Thanks to London RTS for organizing an amazing international outpouring of rage. When was the last time an international protest of this scale happened with such a minimal amount of work and central bureaucracy? The only question now is: when is the next schedule and how many cities will have parties next time?

Reclaim the Streets: Berkeley

Thinking globally, partying locally

About 700 people in Berkeley reclaimed the streets on May 16, as part of an international Global Street Party against the global economy and the global environmental destruction it is causing.

The Reclaim the Streets (RTS) movement, hatched in London in 1995, brings environmental direct action to an urban context. Car transportation, and the disastrous urban sprawl, pollution and social disintegration that goes along with it, is the urban equivalent of a clearcut. In England, RTS is the urban wing of Earth First! campaigns to save the countryside from more roads. The Berkeley RTS made the links between cars/car dominated streets and the global capitalist system which is increasingly impoverishing and disenfranchising workers everywhere.

Demonstrators in Berkeley RTS at the downtown BART station at 7 p.m. The large crowd, half on foot and half on bikes, marched down the street a few blocks waiving black flags and carrying a 25 foot long banner reading Take back our lives–Reclaim the Streets. Then the march divided with the bikes peddling straight for a Critical Mass to the secret location of the Street Party while the march turned left. On the way to the Street Party location, the march picked up couches, rugs and other props that had been left the night before in hidden locations.

At Telegraph Avenue, the march and the Critical Mass ride triumphantly met up with couches, bikes and flags held high. The rejoined group took a side trip to get around a line of cops and finally ended up at the intersection selected for the Street Party. An advance action group had already blockaded Telegraph Ave. with an old donated car and blocked a side street with dumpsters and signs. The intersection had been reclaimed!

A mobile sound system churned out tunes while the intersection was transformed into a living room with dozens of couches, rugs and miscellaneous furniture. Free food tables were set up, folks smashed up and overturned the car, smoked pot, danced and socialized. A TV smashing got a little out of hand as glass covered the dance floor. Then parts of the crowd ignited a toxic bonfire with some of the couches, while other people in the crowd repeatedly put out the fire. Finally, the fire was extinguished and the party got into full swing, lasting several hours. Activists handed out about 1,000 flyers explaining the politics behind the event: Welcome to a rupture of the everyday. Before you is a street party: a community festival on the [paved over] town square. By dancing and playing–turning the pavement into a playground–we are reclaiming the street from the automobile which ruins the street by making it a place to be moved through not lived in. We believe the city and the street should be for people to live, meet others and celebrate creativity and freedom. The city should serve the human community, not mechanized consumerism. Cars are only the most visible and tangible representative of an inhuman consumer society which is smashing community, constricting human spontaneity and freedom and destroying the Earth’s life support system.

Berkeley RTS was a huge success and plans are developing for another international RTS event, this time with much greater participation in the United States (which needs a vibrant anti-roads movement far more than England.) In addition to Berkeley RTS being one of the largest demonstrations for a few years in Berkeley, it managed to simultaneously take on capitalism and environmental destruction with direct action tactics. Particularly inspiring was the international aspect as thousands around the world with the same vision for a democratic and sustainable future gathered to rage against a global enemy that can only be challenged by an international movement.

No Freedom Without Communications

Injunction shuts down Free Radio Berkeley but the fight for micro-powered, community radio continues

Free Radio Berkeley, which for the past three and a half years had been openly broadcasting 24 hours a day on 104.1 FM after Federal Judge Claudia Wilken refused to grant the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) an injunction to shut the station down, went off the air June 16 after Wilken finally issued the FCC its injunction. The injunction order, based on a legal technicality which the judge said prevented her from ruling on the constitutional issues raised by FRB during the lengthy litigation, brought an abrupt end to one of the most original and revolutionary radio stations ever.

Under the injunction, anyone acting in active concert or participation with FRB founder Stephen Dunifer faces contempt of court charges for making any radio transmissions or doing any act, whether direct or indirect, to cause unlicensed radio transmissions or to enable such radio transmissions to occur.

The harsh and overbroad injunction language convinced many in FRB that continued open, on-air broadcasting as Free Radio Berkeley carried a significant possibility of arrest and harsh punishment. An FRB meeting the day the injunction issued voted to temporarily go off the air to save the transmitter from seizure and make a plan for its defense. The station never went back on the air. Decision making was paralyzed in divisive meetings following the injunction and many former DJs drifted away in disgust or fear.

Finally, over a month down the road, initial disorganization is being supplanted by diversified strategies to continue the struggle for participatory community access to the radio airwaves.


Covert Broadcasting Service

Soon after the injunction, unidentified persons have returned to FRB’s roots, making covert broadcasts from the hills on 104.1 FM, mostly on weekend nights. Calling themselves the Covert Broadcasting Service (CBS), rumors are circulating that additional underground broadcasting cells may soon form to reclaim 104.1 FM seven days a week, at least in the evenings. Although the unusual schedule and barriers to wide participation posed by the need for secrecy and the mobile, hill location means that CBS is unlikely to soon replace Free Radio Berkeley’s role as a community station, CBS shows that resistance continues and is possible. Media interest in CBS has kept the fights against corporate control of the airwaves in the public eye.

Since the injunction only affects those acting in concert with Dunifer, most would-be broadcasters in Berkeley and Northern Californian now face the same risks always faced by other micro broadcasters around the US. And these risks may not be as great as the FCC would like people to think they are.

Even before the injunction, micro broadcasters outside of California faced intermittent FCC raids and threats. In most cases, micro broadcasters received numerous warnings, but the FCC rarely followed through with military-style raids. The FCC has always had the power to seize unlicensed transmitters and levy fines against micro-broadcasters. And, the Communications Act has always carried criminal penalties for unlicensed broadcasts, although they are rarely used. In the only recent criminal prosecution, Lonnie Kobres, who faced up to 28 years for illegal broadcasts, was sentenced July 14 to 3 years probation, 6 months of house arrest and a $7,000 fine for micro-broadcasts in Florida. The judge didn’t buy the FCC’s claims that Mr. Kobres was a threat to public safety for exercising his free speech. Kobres is the only recent criminal case out of thousands who have gone on the air over the past year.

The FCC’s actions locally have demonstrated that it is still possible to get away with micro-powered broadcasting. Only a week after the injunction, two unidentified individuals calling themselves Free Radio Cedar Tree broadcast on 104.1 FM from the Berkeley hills. Although FCC agents located them in 15 minutes, the FCC didn’t try to arrest them or seize their transmitter. They merely asked them to turn the transmitter off. After attempting to interview the FCC live on the air, the radio rebels shut down and escaped into the night.

Another form of civil disobedience- broadcasting is to transmit from public events. On the Fourth of July, two dozen people openly broadcast on 104.1 FM from the Independence Day celebration at the Berkeley Marina. Although the broadcast was in broad daylight, the FCC took no action. Broadcasts from demonstrations or even house parties combine a media stunt with the relative safety that numbers provide against FCC intervention. Of course, scattered public broadcasts may have few listeners, since its impossible to know when or where to tune in.

Some former FRB DJs have also rebuilt the FRB studio to legally transmit audio files over the internet. While this project can potentially reach a worldwide audience (of those with computers) and is interesting in its own right, it hardly replaces local, on-air broadcasts.

Nationally, the injunction seems to have encouraged FCC repression against other open micro broadcasters. Soon after the FRB injunction, Radio Mutiny in Philadelphia, one of the best organized micro radio stations aside from Free Radio Berkeley, was raided by FCC agents, who seized all equipment in sight, but made no arrests. Radio Mutiny recently hosted an East Coast micro radio conference and was involved in high profile publicity efforts. The FCC apparently targeted it to eliminate another vocal critic.

Several other micro stations, including San Francisco Liberation Radio, have also recently gone off the air after receiving FCC threats or in reaction to the injunction in Berkeley. A national micro-radio Pledge of Resistance is being circulated so people can commit to defending stations threatened by FCC action.


Legal Implications

Free Radio Berkeley lawyers immediately attacked the injunction by filing a motion for reconsideration. Unfortunately, motions for reconsideration are rarely granted. If the motion for reconsideration is denied, an appeal is also possible. During all of the possible future legal maneuvering, however, it appears that the injunction will be in force, preventing Free Radio Berkeley from openly broadcasting.

The Court injunction stated that Free Radio Berkeley didn’t have standing to use a constitutional defense to the FCC’s injunction action because it had never applied for (and been denied) a license to broadcast.

The ruling may be vulnerable since the FCC has continuously stated that it would automatically deny a micro power license application from Free Radio Berkeley if one was made. The Court’s reasoning requires micro radio proponents to be rich enough to spend about $100,000 to apply for a micro-powered FCC license (which doesn’t exist) so they can be denied in order to show they have standing to challenge whether the FCC rules which limit broadcasting to the rich are constitutional! In addition to the $3,000 FCC application fee, an FCC license applicant has to submit expensive engineering studies and prove that the applicant has a one year advance supply of operating funds. Radio Mutiny in Philadelphia attempted to apply for a license with a fee waiver, but the application was denied without reaching the micro-power issue.


Into the Future

Ultimately, the period during which Judge Wilken refused to grant the FCC its injunction was an unprecedented opportunity to build a movement for micro powered, community radio. During the three and a half year opening, hundreds of transmitters were built and distributed around the country and thousands of people coast-to-coast experienced first-hand the potential that micro radio represents.

At a time when fewer and fewer mega-corporations dominate the airwaves, when radio formats sound the same from New York to LA, micro-power radio represents a huge opportunity for a different model of radio broadcasting. Micro power is cheap, simple and accessible, allowing communities and individuals to have a voice. The Free Radio movement received extensive media coverage over the last three years partly because the alternative to corporate domination that it represents is so attractive, even to members of the corporate media.

At this stage of the micro radio movement, as litigation to challenge the constitutionality of FCC regulation of the airwaves continues, although without a legal gray area to permit open broadcasting in Berkeley, the movement needs to redouble its efforts to reach middle America with the message that there is another way. Under the Communications Act, the FCC is charged with regulating in the public interest. Their gross mismanagement of the airwaves must be exposed for what it is: a giveaway to corporations.

Efforts thus far against the FCC have been largely focused on litigation. There are now enough proponents of micro powered radio throughout the country to better develop a second, politically-oriented attack.

Since the start of 1998, at least two petitions for rulemaking have been filed with the FCC to permit forms of micro-powered broadcasting. The petitions, developed by small-business persons, aren’t exclusively focused on allowing non-profit, community oriented radio as envisioned by Free Radio activists, but they show that changes in FCC rules may be on the horizon. Public comment is accepted on every proposed rulemaking, and Free Radio needs to have its comments heard. Free Radio activists need to get involved in this process to amend the existing petitions and write new ones so that the new rules better reflect the public interest.

Various FCC officials have also recently given lip service to taking another look at smaller, community oriented radio. Unfortunately, their words ring hollow. The explosion in use of cell phones and digital technology, including High Definition TV, are all making demands on radio spectrum space. All of these technologies are championed by the kind of well-funded, massive corporate interests that the FCC has a long history of serving. Nonetheless, Free Radio activists should use their words to demand action.

The network of Free Radio activists developed over the past three years can become significant critics of the FCC’s current, corporate-oriented priorities. Combining tactics such as covert broadcasting, mainstream media coverage, media stunts, teach-ins, radio trainings and micro broadcasts at public rallies, Free Radio activists can point out the alternative as well as the bankruptcy of the current FCC rules. It’s also time to recruit any politicians who aren’t already bought and paid for by the broadcast industry to the cause. The fight for free speech on the airwaves is not over; it has only begun.

To get involved call Free Radio Berkeley at 510-594-8082. Or check out www.free radio.org or www.radio4all.org.

Why I am a Covert Broadcaster

Guerrilla Micro-Radio Broadcasters take back 104.1 FM

Since that injunction against Free Radio Berkeley came down (see article this page), it has become necessary for microbroadcasters everywhere to move operations into the hills once again. Microbroadcasting advocates, now more than ever, are needed to stand up and put their personal freedom on the line for the sake of the larger freedoms and goals of the society – liberating the public airwaves. The FCC gleefully began shutting down micropower stations all across the country, completing the corporate stranglehold, and it is up to us, free speech advocates, to tear it down once and for all.

It is no time to sit around and pretend that you are not participating in the corporate controlled media domain by boycotting television and reading books, whining about Disney this and Westinghouse that. Now is the time to put your ass behind your convictions, and stand up and take back the airwaves. We no longer have the safety of the U.S. v. Dunifer case pending in the courts, when microradio was in a legal gray area and micropowerbroadcasters could just point to the Dunifer case as protection; that has been ruled on. Now we must engage in civil disobedience, fully exposed to arrest, jail time, and any number of humiliating and horrible experiences, so that others in our society may be free. By taking the airwaves, the FCC has taken our voice. We must take it back.

Covert broadcasting is a small art form that, when accomplished, is better than warm milk for one s pride, confidence, and spirit of radicalism. What I, Miss Hearst-Landers, have been doing is climbing the side of a mountain and broadcasting off the top of it to the community below. It doesn t take much for electronic civil disobedience. The equipment, of course: transmitter, antenna, filter, mixer, tape player, microphone, car battery, a panoply of wires and cords, and a few friends. We hike up a mountain, slipping on tree leaves, pausing under the weight of that damned 60-pound car battery. The evening sun is always in the perfect position to blind us on our way up. The surrounding forest is still, the buzzing of insects constant. Sweat dripping, we pant and gasp our way up this hill, curses to the FCC on our lips with every step. When we reach the top, we go through a trail filled with poison oak and ivy.

When we finally do start broadcasting, it is truly a feeling – rather like excitement mixed with fear, queasiness, and pride. There are good tactical reasons for choosing a mountain – the fact that your signal will blanket much of your chosen area with only a little power, and also the fact that a bust is improbable. I could throw the FCC official farther than he would walk from his Suburban, and the terrain is not especially adapted for vehicles.

If you do decide to jump in head first, remember the risks but be proud of your decision. I was scared at first (and still am), asking myself what was I doing and why the hell for? I came to this answer: I am grateful for the risks my forefathers and foremothers have taken in the years before me that have ensured me my freedoms (Upton Sinclair, the Wobblies, Mother Jones, Tom Mooney, Emma Goldman). It is only right for me to do the same thing for future generations. I couldn’t live with myself if I did anything less.

Free speech, neo-colonialism and micro-powered broadcasting in Haiti

Free Radio IRATE (International Radio Action Trarning in Education) visits Haiti to spread micro-powered radio as a form of coup insurance

When an orchestrated coup d’ t‰t produced its first mutinous rumblings at a military base outside of Haiti’s capital city, Michel Favard, then director of the national radio station, caught wind of the plan and sent an appeal for vigilance over the airwaves. Supporters of Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, took to the streets of Port-au-Prince and fashioned road-blocks in efforts to slow the coup’s movement. At the same time, only minutes after Favard’s Paul Revere-like cry, a group of men in olive-toned uniforms led the messenger away from radio headquarters in handcuffs. He would go missing for days. A body would be found riddled with bullet holes. Unconfirmed rumors would spread that it was his. At least one international news service would report Favard dead.

As the story went, Michel Favard was freed days later, unharmed, and Aristide’s return to the presidency from October 1994 to February 1996 saw Favard’s rise to the position of Presidential Press Secretary. Yet, his abduction by the forces of putsch-leader Lieutenant General Raoul Cedras in the fall of 1991 signified danger for radio broadcasters throughout Haiti. Days after Favard’s release, the BBC would announce that a popular station, Radio Lumiere, went off the air voluntarily after reporting that some 40 civilians in a rural village were massacred by the military. The Washington Post would soon retell the tale: Uniformed gunmen had opened fire from a passing vehicle, according to witnesses. Bullets peppered the station’s satellite dish. As it had done to the same station in 1987Ñthe night before elections which would be canceled due to bloodshed at the pollsÑviolent force rendered the Protestant-run station silent. A month after the ’91 coup, at least four of tens of radio stations–independent, Catholic, and Protestant–all ransacked by military and police forces, would still be out of commission.

Somewhere in the manual of overthrowing a government, perhaps on the first page, it says, seize the radio station. So says Free Radio Berkeley’s founder Stephen Dunifer in this year’s Seizing the Airwaves: A Free Radio Handbook. The events in Haiti of October 1991 prove his point. Cedras, now in exile, seemed versed in the radical mantra of the Berkeley-born Free Speech Movement: If you can’t communicate, you can’t organize, and if you can’t organize, you can’t fight back. Preferring can to can’t, Dunifer’s Free Radio Berkeley IRATEÑInternational Radio Action Training in EducationÑis working to ensure that communities in politically turbulent areas up and down this hemisphere have the equipment and expertise to communicate, organize, and fight for themselves.

PIRATE’s efforts to date have concentrated on communities in Canada, Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti, with work in Haiti leading the rest. IRATE’s Haiti program began in 1994, before Aristide’s return to power. Having received requests for equipment, Dunifer sent shipments of microradio transmitters clandestinely, disguising the goods as karaoke machines. He has since traveled to Haiti twice, once meeting briefly with Aristide to discuss a blueprint for the Haitian radio system. If Haiti can insure that its radio band is divided into three distinct classes–commercial, community, and public or government radio–with 50% or more reserved for the last two, to insure community radio’s autonomy.

Corporate control of the airwaves, and a Federal Communications Commission that operates hand-in- hand with deep-pocketed interests, is so rigidly protected in the U.S. that the three-pronged model is a only a dream in this liberal democratic (read “capitalist”) state. Judge Claudia Wilken’s decision last month to grant the FCC an injunction against FRB is just another gavel to the heads of democracy’s daydreamers. In Haiti, though, the system of frequency monitoring and distribution is still under construction. Dunifer’s IRATE hopes to lend a hand in the architectural project by getting as many people as possible from as many communities to learn how to start, run, and maintain radio stations. According to Dunifer, “the emphasis on grassroots radio is a form of coup insurance.” Wattage will be low, around 15, 30, or 75, but there is power in numbers. The more stations there are, and the less centralized and fixed their locales, the harder it will beÑfor capitalists, dictators, and military juntasÑto shut them up.

The IRATE mission in mind, FRB’s Matthew [WHAT'S HIS LAST NAME?], Joe Williams, and Govinda Dalton spent three weeks in Haiti this May. Funded by the Parish 20 Project, the East Bay Sanctuary, members of the Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, and various private donors in the Bay Area, the activists traveled by foot, bus, even donkey, from Port-au-Prince to Fondwa to Jacmel to Balimb and back to Port-au-Prince, then to Les Cayes and Rivi re de Nippes, weighted with transmitters, converters, soldering irons and a body of technical knowledge to be distributed to the newest voices of Haitian radio. They came back with plans for an in-country micropower network, tapes of countrymen’s analyses of Haiti’s political and economic strife, and first-hand experience of the Third World.

With its year-long summer, tropical waters on three sides, and a reputation as the world’s number five producer of mangoes, Haiti has the makings of an island paradise. But a history of dictatorial abuse, elite market control and multinational corporate exploitation has left the country the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Less than one percent of rural homes has electricity. Most of the water isn’t potable. Malnutrition is chronic. The life expectancy of the average Haitian is fifty-four; here, it is past seventy. Go into any travel shop in Berkeley for information on Haiti and you will find no guides, no books, rarely a map. Political turmoil along with an AIDS scare blown to horrific proportion by the news media in the early 80s has decimated the tourist industry. The only mention of travel to Haiti I find is in a guidebook on the Dominican Republic, the country which shares Haiti’s Eastern border and the other two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola. On travel to Haiti by the so-called International Highway, the Moon Travel Handbook warns:
At this time it is hazardous because of smuggling and tension. Avoid the road.

Joe Williams’s first picture of Haiti is no less romantic. The altitude drop as the plane descended into Port-au-Prince brought the details of his green and turquoise impression into sharp focus. There were old rusted hulks of airplanes lining the runway. He continues, seeming to agree tacitly with the U.S. State Department’s policy of warning travelers to Port-au-Prince of below-par airport safety standards. You travel there at your own risk. It’s a major transit area for drugs–and it’s a mess.

Williams and Dalton quickly learn of the latest causes of devastating poverty and environmental decayÑthe messÑin Haiti. 1978 brought African swine fever to Haiti’s then one-million strong black pig population. In Haitian Kreyol, the word for pig and bank are the same. And the rural peasants, who comprise over seventy percent of the Haitian population, treated their pigs as banks. Pigs brought down farming costs by aerating the soil; they kept sanitation levels high by eating household waste; they produced nitrogen-rich fertilizer. In times of crisis they could be sold for a hundred bucksÑas much as a peasant might make in a yearÑto pay for medical bills, a funeral, or maybe a wedding. In times of crisis, they could be eaten.

By 1981, the disease had ravaged hundreds of thousands of pigsÑa natural disaster attributable to poor customs practices, or the will of the Vodou spirits. A feeling just as naturalÑfearÑand one less naturalÑthe taste for profitÑaroused a concerned response from the American pork industry. Soon after, the Haitian Pig Eradication Program was underway. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (an agency of the Organization of American States), the Inter-American Development Bank and various segments of governments in the Dominican Republic, Canada, the United States and Haiti combined forcesÑwith the U.S. weighing in heavily. According to Robert Lawless, author of Haiti’s Bad Press, “over fifteen million dollars of the total project price of twenty-three million dollars came from the United States, and the Agency for International Development [U.S. A.I.D.] took a leading role in the project. As peasants in the Haitian countryside explained the procedure to Govinda Dalton, Duvalier’s henchman approached pig owners with a choice to the effect of kill your pig or we’ll machete you. The program lasted from 1981 to 1983. By August 1984, Haiti was declared free of swine fever, and, Lawless writes, of pigs.

Chosen for high feed conversion rates rather than adaptability, an American breed of fat white Iowa pig was brought in to repopulate. They could not take the Haitian heat. Special concrete houses were built to keep them cool at the central breeding site in Port-au-Prince. Recipients of the new imported pigs had to pay to build such houses on their own property. P re Miso, a parish priest from Les Cayes, spoke to Dalton about the new pigs. Those pigs are not adapted to our country. Those pigs need a lot of food. A lot of food. The native pig we had, they ate anything. From the tree. From the kitchen. But the American pigs won’t eat just anything. Special American feed has to be imported. At the cost of about $100 per-year-per-pig these animals require more in spending than most peasants make. A bad agronomic joke, the pig fiasco holds a fun-house mirror up to race and class relations. The black pigs are eradicated and white ones are bred in their place. The price of feeding the white pig comes at the expense of the black peasant’s stomach.

No education efforts were undertaken to teach pig owners how to prevent African swine fever. No peasants were told that the meat of their sick pigs was still edible. U.S. A.I.D. made promises to repay pig owners for their losses, but few farmers saw any money. Some analysts credit the pig fiasco with mass migration to Haiti’s cities, which has left Port-au-Prince, for one, bursting at the seams. Some credit the Pig Eradication Program with Operation Dechoukay–the 1986 overthrow of Jean-Claude Baby Doc Duvalier’s regime. As Dalton understands the situation, rural folk are left with empty hands. The only way for them to make quick cash is to chop down the trees. These can be sold for charbon, charcoal, which is used as cooking fuel. The long term result is mass deforestationÑnow at 95%. The climate gets hotter. Erosion, which affects a quarter of Haiti’s soil, is aggravated. Soil and sediment fill the streams. The fresh water supply is destroyed. You get this incredible cycle,” the soft-talking Dalton says, “that all comes back to the American taxpayer.

The cycle may not be as mechanical as all that. But American farmers looking to maintain export markets and multinational corporations hungry for wage-fodder have interests in keeping the Third World agriculturally, hence economically, dependent. That dependence is fostered by International Monetary Fund and World Bank requirements that tariffs on imports be low. When it is cheaper to import rice from the U.S. than to grow it at home, dependence is guaranteed. International politics and simple economics push the urban poor into 28 cent-an-hour pin-head jobs in multinational factories. (Until Rawlings moved its operation to Costa Rica in ’91, Haiti was the world’s largest manufacturer of baseballs.)

But internal as well as international forces are keeping Haiti where it is. The mulatto eliteÑthe meager 5% who hold 50% of the nation’s wealthÑset prices for the masses. As a consequence, life in Haiti is exorbitantly expensive. Aristide and others have worked successfully to set up credit unions for the poor. Now people can borrow at the rate of one percent a month, rather than the twenty-percent and more charged by loan sharks. But when imports far exceed exports a nation’s economy suffers. When the rich set prices indiscriminately, the poor get poorer and more desperate. As Aristide, known affectionately as Titid by supporters of the Lavalas party, puts it: pa gen lap nan tet si pa gen lap nan vant. There can be no peace of mind without peace in the stomach.

Despite the tortures of daily life and neo-liberal, neo-colonial world politics, according to Dalton, “the enthusiasm of young people for radio is just phenomenal.” Radio is an escape, a way up and out of poverty. “There’s a social standing with respect to radio,” Williams says, remarking on the change in posture when a kid gets a microphone in his hand. “There’s bone crushing poverty. People cannot see long term anything. You’re not thinking next year. You’re not thinking past next week.” Still, he says of the radio workshop groups, “the politics of Haiti didn’t seem to be hitting them in the head, so to speak.”

The intensive four day workshops, which led groups, via translators, from theories of frequency modulation to laying out parts, constructing exciters, attaching amplifiers, setting up antennas and finally broadcasting, may have been a break in the everyday lives of the participants. Yet, whether independent, Protestant, Catholic, Vodou or left-wing radical there is something inherently political about broadcasting over Haitian radio. The illiteracy rate is 80%. Mainstream papers, which circulate on a scale of eight to every one-thousand people, are almost exclusively written in French. Kreyol is the language of le peuple. French is the language of colonial rule, the language of the elite, of the educated few. Less than 5% of children are in school and of those, only 20% complete the primary grades.

While radio may be one of the oldest forms of electronic mass communication, it is still the most democratic medium in Haiti. There is one television set per two-hundred and sixty-five people. About six- hundred people in a country of upwards of 6.5 million have e-mail. One out of seventy-nine people has a telephone. Yet, one out of every 2.2 people has a radio. Plus, radio can build roads without turning a stone. “They say Haiti is like a golf course,” Dalton says of the infrastructure, “you drive from hole to hole.” Williams adds, “They call it ‘undisciplined driving’ in the State Department guidebook on Haiti. It’s not ‘undisciplined.’ People are zigzagging to avoid the potholes. It looks like a demolition derby!” The roads as divot-ridden as they are, and paths so mountainous it can take three hours to travel fifty miles, radio is the best way to get the meeting to the people. Radio can act as a service in emergencies, it can be used for education on agriculture, health, and sanitation. It can provide a road where existing roads are impassable.

Joseph Philippe, a member of the Holy Ghost Church, a provincial bursar in Haiti, coordinator of the Peasant Association of Fondwa, and coordinator of the alternative bank for grassroots organizations in Haiti, has been working in Fondwa since the late 1980s. Before, when community members got sick, a door was taken off the front of their home and used as a stretcher. The sick would often die on the six hour walk to the nearest hospital. Now, there is community center with a medical unit staffed by two full-time nurses. Philippe is also promoting a reforestation project by providing incentivesÑlike highly valued hoes and pickaxesÑto those who plant trees. He is looking into alternative energy sources, like wind-mills, to provide electricity for Fondwa. “Fondwa is not Chicago, but it is a windy place,” he jokes. “Everything we are doing in Fondwa, we are trying to get an alternative.” A micropower transmitter is another in the list of alternative power sources for the 40,000 people in Fondwa and neighboring towns.

“At the beginning,” he says of the start of grassroots efforts in 1988, “the first priority people recognized was to build a road. They didn’t have…equipment. They had only hoes, pick axes, wheel barrows….But after a few months they wanted to rent a bulldozer. It was in 1989, during the military coup. And they have to rent it from the government…for three-thousand dollars. People collected five, ten, twenty….They got money from everybody. Catholics, non-believers, Voodoos people, Protestant people, the Chief of Section [a military branch]…and they collected one thousand dollars.” Philippe arranged for some connections to cover the difference.

“But when they have a talk with the people who will rent them the bulldozer, the peasants of Fondwa said ‘What will happen if we buy our gas ourself?’ Because the renters of the bulldozer said you need two- hundred dollars more a day,” twenty-five for the driver and one-hundred and seventy-five for gas. “The people said, ‘Okay. We are going to buy the gas and we are going to pay the driver.’ And the people from the government said, ‘Okay. You can go.’ And everything was settled.” The frugal and clever peasants had arranged to buy three days’ worth of gas for one-hundred dollars. “Rather than expensing $600 they paid only $175. And the people of the government at that time got mad.”

A government plan was arranged whereby men would steal the bulldozer at night and heave responsibility on Fondwa. “But the peasants knew about that. They organized what they call ‘brigade vigilance’–like a neighborhood watching.” So the government’s men didn’t come at night. “Finally they came during the day, ten huge men, to pick up the bulldozer….There was an elderly man who said to them, ‘Hey guys, you are going down with the bulldozer and you didn’t talk to anybody. The president of our association is not very far from here. Will you talk to him?’”

The men were not swayed. “They said, ‘Bullshit! Go away from us.’ And the elderly man said, ‘It will cost nothing to just wait awhile. I’m going to call him.’” The men waited. The president came to them and made his plea. The townspeople had put money out and gas into the bulldozer. It wasn’t fair that these men just come and take it. “‘And they said ‘Go away from us!’ and a lot of stupid words. I don’t know them in English.”

Then, “the president of the association take a conch shell, we call it in Haiti ‘Lum-Bee.’ It’s a kind of musical instrument the slaves used to use when there was a time of revolution. And whenever you have to cry for help you blow out this instrument. And everybody come. And at that time the president took out a conch shell and blow out in it. And everybody came…with machetes, with sticks, and whatever they find and they make a circle around the guys from the government. And finally the president came down and said, ‘Guys, now can we have a talk?’ The men said, ‘Why not?’”

On that day, the sounding of the conch shell brought the community together, to organize and fight for their rights. As this story went, the people of Fondwa eventually gave up their bulldozer when a flood devastated a nearby city, washing corpses into the streets. The road is better than it was in ’88, but it isn’t finished. Still, the story of the bulldozer and the conch shell, two instruments for organizing a community of peasants, warrants retelling. And it may just be rewritten when the micro-radio transmitter becomes takes its place as a revolutionary instrument of Haitian empowerment.

Class War on Telegraph Avenue?

Reclaim the sidewalks

Since the onslaught of El Nino in February, the rulers and administrators of Berkeley have been launching a little El Nino of their own on Telegraph Avenue to discourage the presence of the homeless, punks, people without money, and anyone else who stands in the way of the Avenue turning upscale. Their offensive has consisted of propaganda in the local media about problematic street behavior, increased police presence including a one month crackdown named Operation AveWatch and increased issuance of citations for petty offences like jaywalking, tearing down opposition fliers, and the physical sanitation of the street to make it look like a yuppie shopping strip.

This has been the longest and most concerted effort in years by the unholy alliance of merchants, property owners, the University of California, and now the City of Berkeley, to extinguish Telegraph’s longstanding street culture and further enforce mandatory consumer culture on the Avenue.

Put simply, its payoff time for the area’s reactionary backroom brokers who have spent the past few years coalition building in the form of the Telegraph Area Association. The TAA, and some previous incarnations before it, was formed as a new hegemonic force uniting those with institutionalized authoritarian power behind a mission of bringing the Avenue back under civilian control following the Volleyball Riots of 199__ that led to the empowerment of the street community and subsequent anarchy on Telegraph Avenue. The position of the police was so weakened by the uprising that occurred, that they were forced to tolerate an anything goes atmosphere on Telegraph and for one full year the Avenue belonged to the people.

But once again, Telegraph Avenue which has previously been home to people wanting to enjoy life, the streets, and eachother without spending a lot of money, are finding themselves forced out by a network of a few greedy people who want to play the street for their own personal profit.

There are two main forces, or stakeholders, in the Telegraph struggle. One is the money-making side, those who want the Avenue to be about profits and so have an interest in making sure that what goes on on the Avenue enhances their goal. The other side is the street community, people who come to Telegraph to hang out, to live out their days and their lives surving or thriving on the streets, trying to have a good time, as well as to meet their material needs.

Lots of other people come to the Avenue, but they are not stakeholders per se. They come as consumers, passing students, tourists, and weekend and fair weather hanger outers–all people who may have an opinion about how the Avenue should be and may come or not come to the Avenue for a particular reason, but are not people who really care too much. They are people who can always go somewhere else.

California and the Bay Area are continuing to experience a large population influx. This is already creating increased pressures on public space, rising rents, and an enlarged class of upwardly mobile people who have their sights set on Berkeley as a nice suburban second-best to too expensive San Francisco. The police are brought in as the security firm of this yuppie class wanting a safe playground.

Merchants, land owners, the University of California, are the driving forces. Their employees in the City of Berkeley and their security firm, the Berkeley Police Department, are doing the work for them. Government is the ideological framework which allows the ruling class to dictate society under pretensions of serving a public good.

From merchants to street vendors, from neighboring housing associations to the University of California and its lackey teacher’s-pet dorm reps, from real estate interests to the Chamber of Commerce to the Telegraph Area Association, all the forces of bourgeois and petty bourgeois Southside are united by a desire to eradicate the poor in order to increase profits. Anyone who stands in their way– homeless, punks, activists, idlers, the artistic, poetic, and the poor–will be eventually swept away, not only by the police, but by the subtle manouvers of a social class on the move.

Some middle class people are saying they feel uncomfortable on the Avenue as it is. Big fucking deal! The rich have every other yuppie shopping area in the world to go to. They own everything else, and everything in this society is set up for them and their money. So much so that they have much of the working class scrambling for one of their jobs so they can lift their ass out from over the fire of capitalism and its whipping stick, the criminal justice system. The yuppies think they’re going to now move into Telegraph Avenue, because they’re not content with owning just 99% of everything, they need to exert their God-given right to go anywhere own everything, and feel as though they’re in power. It pains them to not be respected for their money.

The seemingly benign calls for clean streets that evereyone is agreeing on if you read the newspapers should be seen for what it really is: a chorus for kinder, gentler you know what. Once the litter is picked up, guess what they’re going to start trying to pick up next. Once all those yuppies start coming and more and more stores cater to them, the unsightly people who aren’t sporting new wardrobes on a regular basis are going to start looking mighty out of place. The poor won’t have to be driven off the Avenue, they’ll leave because they’ll feel so uncompfortable amidst all the upwardly mobile yuppie scum.

Inspired by rising rents and their success at developing 4th Street and downtown, the ruling class now only has to drive the poor from the Telegraph area to complete their creation of the New Berkeley. People who aren’t shoppers or workers will have no place in the New Berkeley.

The rulers want to make being on the sidewalk if you are poor and not spending money illegal. They call it Ôloitering.’ Drinking a beer if you are poor and didn’t pay $3-4 for it in a restaurant is illegal. It’s called Ôdrinking in public.’ The people who make profits in Berkeley want and need people to buy. Other people just get in the way of the buying and there is no need for them in their society. That is why they hire police to go up and down the street harrassing anyone who looks poor and does not stay walking on the sidewalk treadmills they’ve set up. The police will come up with any petty reason or excuse to harrass you if you are poor. The bottom line is they don’t want you around. And if they haven’t already created a law for something some poor person is doing, then they’ll make one up, or they’ll get their politicians to write another one. They call this democracy.

A few years ago, the city cleverly installed pointy metal recycling containers on top of all the trash cans on Telegraph so no one could sit on them anymore. They said they were promoting recycling, but they really want to get poor people out of the area.

This time around Andy Ross, owner of Cody’s, and a few other money-happy merchants are leading the charge. But you can be sure that behind them are the bigger interests: the 2 or 3 commercial property owners who own most of the real estate along Telegraph, the University of California whose long range development plan wants Telegraph as a yuppie student shopping area, home owners in the surrounding area who want property values to go up, and the rest of the rich and their politicial representatives in Berkeley. The Bay Area is a desireable place to live and all these white people with money are moving to Berkeley, driving poor people out with high rents, and remaking the city in their image. That’s why they want a new police station and courthouse downtown, and that’s why they’re bringing the cops on to Telegraph Avenue to harrass you and me.

We need to stand up against the police and also confront the people and forces behind the police who are doing this to us. We need to otherwise improve the living conditions for those who are forced to or choose to live on the streets.

A Vision For Telegraph Avenue

The recent crackdown on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue is largely an election year wedge issue ploy by conservative Mayor Shirley Dean and her minions to win the election by playing the homeless card. In national politics, the Republicans attack immigrants, welfare mothers and drug users to win the election; in Berkeley, it’s problematic street behavior, a code word for the homeless.

Wedge issues work because politicians address real concerns that people have with what appears to be an easy solution. If a politician can split enough people off from the other candidate by raising an emotionally charged issue, they win. And if they don’t really have any solution, well, too bad. That’s politics.

Using police against the homeless, the poor, or even problematic street behavior has never worked, can’t work, and won’t work. For six months, the police have been busy enforcing laws that don’t exist (against sitting on the sidewalks) and issuing tickets for non-crimes. Littering, having an unlicensed dog, jaywalking Ð they may be annoying (or maybe not), but they hardly rise to the level of crime. When most people think about reducing crime, they’re thinking about stopping muggings, car break-ins, assault. Using police to attack non-crimes is a misuse of resources and isn’t intended to do anything but harass people to get votes for a particular candidate. Police harassment for non-crimes may drive poor and homeless people somewhere else for a while, but unless the crackdown continues indefinitely, nothing is solved.

There have been campaigns against freaks on the Avenue since there have been freaks on the Avenue. The reason these campaigns are good election year issues is that the left, such as it is, usually has no good response to problematic street behavior other than to advocate the status quo. Arguing to stop the police crackdown, and maybe provide a few services, doesn’t provide an alternative solution for the perceived problem.

Yes, these attacks on freaks, the homeless and the poor do violate their rights. Yes, everyone has a right to live without harassment from the police. But the reason the homeless card works in local politics is because real people, good people, are annoyed by rude freaks, litter, the perception of danger. The people who feel like this probably don’t hate the poor. They probably aren’t evil. They probably don’t realize they are playing into the hands of gentrifiers, big land owners, conservatives. Their feelings are genuine.

The left must have a program for addressing the reality that people get harassed and annoyed in public spaces, especially Telegraph Avenue. We need to paint a vision for how public space can get more public and nicer for everyone to be in (including the freaks), not just sanitized by millions of cops. The right wing has their vision for public space: the shopping mall. Enclosed, climate controlled, under constant surveillance. The right wing wants to make the whole world a shopping mall.

The left needs to fight back. We envision public space like a public square that works. Different kinds of people mix and interact. If there are annoying people, they get diluted by many interesting people. A community with certain standards of interaction develops. Small businesses thrive, but you don’t have to go there just to shop. There are other non-commercial options: chess tables, games, old people having deep conversations, free live music, grass to sit on, lovers holding hands, benches.

Try to find a good bench anywhere in any modern, mallified downtown. Someone Ð conservatives, merchants, developers? Ð has used the fact that homeless people sleep on benches as an excuse to get rid of benches for everyone. Maybe benches don’t earn money for merchants. Maybe shoppers sitting on benches stay longer, taking up parking and room, and don’t spend as much.

In the leftist vision of public space, there are so many benches in public spaces that if 30 or 40 homeless people are sleeping on them, there are still hundreds more for other people to sit on and enjoy. The way the left will defeat the conservative, police crackdown-based solution for problematic street behavior is to demand that the public realm expand and improve so that everyone will want to go there. Ideas like the car free Telegraph, closed to traffic from Dwight to Bancroft, with lots of public space, are the left’s answer to police crackdowns and cleaning up the Avenue.

Police crackdowns ultimately don’t bring more shoppers out to Telegraph Avenue Ð they further brutalize and privatize public space. People learn to stay at home or go to police controlled malls.

The reason why Telegraph Avenue is worth struggling for is that Telegraph Avenue is still a public space where everyone can go, more so than most sanitized shopping areas around. It should be nurtured, not disinfected and destroyed.

Tibetan Liberation

The issue of Tibetan liberation has recently become very hot with big name liberal activists and the capitalist press in America. Both the press and American Free Tibet activists themselves often use idealized images of traditional Tibet as a simple, spiritual utopia untainted by problems of class conflict or authoritarianism. The ethos of the Free Tibet movement has the potential to alienate radical grassroots activists from the issue and cause them to dismiss it as nothing but a bourgeois new-agey cultural fetish. As someone who spent 4 months living in Tibet and Tibetan refugee camps, I both understand such dismissals and find them to be heartlessly uninformed. I write this article to show how the struggle for Tibetan liberation is about ending the misery of the Tibetan people, not about Richard Gere or the Beastie Boys.

When the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Tibet in 1950, they came with promises of liberating the Tibetan masses from feudalist oppression. Traditional Tibet was certainly not (as some western liberals claim) a society where no class antagonism or capitalist style oppression existed. Nor did old Tibet’s theocratic government of Buddhist monks rule with perfect wisdom and justice. There was a level of corruption and injustice in old Tibet, as in all times and places. Yet, the true face of traditional Tibet still had far more potential for positive social change than the current brutal Chinese regime. One important proof of this is that the first action of the current Dalai Lama (Tibet’s feudalist leader) upon escaping into India was to create an exile government composed of a popularly elected parliament with the right to veto any of his own ideas or decisions.

The possibilities for positive social change in traditional Tibetan society begin with the Buddhist philosophy which has guided Tibetan culture since the religion was introduced to the country 700 years ago. When separated from the corruption of the monolithic Tibetan theocracy, we find at Tibetan Buddhism’s base a philosophy of total love and compassion for all sentient beings. Its ideal practitioners are boddhisattvas who have achieved non-attachment to the transient, material world which most of us perceive. Yet these bodhisattvas remain grounded in the material world in order to help others to achieve an equal level of compassion and enlightenment.

Though the Tibetan church has created its own pantheon of so-called Buddhist deities, Tibetan Buddhist philosophy at its simplest is basically atheistic and humanistic. Its basic tenets include an egalitarian acknowledgment of all living beings’ innate Buddha-nature, or potential for kindness, compassion and spiritual enlightenment. And, like all Buddhism, the Tibetan strain adheres to the revolutionary idea of the middle path — the concept that no one can reach any kind of enlightenment when either glutted on sensual and material pleasures or when starved and deprived.

With its Buddhist philosophical base, traditional Tibetan society was unusual throughout the world for its compassion. Anyone who spends much time with Tibetans will notice their level of ingrained courtesy and hospitality towards. Tibetan Buddhism is also a particularly optimistic lens through which to view the world. Difficulties and set-backs are fatalistically accepted as the production of accumulated karma from past lives. This allows people to more readily overcome their problems and move on to accumulating good karma (and therefore future happiness) through acts of selfless kindness. Almost all accounts from the few foreigners who visited Tibet prior to 1950 tell of a country where even the poorest peasants seemed basically happy, optimistic and carefree due to the psychological cushioning of their spiritual culture.

The precepts of their religion shaped not only the Tibetan people’s internal attitudes and treatment of each other, but also their attitude towards nature. Though the extraordinarily barren landscape of central Tibet forced the people there to rely mostly on meat as a food source, Tibetans raised only a few types of livestock for this purpose. All other animals were strictly left alone, and hunting was considered to be a very evil act. Even today, in the dingy, filthy refugee camps of northern India, this level of concern over the lives of other animals continues. At least twice in these places I witnessed Tibetans walking down the road in the rainy season with a small stick, carefully removing each slug they encounter so that it would not be run over by a fast-moving car.

As in many pre-industrial societies, environmental sustainability was important to Tibetans, often due to their culture’s religious precepts. Most livestock herders in Tibet (previous to the drastic plans of agrarian reorganization introduced by the Chinese Communists) were nomadic, moving from one area to another in order to not overgraze anywhere. This was due to the fragile vegetation on central Tibet’s high altitude plains — the extremely low rainfalls and short summer months made all livestock herders hyper- conscious about preserving the natural environment.

And, in this mountainous area with its extraordinary mineral riches, mining was seen as an attack on the earth which would bring upon the Tibetan people the wrath of various nature deities in the Buddhist pantheon.

The Tibetan people’s Buddhist heritage of compassion not only helped them to maintain a relatively high level of social and ecological harmony. It has also given them the psychological and emotional strength necessary to survive in scattered, filthy refugee camps and under the authoritarian rule of an imperialist power. And the Chinese policy in Tibet can only be described as imperialism and assimilation.

When the PLA swept into Tibet in 1950, declaring its liberation from feudalism and imperialism, almost no one in Tibet felt that they had to be liberated from anyone. Right or wrong, the majority of Tibetans identified their interests as identical with those of the theocracy’s leaders. No popular support existed for a social revolution and re-organization. Even if it had existed the traditionally xenophobic nature of Tibetan culture would have made such a mass movement only possible if the ideas originated with Tibetan people themselves, rather than the mouthpieces of Chinese leaders a world away in Beijing.

But as time went on, these issues came to matter less and less. Throughout the 1950′s the Tibetan theocracy retained some control over the nature and extent of socialist re-structuring in Tibetan society. But by 1959 when the Dalai Lama fled the country it had become clear that the Chinese government was at base concerned with assimilating the Tibetan people into Chinese society and culture in order to more easily exploit the country’s vast, untapped natural resources.

The 60′s and 70′s saw Tibet suffer all the horrors that plagued the rest of China during these years — the famines of the Great Leap Forward, the chaos and destruction of the Cultural Revolution, and more. But the Tibetans did not have this suffering inflicted upon them by the stupidity of their fellow countrymen, as elsewhere in China. They experienced it as the effect of policies instituted by an outside imperialist power with an alien value system and no appreciation for traditional culture (the vestiges of which were, for a time, completely outlawed as feudalist behavior).

At the same time as these attempts to assimilate Tibetans into mainstream Communist Chinese culture were going on, the environment of the Tibetan plateau was being exploited as rapidly as possible. Vast mining projects were undertaken in the rocky central regions, while the forests of the eastern, lower elevation areas were extensively clear-cut. Certain desert areas of northeastern Tibet were also utilized for both nuclear weapons testing and the dumping of hazardous materials from nuclear power plants and weapons production factories.

For a brief time in the mid-1980′s a more liberal administration in Beijing encouraged a small-scale re-flourishing of traditional Tibetan culture, so long as it coincided with the economic interests of recently opened tourism in the area. But this period of tolerance ended when the 1987 Tibetan nationalist riots in Lhasa and the events in Tiannemen Square caused liberal voices in the Chinese central government to be silenced.

Economic development and population transfer have now become key to the Chinese vision of a future Tibet, sometimes referred to as China’s Wild West. Large groups of immigrants from China are offered substantial economic incentives to make otherwise undesirable relocation. The hope is that this will aid stepped up economic development in Tibet, and give the majority of Tibetans a tantalizing reason to assimilate. They will need to go to schools and become fluent in Chinese language and popular culture in order to rise from the abject poverty in which most live, and get the high-paying jobs that will allow them to drive shiny new cars, live in high rise apartments, and go out to big discos playing Chinese pop (the biggest one in central Tibet was constructed in the last few years directly in front of the Potala palace, the Dalai Lama’s former winter residence and a major pilgrimage spot for Tibetan Buddhists).

What the Chinese occupation of Tibet comes down to is whether an environmentally sustainable society based on a religion of egalitarian compassion will be engulfed by a blend of brutal authoritarianism and totally materialist, anti-human capitalism. While it can be argued that no people should have their native culture destroyed by an invader who thinks themselves superior because they have more guns, Tibet is in many ways an extremely important case because of its uniquely spiritual, pacifist pre-invasion society.

Opposition to the Chinese occupation has always been problematic. Briefly during the 1960′s a rabidly anti-Communist faction of the CIA flew groups of Tibetans to the Rockies to train them in mountain-based guerrilla warfare, and then sent them back to fight in Tibet. Even then they were hopelessly out-manned and out-gunned. At this point the Chinese army has a presence in almost every tiny Tibetan village. And all violent, militaristic opposition often faces severe criticisms from the Dalai Lama and other pacifist elements of Tibetan Buddhist society. At the same time thousands of non-violent demonstrators have also been killed, tortured and railroaded to lifetime prison terms.

In the 1980′s there was a brief, positive period when representatives of the exile government were allowed to travel throughout Tibet and attended negotiations with the Chinese central government. But the 1987 riots and several diplomatic misunderstandings ended these positive times. Now Beijing basically just seems to be waiting for the aging Dalai Lama to die. And as Beijing has become less open to negotiation, the Dalai Lama has become more desperately open. During the last few years he has been supporting a plan to scale back Tibetan demands to ask for only greater political autonomy as a state under China, rather than full liberation as a separate nation.

Things are getting desperate, as is shown by the recently announced plan of Samdhong Rinpoche, an elderly monk who currently heads the Tibetan exile parliament. He is planning to step down from his post in order to return to Tibet with a large group of followers and lead some kind of satyagraha or truth insistence campaign based on the non-violent principles of Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaigns in South Africa and India. At this point, however, his plan is only in a hyper-theoretical state.

The growing level of angry desperation and the lack of diplomatic openings can also be seen in the fact that both Tibetan radicals in India and the American scholar of Tibet Melvyn Goldstein (known to be extremely sycophantic to the Chinese government) are calling for immediate terrorist campaigns by Tibetan nationalists against important P.R.C. sites. They see such campaigns as the last chance for the cause of Tibetan independence and perhaps even for Tibetan autonomy and cultural survival.

Short of going to Tibet to practice civil disobedience and/or blow things up, the main thing that you can really do is to show solidarity with economic aid for Tibetan refugees and political support for those dissidents struggling inside Tibet. However it is also extremely important that all activists and radicals who oppose capitalism, authoritarianism, economic imperialism, and environmental destruction become aware of the situation in Tibet. Only with awareness can we ever hope to take advantage of any future opportunities for stronger action in this struggle. For more information on the issue or on how you can become involved, try contacting the following organizations:

Bay Area Friends of Tibet,
2288 Fulton St. #312,
Berkeley,
ph. 548-1271, 548-5879;
Tibetan Aid Project,
2910 San Pablo Ave.,
Berkeley,
ph. 848- TIBET or 800-33-TIBET;
Milarepa, 2350 Taylor St., S.F.,
474-0866 or 888-MILAREPA.

Critical Resistance

Critical Resistance
Beyond the Prison industrial Complex
University of California, Berkeley
September 25 -27, 1998

Almost two million people are currently locked up in US prisons and jails, the majority of whom are peopleof color. Since 1980 the population of prisoners has tripled and it is expected to double again by 2005. Between 1990 and 1995, 213 new federal and state prison facilities were constructed, representing a 41 percent increase in prison capacity. The growing reliance on imprisonment as a solution to systemic social problems, combined with mounting corporate interests in an expanding punishment industry, has led to the emergence of a late-twentieth century prison industrial complex.

Critical Resistance is a massive effort to rebuild and strengthen our movements for social justice, and to launch an organized campaign to challenge the prison industrial complex both in the US and abroad. It will emphasize productive exchanges between artists, activists, former prisoners, advocates, academics, attorneys, youth, prisoners families, and policy makers. Critical resistance aims to raise awareness and stimulate meaningful action against the expansion of the US prison system. In addition to developing practical strategies and sparking revitalized activism around prisons and prisoners rights, Critical Resistance seeks to make connections between the wide array of issues currently being addressed by various individuals and organizations in order to build a movement that addresses the economic and political ramifications of the current prison crisis.

Registration is free to those attending as individuals. Donations are encouraged. For those with access to funding from universities and other major institutions $75 registration is requested.

Critical Resistance PO Box 339
Berkeley, CA 94701
ph: 510-643-2094
fax: 510-845-8816
email: critresist@aol.com
www.igc.org/justice/critical

July 25th: The Secret is Out

A new video to let the bicycling community know the forces behind the July 25, 1997 crackdown on San Francisco Critical Mass.

The crackdown was truly an attack on the entire alternative transportation, livable cities, and environmental movements as it was a manufactured, violent, corrupt, violation of our civil rights which was timed to mask major transportation scandals.

Copies are available for $10-$20 sliding scale donation, which includes postage. Write to:

Bicycle Civil Liberties Union
POB 15071, Berkeley, CA 94701