resignation of Debbie Almontaser as principal of the proposed Arab
language school in Brooklyn has caused a great deal of controversy. The
DOE replaced her with Danielle Salzberg. There's so
much stuff flying it is hard to keep track of it all. An interesting
interview by Amy Goodman posted on Democracy Now can be found here. Also this piece written by Almontaser, not long after 9/11.
By Steve Quester
UFT chapter leader
P.S. 372/418K The Children’s School from Education Notes Online
veteran Latina educator, with a years-long record of service supporting
Latino/a youth and building bridges between Latino/a and non-Latino/a
communities, is slated to be principal of a new middle school with a
focus on Hispano-Caribbean studies and Spanish language. She endures
months of vitriolic attacks from right-wing hate websites and blogs,
and from the Murdoch news organizations. Finally, the Murdoch media
uncover that she’s on the board of an organization that shares an
office with a Latina girls’ empowerment organization. The organization
has produced a T-shirt with the image of Che Guevara and the words
“Hasta la victoria siempre.” The Murdoch media point out (rightly) that
the “victoria” to which Che referred was the violent overthrow of all
capitalist governments, including the U.S. The media demand that the
educator condemn the T-shirt, but instead she says that the girls’
intention was to point to the victory of tolerance and coexistence over
anti-Latino/a bias in New York. The media howl. The educator quickly
apologizes, admitting that she did not take into account the effect
that the image of Che has on Cuban-American refugees of Castro’s
After the apology, the United Federation of Teachers president [hypotheticallyRandi Weingarten —JB], who had been
supportive of the new middle school and its principal, is quoted
condemning the educator’s initial defense of the T-shirt...
Here's what I
want to understand more deeply: this question of the "everyday" – the place,
importance, meaning and political relevance of that “everyday” locus of
human existence. What emerges from that vantage point for viewing and
evaluating human existence? How important is specificity and how do
we know that importance?
during the civil rights struggle when white racists insisted that
“outsiders” didn’t “understand” Mississippi, and had no right to
denounce its long evolved local “ways.” Their slogan was seen on
handcrafted signs as marchers came. “We live here, you suck,” one read.
“States rights” after all defended jim crow (and before it slavery)
under the banner of local rights (and even “self-determination”!)
think it is the larger material coherence of society, that makes
politics possible. You don’t have to know all the many particularities
of each county or township, or else a Red Army couldn’t march through
on a Long March liberating people, or enter Tibet with profound
insights into the transformations needed there.
here: Some things can only be known well by direct experience. All
knowledge has its roots in experience (however removed the specific
practice and practitioners may be from those synthesizing that
knowledge). But intimate contact with everyday life (and
especially a close personal focus on the everyday in life) does not at
all automatically or directly breed insight to the problems and
solutions of that life.
"Actually, everything is quite clear if one thinks it over and reaches the conclusion that indirect
democracy is a hoax. Ostensibly, the elected Assembly is the one which reflects public opinion
most faithfully. But there is only one sort of public opinion, and it is serial.
"The imbecility of the
mass media, the government pronouncements, the biased or incomplete reporting in the
newspapers -- all this comes to seek us out in our serial solitude and load us down with wooden
ideas, formed out of what we think others will think. Deep within us there are undoubtedly
demands and protests, but because they are not echoed by others, they wither away and leave us
with a 'bruised spirit' and a feeling of frustration. So when we are called to vote, I, the Other,
have my head stuffed with petrified ideas which the press or television has piled up there. They
are serial ideas which are expressed through my vote, but they are not my ideas.
institutions of bourgeois democracy have split me apart: there is me and there are all the Others
they tell me I am (a Frenchman, a soldier, a worker, a taxpayer, a citizen, and so on). This
splitting-up forces us to live with what psychiatrists call a perpetual identity crisis. Who am I, in
the end? An Other identical with all the others, inhabited by these impotent thoughts which come
into being everywhere and are not actually thought anywhere? Or am I myself? And who
is voting? I do not recognize myself any more."
As the U.S.'s crimes against humanity in the Middle East mount, it is of tremendous importance for people in the U.S. to honestly confront and rise to the profound challenges and responsibilities before us in bringing this to a halt. In this spirit, I welcomed the argument made by Hadas Thier and Aaron Hess in the Socialist Worker on April 20, 2007 entitled Standing up to Islamophobia, even while I find their central arguments to not only be wrong, but harmful.
I do not doubt that Thier and Hess want to oppose U.S. wars of aggression and their accompanying assault on Muslims, Arabs and South Asians living in the U. S. But they end up arguing for an approach that will neither meet the actual challenges of opposing the U.S. “crusade,” nor bring forward new, truly liberating possibilities here and around the world. They end up in this unfortunate place through the use of bad logic, flawed methodology, and a duck-from-unpleasant-realities epistemology (method for arriving at what is true).
Riots and repression have rocked Copenhagen for three days and nights. In what's been billed as the "final conflict" of the Scandanavian autonomous scene, the Danish state has moved to sell off and shut down Youth House, the last remaining political squat outside of Cristiana, Copenhagen's famed semi-autonomous zone in the center of the city. Over 600 people have been brutally arrested attempting to block the transfer of Youth House to a Christian sect that has slated this vibrant social center for demolition. Supporters from around Scandanavia and Germany traveled to assist the Danes, with the government responding by raiding anti-authoritarian offices and movement centers in round-ups. UK Indymedia has an update page with timelines, pictures and tons of information.
The 1980’s was the heyday of the autonomous movement in Denmark,
Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Thousands of mostly young people
squatted hundreds of abandoned buildings in dozens of urban centers,
creating alternative societies that embraced community, art, music, and
a culture of resistance that rejected consumerism and empire. A
community was formed that rejected the domination of the world by
multinational corporations and the governments that supported them,
whether they be outright militarist states like the US or more
watered-down NATO members like Denmark. They defended their squats in
pitched battles with police, and at the same time debated sexism within
their movement and organized protests in support of refugees and
against nuclear power. The movement existed in a near-constant state of
siege. Many squats were ultimately taken by force by the police, and
others were legalized.
With that in mind: Either we fight for the world, or fight for our own turf. They are not the same thing. There is no as autonomy in this world and there never will be. The retreat into socio-political ghettos in Europe was a surrender to the permanence of the capitalist (welfare) state while playing at war against it. It is people in their millions who will take down European capitalism. In the difference between the suburban riots in France last year and the subcultural resistance of the long-waned autonomous scene – we can see the outlines of new European left that no longer sees itself flowering in the cracks and margins – but which pushes to the very centers of power through the rebellion of working people and their allies, both native born and immigrant.
These social centers are exciting places, particularly for Americans with little experience in strong, radical institutions (as Rovics ably reports). Understood in context, the squats and social centers were a retreat by movements past, not simply something to defend. When radicals gave up on a better world, they settled for a better apartment.
What sees itself as autonomy could be seen through another lens as containment.
That said, they take their autonomy seriously – and they fight for it. You have to respect people who refuse to be governed. In Texas, the fetish of private property means you legally get shot for walking on somebody's lawn. In Copenhagen for these days, what people were willing to wage a violent defense of is their right to a social existence outside of capitalism, with mutual aid and solidarity outside of the exploitative hierarchies of capitalism.
In the ferocity of their battle is the measure of their hope.
Received from A World to Win News Service:
The Women’s Campaign for the Abolition of all Misogynist,
Gender-Based Legislation and Islamic Punitive Laws in Iran is preparing
for actions on March 3 and March 8, on the occasion of International
The Campaign, known by its Farsi name Karzar, in 2006 organised a
successful series of marches over five days from Frankfurt, Germany to
The Hague in the Netherlands. Approximately 1,000 people took part on
the last day, mostly Iranian women but also women and men from Europe
and around the world, some travelling long distances to give their
solemn support to women in Iran whose oppression is legitimised by the
legal system set up by that country’s rulers.