Thursday, July 31, 2008

It was the writer Anatole France who once said, The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets and to steal bread.". It seems, however, that many Canadian employers are not content with such "majestic equality". It takes a certain amount of unequalled gall to apply to the courts or the government for "exemptions to the law", especially as it is almost certain that such applicants are very much staunch supporters of "law and order" in other venues- as long as it doesn't apply to them of course.
Molly has already commented on the arrogance of Air Canada in its application to the federal government (happily refused) to be exempted from labour law in their handling of the closure of flight attendant bases in Halifax and Winnipeg. Out on the west coast, in Burnaby B.C. another such example has recently surfaced. Gateway Casino Inc. has applied to the B.C. Labour Board for a exemption to the constitutional right of some of their employees to join an union. Here's the story from the website of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union (BCGEU). Love that "law and order" crowd.
Burnaby casino wants to suspend workers' constitutional right to join a union:
A Burnaby casino owned by Australian interests wants to suspend its workers' rights to join a union until February of next year.

Gateway Casino Inc. has applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board (LRB) to extinguish the constitutional right to unionize for about 200 of the casino's 500 employees who haven't already voted on joining the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.

BCGEU president Darryl Walker says it's the latest move in an aggressive campaign launched by the casino-B.C.'s second largest with annual revenues of $177 million-to try and stop its employees from unionizing to improve pay and working conditions.

Earlier this month about 70 Gateway dealer and slot machine supervisors voted to join BCGEU. Originally, they cast their ballots in July 2007. But legal wrangling by the company delayed the count of their vote for a year.

Meanwhile, yesterday the LRB dismissed another legal challenge by Gateway which means that a similar vote of 225 dealers and slot machine attendants to join BCGEU can now finally be counted-nine months after their ballots were cast in October 2007.

"We're hoping that cooler heads will prevail within Gateway's management ranks," says Walker. "Instead of creating conflict and animosity, we're asking that the company sit down with us to talk about ways to improve wages and make the casino a better workplace for staff."

Walker says that in unique circumstances the LRB can impose a ban on union signups for a specified period. He's confident that the board will turn down Gateway's bid.

The company says the "strain" resulting from all the legal proceedings it's involved in against its employees' unionization effort plus the opening of a new casino complex in the fall "dictates [that the suspension of the right to join a union] would not be unreasonable." (cough, cough, cough-Molly)

B.C.'s casino industry generates $1.3 billion in annual revenue and produces huge profits that are carved up by casino owners and the provincial government. But Walker says casino workers are poorly paid and work long hours under stressful conditions. Gateway wages start at $8.75/hour and top out for the most experienced supervisor at just over $16/hour plus tips.


Molly has mentioned this campaign before, but there has been a renewed call for solidarity with workers employed at the Jakarta Gran Melia Hotel in Indonesia, owned by the Spanish hotel chain Gran Melia. The IUF is a worldwide union confederation united people employed in service industries in many countries. Here is their appeal.

Stop Repression of Workers Rights at Jakarta Hotel Gran Melia! :
Major Spanish-based hotel chain Sol Melia has moved to squash workers' rights in their flagship Indonesian hotel, the Jakarta Gran Melia. In 2005 the hotel signed a collective agreement with the IUF-affiliated SPM Gran Melia, but management has systematically refused to implement what they've signed and agreed to. Management has targeted union members, officers and activists for dismissal, withheld money owed the union from the dues checkoff and service charge, barred union representatives from the premises and installed invasive and humiliating surveillance equipment in order to intimidate the union and its members. You can support the union's ongoing struggle by writing to Sol Melia CEO Gabriel Escarrer, using the form below.



Señor Director:
Me dirijo a usted para expresarle mi profunda preocupación por los atropellos a los derechos de los trabajadores/as y del sindicato en el Gran Meliá de Yakarta. En el año 2005, el hotel suscribió un convenio con la organización sindical SPM Gran Meliá, pero ese convenio negociado no ha sido respetado. Los miembros y dirigentes sindicales han sido víctimas de despidos discriminatorios y la gerencia ha retenido el Fondo de Asistencia Social y las cuotas sindicales deducidas por el empleador. En lugar de negociar, la gerencia instaló una vigilancia sistemática mediante videos de los miembros y de las actividades del sindicato, en un evidente intento de intimidar al sindicato e impedir que funcione libremente.
Le recomiendo encarecidamente que usted actúe de inmediato para asegurarse que la gerencia del Gran Meliá de Yakarta suspenda todas las medidas represivas y entable negociaciones inmediatas de buena fe con el sindicato, a los efectos de resolver todos los asuntos pendientes. De no hacerlo así, habrá de perjudicar inevitablemente la imagen y reputación del Gran Meliá de Yakarta y de todas las marcas de Sol Meliá.
Dear Sir
I write to express my deep concern over abuses of worker and trade union rights at the Jakarta Gran Melia. In 2005 hotel management signed an agreement with the SPM Gran Melia union, but that negotiated agreement has not been respected. Union members and officers have been the victims of discriminatory dismissals, and management has withheld the Welfare Fund and dues checkoff. Rather than negotiating, management has installed systematic video surveillance of the union's members and activities in a clear effort to intimidate the union and prevent it from functioning freely.
I urge you to act immediately to ensure that Jakarta Gran Melia management ceases all anti-union measures and enters into immediate, good faith negotiations with the union to resolve all outstanding issues. Failure to do so will inevitable damage the image and reputation of the Gran Melia Jakarta and all Sol Melia brands.
To participate in other IUF campaigns, please click here:

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The following is from a recent notice from the Bureau of Public Secrets about new items that they have added to their website. The BOP is an excellent website that gives access to a wealth of material, and Molly recommends it highly.
Kenneth Rexroth (Dec. 22,1905-June 6,1982) was a noted American writer and anarchist. He was one of the first US poets to expore the haiku form in the English language , and he was a major figure in the "Beat movement". He had a lifelong interest in Chinese and Japanese writings, and authored many translations of same. In 1938 he turned to a pacifist form of anarchism to which he adhered to until his death. During WW2 he was a conscientious objector, serving as a psychiatric orderly, as well as helping several Japanese Americans escape internment. His friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti said that Rexroth was "a self-described philosophical anarchist".
Rexroth had a great influence on the American literature of the day. For more about this writer see the Wikipedia article and also the Kenneth Rexroth Archive at the aforementioned Bureau of Public Secrets.
Molly finds the following article valuable because of several reasons. One is that it adds "flesh to the bones" of the anarchist contention that law is instrumental in prodcing much of what is called crime, something that is far too often trotted out as a merely rhetorical statement. Another is the language in which it is written, clear, consise, entertaining and free of overblown rhetoric. He is even free of the usual leftist cant that demonizes it opponents Still another is the fact that Rexroth, like his contemporary Paul Goodman, actually offers practical proposals that could be carried out in the here and now, not after waiting for some mythical revolution. There is also the valuable insight that can be gleaned from noticing the time at which it was written-1967- a time of massive transition. Today, when most attacks on liberty come from the "social worker left", it is instructive to remember just what life was like in the not-so-distant past before we won many of the liberties we enjoy today. This sort of society is what the neoconservative critics of the excesses of the left want to return us to. Their imaginary ideal is far more horrifying than even the worst acts of the "politically-correct" today. There are bad deals, but then the opponents may be offering a even worse deal, as this voice from the past tells us. It is also useful to speculate about what has changed from that day and what remains the same.
There are many more reasons to enjoy this essay, but I hope you will discover them yourself.
The Heat
Recently police activity began to impinge upon my own life. I live in a San Francisco Negro district and I could see about me a noticeable increase — prowl cars were more evident at all times. On weekend nights they seemed to be everywhere, stopping and questioning many more people than formerly.

An art gallery was raided and welded sculpture illustrating the Kama Sutra was confiscated by the police. This was entirely a police action without civilian complaint. The police lost the case. Student parties in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district were raided again and again and everybody hauled off to jail. Even where the police claim to have found marijuana butts on the floor, the cases were usually dismissed. In New York two parties of the Artists’ and Writers’ Committee Against Vietnam, a group with no political affiliations, were raided without a warrant or complaint and several arrests made.

Friends of mine married to members of another race began to complain that they were frequently stopped by prowl cars and questioned when walking along the street with their spouses in broad daylight. After the [Ralph] Ginzburg decision there was a noticeable increase throughout the country in police censorship; in San Francisco bookshops were visited by police officers who told the proprietors, “Clean this place up or we’ll take you in,” but vouchsafed no information as to what books were in fact objectionable.

Certain costumes seem to be an open invitation to police questioning — beards, dirty jeans, bare feet, especially on juveniles, but more commonly still the uniform of the homosexual prostitute, the studbuster — T-shirt, leather jacket, tight jeans, heavy belt, boots. I began to get all sorts of complaints: a well-known jazz musician taking a breather in front of a perfectly respectable jazz room between sets and talking to his white wife was arrested, taken to the local station, held for two hours, insulted, and then let go. Another driving with his wife was arrested for a minor traffic violation, failure to signal a right-hand turn, and taken to the station.

No policemen had molested me in over forty years. I drink only wine at dinner. Marijuana has no effect on me. I haven’t smoked it since adolescence. I am a very safe driver. However subversive my opinions, I am an exemplary law-abiding citizen. However, one night I parked my car in front of my own home, took my two daughters to the door, left my secretary in the car. When I returned the police, who obviously thought they were dealing with a racially mixed couple, had been questioning my secretary and because they hadn’t liked the tone of her voice were writing a traffic ticket.

In the next block the same patrol had threatened a neighbor with arrest in a similar situation. A few blocks away a Negro youth leader had an appointment for lunch with a police officer. On the way to the lunch he was rousted by that very officer. A Negro high-school boy acting in a school play with my daughter was stopped as he was walking home from rehearsal along a well-lighted business street, rousted, and eventually forced to lie down on the sidewalk, but finally let go.

All of this happened in my immediate neighborhood, to people known to me, in one month. Yet San Francisco’s police force is unquestionably one of the most professional in the country, with the extremely active community-relations detail led by a dedicated officer, an enlightened chief, lectures and classes on civil liberties, race relations, youth problems, and like matters. Reports in the press and from friends in other cities of increasing petty police harassment were far more shocking. It was apparent that The Heat was on — nationally. Why?

What exactly is The Heat and what turns it on? And why should it suddenly go on all over the country? The documentation of police brutality and violation of civil liberties in various cities about the country is staggering. But this is not what I want to write about.

In recent months there have been a number of magazine articles and serial newspaper features on “What’s Wrong With the Police,” and these have been answered in most cases by literate spokesmen for the police, not PR men, but working officers themselves. There’s very little dialogue. One side makes flat accusations, usually well-documented, of police brutality, illegal entry or search, harassment, prejudice against the poor, racism, political reaction, third-degree, and other violations of the rights of those arrested. The other side simply denies that most of these things exist, and counters with the statement, “Police work is a profession with very special problems which the layman cannot understand any more than he can understand the special problems of medicine or law.”

Both sides isolate the problem and treat the police as though they were members of a self-contained society — separate from the rest of us, like monks, professional soldiers, or the inmates of prisons and state hospitals. The problem is the functioning of the police as part of society, not as apart from it. Essential to any understanding is the definition of the roles that the police perform in the society in fact and the different roles which they are supposed to perform in theory, their own theories and those of their critics.

The following article recently appeared in The Berkeley Barb:
Berkeley police with flashbulbs blazing ran swiftly through a gathering of about 40 nude men and women last Saturday. They were “investigating” possible lawbreaking at an East Bay Sexual Freedom League party. “It was like “Gangbusters’,” EBSFL President Richard Thorne told The Barb.” They came in very quickly and told us to hold it, stay where we were, and flashed cameras.” The police searched the house and checked the I.D. of each guest. They stayed for about an hour, around midnight. “After I got dressed, I went to the lieutenant in charge and inquired on what grounds the police were present,” Thorne said. “The lieutenant said that someone had issued a complaint which led them to suspect that there was the possibility of contributing to the delinquency of minors. ‘Of what sort?’ I asked him. He said, ‘Alcohol’.” Thorne and several other witnesses described the police investigation. Desks, chairs, bureaus, and clothes in closets were searched. Ashtrays were examined. Medicines were confiscated. Brown filipino cigarettes were peeled open. Guests who objected to showing their I.D.’s were given the choice of cooperating or being identified “at the station.” At Barb press time, no arrests had resulted from the investigation. One guest, who met a flashbulb as he emerged from the bathroom, described his conversation with the plainclothesman who apparently admitted the other police:
“I asked him what had happened to give them the right to enter and search without a warrant.
“He said, ‘Are you a lawyer?’
“I said, ‘No.’ “
‘In that case, it’s none of your business,’ he said.”
Witnesses described the police demeanor as initially “rude,” “sarcastic,” “snide,” and “up tight.” As the hour passed, they “settled down” and became “mannerly” and “courteous,” guests said. About 20 partygoers remained after the police departed. “Clothes came off again at a rapid rate after they left,” one participant told BARB. “It was as if they wouldn’t let the police intimidate them, and they wanted to release a pent-up rage. It became quite a party. A very fine, successful party.”

Following the publication of this article I took it upon myself to question one of the members of the Berkeley Police Force regarding the matter. Our conversation was friendly and was not confined to the police raid, although it covered the pertinent aspects. Pertinent portions of the interview were in sum and substance to this effect:
INTERVIEWER: What happened at the nude party?
POLICE OFFICER: Oh, we alleged that there were people below the age of 18 there but there weren’t.
I: Did you really believe that there was someone below the age of 18?
P: No, we just used that as an excuse.
I: Well, what happened?
P: We busted into the place and there were several couples actually fornicating. So, we took some pictures and left.
I: What did you do with the pictures?
P: Oh, they’re fun to pass around for all the boys to look at down at the station.
I: Isn’t that illegal?
P: Well, I suppose so but they were having a nude party.
I: Didn’t the attorney general of the state of California specifically say that nude parties were legal?
P: Oh, we know that there isn’t anything illegal going on, but we feel that if you let this kind of thing happen it’s like opening Pandora’s Box.
I: Is the police department supposed to prescribe morals?
P: Somebody’s got to.
I: Doesn’t the Constitution of the United States specifically allow the citizenry to determine its own morals?
P: Well, you know how these things are.
I: Would you want the police busting into your home under these circumstances?
P: Well, I wouldn’t be doing anything illegal.
I: Neither were they.

This example, however comic, poses the dilemma: the contradiction between the police as officers of order and officers of law. In the early days of the development of modern police forces perhaps their primary function was the preservation of social order and the enforcement of public morality. They dealt mostly with the poor, who, however unruly, accepted the same values. In a heterogeneous society such as America was in the days of massive immigration, most of the work of a patrolman on the beat in Hell’s Kitchen, the lower East Side, Five Points, Back of the Yards, was extra-legal. He was not a law officer but a peace officer and if he invoked the law to handle all violations of public order he would have found himself hopelessly overwhelmed. Until recent years the Paris police force still operated this way in almost all their day-to-day work. The vicious, disorderly, the conspicuous violators of common morals, were simply taken up an alley and “coated” with a weighted cape or worked over with a truncheon and kicked out on the street with a warning that if they were caught doing it again they’d get worse in the station house.

Vice (prostitution, gambling, narcotics) as distinguished from crime was “policed.” Streetwalkers were protected on their stations from invasion by other whores or pimps, and guarded against robbery or attack by their customers. This type of relationship — which was usually effective — was always advanced in private conversation by American policemen as an excuse for payoff: “If you clout them, you control them.” It still prevails in the Tenderloin districts of many American cities.

America has changed. It is becoming a homogeneous society and the divisions that do exist are of a new kind. First, of course, is the conflict over homogeneity itself to which the Negroes demand they be admitted. The second most important division, from the police point of view, is a change of values, the democratization of what was once the privilege of an elite of radical intellectuals — an entirely new moral code. Emma Goldman, free-lover and anarchist, was quite a sufficient bother to the police of her day. Today there are millions of Emma Goldmans, members of a new kind of middle class. This public resents the police as guardians of public morals. Younger people who live by moral codes which bear little resemblance to the lower-middle-class Irish Catholic morality of most of the police force look upon the policeman as a dangerous and ignorant disrupter of their own peaceful lives.

The police on the other hand believe that they have the right to control the lives of others for their own benefit, that they know better what others should do than they do themselves. They adjust the behavior of those who live by a different moral code to the stereotypes which they have inherited from the past. In its most extreme form: “If you see a nigger and a white woman together, chances are it’s a pimp and a whore.” “All those beatniks,” referring to a bearded student of nuclear physics, “take dope.” “If you watch you can catch one of them making a pass and you’re sure to find marijuana or pills.”

Both press and police commonly refer to marijuana, an intoxicant far less harmful than alcohol, and to LSD and the various barbiturates, tranquilizers, and stimulants as “dope” and “narcotics,” and attempt to deal with the problem exactly the same way that they dealt with the morphine traffic and addiction of fifty years ago. It is significant that the use of most of these drugs results in relaxation and noninvasive behavior while alcohol stimulates aggressions. The police as the Arm of the Squares represent an aggressive lower-middle-class morality in conflict with life patterns of nonaggression which they find incomprehensible and interpret in terms of crime and vice — aggression — which they can understand.

What is it the spokesmen for the police are talking about when they say the public doesn’t understand the nature of police work? Why don’t they explain? The reason is that the contradiction, the dilemma of police work, is something they do not wish publicized. They wish to present to a society concerned about civil liberties the policeman as a functionary of the legal process. They are not prepared to face the fact that he is involved in a symbiotic relationship within the illegal communities that function as subcultures in the society.

It is a common charge of those interested in a reform of the methods of handling the narcotic problem that the federal, state, and, to a lesser degree, city police have a “vested interest,” along with the Mafia, in preserving the status quo. This is an oversimplification. What has actually developed is a great web of petty crime, addiction, peddling which the narcotics officer hopes he can control and which is sensitive to his manipulation.

For instance, to begin at the beginning of the process: A narcotics addict arrested on a petty larceny charge can cooperate with the police in several ways. He can help clear the record by admitting to a number of unsolved petty thefts and he can give information which will lead to the arrest of his retail dealer, and his anonymity will be protected by the police and the charges against him will be reduced to a minimum. In the somewhat bigger time a felony charge can be reduced if the prisoner is willing to cooperate in the arrest of a narcotics wholesaler.

At the bottom of the ladder, a prostitute known to have associates who are either thieves or narcotics pushers or both can cooperate simply by giving general information, or in cases where the police know that the girl has information they want, she is often given the choice between cooperation, being admitted to bail, and receiving only a fine at her trial, or refusing to cooperate, being held without bail for a medical examination, and then given a jail sentence.

All this is done with a great deal of indirection and evasive language, but since narcotics control is something which the police must originate themselves — it is one of several “crimes without plaintiff” which is another definition of “vice” — gambling, prostitution and narcotics — the police can function only if they can keep a complicated machinery of information and actual social contact operating. And the fuel which keeps this machine going is bargaining power: each side has a commodity to exchange of value to the other. Each party to the transaction must make a profit. In this sense the police have a vested interest in the subculture of the underworld.
The remarkable thing about this subculture is that, although it may use the term “square,” both police and criminals share the same system of values. The narcotics peddler, the gambler, or the prostitute may point out that their activities are civil-service occupations in some countries and if the public didn’t want what they had to offer, they would go out of business. To some extent most policemen share this point of view, but both sides in private conversation usually will be found to be convinced that vice is morally wrong.

The underworld subculture does not have the self-confidence attributed to it in fiction. Again, this lack is a powerful psychological tool in the hands of the police. A prostitute who is treated by the arresting officer as “just a hard-working girl,” the victim of hypocritical bluenosed laws which it is the officer’s job to enforce, will be far more cooperative than a girl who feels she is being treated with contempt, most especially so because she herself has that contempt. Organizations like Synanon have made a therapeutic method out of the self-hate of the narcotics addict, but a policeman who used the language of a Synanon session would find himself with a very hostile prisoner indeed on his hands.

What the policeman does as a custodial officer within the underworld subculture is keep it abated, and he applies these methods to other problems of social order.

For instance, for several years I knew a handsome young Negro intellectual who was a professional blackmailer. He would spot a wealthy young married woman slumming in bohemia, strike up an acquaintance, carry on an intellectual conversation, arouse her sympathy. After reciting T.S. Eliot at length he would divulge the information that he cried himself to sleep night after night because his skin was black and his hair was crinkly. As they parted he would thank her profusely, say that he never hoped to see her again but could he write her sometimes when the pain was more than he could bear. The exchange of letters led to an exchange of pictures and possibly even to an affair, and then one day the socialite housewife would get a telephone call that he was in a terrible jam and needed a thousand dollars that he had been offered by a newspaperman for the letters and pictures. Needless to say, journalism is no longer conducted this way but the girls usually paid up and those who were sleeping with him usually went right on doing so.

One night I was in a club in San Francisco’s North Beach and watched the regular cop on the beat question only the mixed couples in the place and concentrate his hostility on this man and his new girl. As he went out the door he said to me, “Okay, Rexroth, say I’m prejudiced but what do you want me to do with that motherfucker? Go up to him and say, ‘You’re under arrest for blackmail’?”

Eventually this harassment may have paid off because the fellow left town for good. This instance explains a good many things. The police still believe that there are enough relationships of this kind, or worse, amongst mixed-race couples to justify a policy of general interrogation and of making those people who do not respond as the police think they should as uncomfortable as possible. Harassment is a method of abatement and the police consider it one which may work when there is no plaintiff or no visible commission of crime.

Take the case of homosexuality. Homosexual acts between consenting adults are no longer policed as such. The laws which the police attempt to enforce are essentially the same as those applied to heterosexuals. The bushes in parks and public toilets are not chosen by heterosexuals for sexual intercourse, and although assignations are made between men and women in bars, this has become socially acceptable in most cities, and it is usually not so obvious as the activities in a gay bar.

With the growing tolerance of homosexuality and the enormous increase in gay bars and other open manifestations of homosexuality socially, there has not only been a great increase in homosexual prostitution, especially amongst floating adolescents, but a tremendous increase in robbery and murder. Not only have a number of well-known personalities in recent years been found robbed and beaten to death in cities with a large homosexual population, but studbusting has become one of the commonest forms of “unexplained” homicide. Middle-aged men, many of them married and with children, are pulled out of the bushes dead, with a frequency the police prefer to say nothing about.

Here is the police problem. No one is going to complain. The partners in a homosexual relationship participate voluntarily. If one is robbed, he will not risk disgrace by going to the police. If he’s dead, he’s dead, and the circumstances of his murder provide no clue. The act itself takes only a brief time and is almost impossible to catch. So the police harass and embarrass the gay bar or the respectable-looking homosexuals frequenting parks or cruising certain well-known streets looking for “trade.” The “trade,” the homosexual prostitute, they make as uncomfortable as possible.

At one time entrapment was a common form of arrest, but the prejudice of the court and the public is so great that it is being abandoned. A judge is very likely to say, “What were you doing when the defendant was fondling your penis?” Besides entrapment does not catch the principal offender, the studbuster, who if he is experienced can recognize a plainclothesman no matter how plausibly disguised.

This leaves the police with degrading methods, peepholes in public toilets and such like which most officers rebel against using. Of course, in all these cases some policemen simply love this kind of work. The favorite term of contempt amongst police as in the underworld is “copperhearted.” Fairy-killers and whore-hunters are not liked by their colleagues on the force, and although police will give all their skill and devotion to cracking a big case of narcotics wholesaling, most men on the narcotics detail sicken of the work with the petty addict and the round of desperation, pilfering, prostitution, squalor, and the hopelessness of changing it.
There is one outstanding factor in common in almost all arrests for “vice.” The cop must judge to arrest, and in court in a legal process based on contest he must stick to his guns and the esprit de corps of the force must back him up all the way up the chain of command. A general cannot deny his troops. This is the reason that the chain of command almost invariably seems to the public to do nothing but whitewash whenever there is a complaint, no matter how grievous. It is this paramilitary ethic, not corruption, which accounts for the runaround. Except for a few cities in the East, corruption from outside is dying out. If it exists today it comes from within the force. Outside the cities that are still controlled by the Organization, policemen, let alone high-ranking officers, are no longer directly controlled by corrupt political machines or by the “Mafia.”
Modern police corruption is a more subtle thing. Many police departments are controlled by intradepartmental political structures, power apparats. Others are the battleground of conflicting groups of this sort, but they are more likely to be generated within the department and concerned exclusively with police rank and privilege than to come from outside. In fact the tendency is to keep such things from the attention of the public, even of the apparatus of the political parties.

In the case of a liberal and enlightened police chief, the increasing polarization of American society is certain to be reflected in an opposition, usually clandestine but often organized, which considers him a nigger-lover and a red and whose members do everything they can to sabotage his efforts and to back each other up all along the chain of command as high as they can go. It is this type of reactionary opposition that accounts for the apparently successful John Birch Society recruitment campaign in the police forces of America, and it is here that you can find charges of whitewash and runaround in cases of police brutality, and especially of racism.

Payoff is, as I said, part of a system for control for which many otherwise honest, old-fashioned policemen will present strong if not convincing arguments. Big-time payoff is another thing and occurs only sporadically in a few Eastern cities. Criminal corruption again arises within a police force prompted only by the generally criminal character of American society. Rings of thieves like those uncovered a couple of years ago in two police forces usually grow out of the general “knockdown” philosophy of American enterprise, particularly in relation to insurance claims. To quote Chief Stanley R. Schrotel:

Most policemen recognize no wrong in accepting free admissions to public entertainment, discounts on their purchases, special favors and considerations from persons of influence, or tips and gratuities for services performed in the line of their regular duty. They choose to look upon these incidents as being strictly personal matters between themselves and the donors and are unwilling to recognize that moral obligations are involved. . . . No matter how much effort is expended in minimizing the derogatory effect of the acceptance of gratuities and favors by law-enforcement officers, the practice has become so prevalent that the public generally concedes that policemen are the world’s greatest “moochers.” Aside from the question of the effect of the practice upon the officers’ effectiveness in enforcing the law, it is a certainty that a reputation for “mooching” does not elevate the standards of the profession in the public’s mind.

This picture has a certain old-time charm: the copper in pith helmet and blue Prince Albert copping an apple off the pushcart. To quote again Banton’s The Policeman in the Community, paraphrasing Morton Stern’s article, “What Makes a Policeman Go Wrong”: “A former member of the Denver police department, in discussing what went wrong there, stressed that a new recruit was not accepted by his colleagues unless he conformed to their norms. When investigating a burglary in a store, police officers might put some additional articles into their pockets. Indeed, they were sometimes encouraged to do so by the owners who pointed out they would recover from the insurance company anyway.” In the Cops-as-Robbers scandals of a few years back, investigation soon revealed the step-by-step process of corruption. The robbery victim, owner of a shop or warehouse, expected and encouraged the investigating officers to help themselves to a couple of mink coats or television sets to run up the insurance claim. From there it was a short step to collusion between police, burglary gang, and would-be “victim,” and from there a still shorter step, the elimination of the middleman, until the police planned and carried out the robberies themselves and moved on to plain, old-fashioned robbery, without the connivance of the robbed.

The corruption that stems from gambling is a special case, although its effects are probably the most far-reaching. Few police anywhere are directly part of the organized narcotics business, and their involvement in prostitution is really trivial, however common, and mostly part of what they consider the necessary web of information. Gambling is different. Today when churches and supermarkets are gambling institutions, it is hard for the average policeman, who is likely to be an Irish Catholic whose church stages weekly bingo games, to take gambling seriously.
Payoff may start as part of the system of control, but since gambling is the major business of organized crime in America, it soon penetrates to the vitals of the police system. Since gambling is also the major bridge between politics and organized crime, it carries with it not only the corruption of vice but the additional corruption of vice-controlled politics.

Collusion with bookmakers and the proprietors of gambling rooms is turned up fairly frequently on the West Coast. Massive infection of the police department and the penetration of high-level, outside, political corruption seems to be far more common east of the Rockies. There is a psychological factor here which must be taken into account. A corrupt police force is a guilt-ridden police force, because with few exceptions policemen do believe in the lower-middle-class values even when they flout them. A guilty police force is likely to be both belligerently puritanical in its attempts to control unconventional behavior, and hostile, quick to react aggressively to any fancied assault on its own authority. Obviously, this sets up a vicious circle which goes round and round in an ever-accelerating separation of the police from the general population.

At the very best, as any honest policeman will tell you, the police live in a ghetto of their own and a great deal of the effort of the human-relations bureaus and details of the better police departments is devoted simply to getting through to the public, to breaking down the ghetto wall. But even with the best public relations the police as a subculture of their own are a garrison society. Policemen associate mostly with one another and have few civilian friends. Policemen’s balls and picnics are characterized by a noisy but impoverished conviviality.

In the case of Negroes, the young man who joins the force is likely to meet with a total cutoff in his community and at the best find himself uncomfortable in his new one, the police society. A neighbor who was a graduate in law in a Southern Jim Crow university joined the force and discovered that he had even lost the friendship of his minister. After a couple of years of isolation, he quit. As a custodial officer in a Negro ghetto the policeman confronts a population in revolt to whom he is a soldier of an occupying army, as both James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin have said.

I have neglected to mention the only way in which the average citizen comes in frequent contact with the police — traffic violation. This is, as we all know, an area of continual exasperation on both sides, and one of the best things a city can do is to create a department of traffic-control officers for all violations short of crime completely divorced from the police department.

To sum up, these are the basic factors in the problem: The police are a closed community, socially isolated from the general population with a high level of irritability along the edges of contact. Police methods have developed in the day-by-day work of control of an underworld of petty crime and vice, in a period when most police work was with the poor, or at least the dwellers in slums and Tenderloin. As a control or custodial officer the typical policeman, in the words of Jerome H. Skolnick, “is inherently a suspicious person, fond of order and predictability. He reacts to stereotyped symbols of potential trouble — even oddities of dress or speech, and proceeds on the presumption of guilt, often while winking at the legal niceties of restraint in searches and arrests. Intent upon ‘controlling crime,’ the officer keenly resents having his results upset on the appellate level.”

Skolnick found that the police feel frustrated by the courts’ affirmation of principles of due process, and generally consider the appellate judiciary as “traitor” to its responsibility to keep the community free from criminality.

We hear a great deal about the professionalization of the policeman from theorists and lecturers in police academies but on the part of the older or more conventional of these people, professionalism really means the development of a high degree of craft skill in playing the role described by Skolnick, a social custodial officer, with maximum efficiency and minimum social friction. This body of social servants with its own ideology and ethic is set over against a society which bears little resemblance to the one which produced it in the first place.
To quote Thomas F. Adams, “Field Interrogation,” Police, March-April 1963:
Be suspicious. This is a healthy police attitude, but it should be controlled and not too obvious.
B. Look for the unusual:
1. Persons who do not “belong” where they are observed.
2. Automobiles which do not “look right.”
3. Businesses opened at odd hours, or not according to routine or custom.
C. Subjects who should be subjected to field interrogations:
1. Suspicious persons known to the officers from previous arrests, field interrogations, and observations.
2. Emaciated-appearing alcoholics and narcotics users who invariably turn to crime to pay for cost of habit.
3. Person who fits description of wanted suspect as described by radio, teletype, daily bulletins.
4. Any person observed in the immediate vicinity of a crime very recently committed or reported as “in progress.”
5. Known trouble-makers near large gatherings
.6. Persons who attempt to avoid or evade the officer.
7. Exaggerated unconcern over contact with the officer.
8. Visibly “rattled” when near the policeman.
9. Unescorted women or young girls in public places, particularly at night in such places as cafés, bars, bus and train depots, or street corners.
10. “Lovers” in an industrial area (make good lookouts).
11. Persons who loiter about places where children play.
12. Solicitors or peddlers in a residential neighborhood.
13. Loiterers around public rest rooms.
14. Lone male sitting in car adjacent to schoolground with newspaper or book in his lap.
15. Lone male sitting in car near shopping center who pays unusual amount of attention to women, sometimes continuously manipulating rearview mirror to avoid direct eye contact.
16. Hitchhikers.
17. Person wearing coat on hot days.
18. Car with mismatched hub caps, or dirty car with clean license plate (or vice versa).
19. Uniformed “deliverymen” with no merchandise or truck.
20. Many others. How about your own personal experiences?

And Cohn(Colin-Molly) Mclnnes, Mr. Love and Justice:
The true copper’s dominant characteristic, if the truth be known, is neither those daring nor vicious qualities that are sometimes attributed to him by friend or enemy, but an ingrained conservatism, an almost desperate love of the conventional. It is untidiness, disorder, the unusual, that a copper disapproves of most of all: far more even than of crime, which is merely a professional matter. Hence his profound dislike of people loitering in streets, dressing extravagantly, speaking with exotic accents, being strange, weak, eccentric, or simply any rare minority — of their doing, in fact, anything that cannot be safely predicted.

Then Peter J. Connell, “Handling of Complaints by Police”:
The time spent cruising one’s sector or walking one’s beat is not wasted time, though it can become quite routine. During this time, the most important thing for the officer to do is notice the normal. He must come to know the people in his area, their habits, their automobiles, and their friends. He must learn what time the various shops close, how much money is kept on hand on different nights, what lights are usually left on, which houses are vacant . . . only then can he decide what persons or cars under what circumstances warrant the appellation “suspicious.”

All this was all right in a different world. At least the society didn’t fall apart. Today what was once a mob is now a civil-rights demonstration, oddly dressed people are musicians, students, professors, members of the new professions generally (half of Madison Avenue seems to take the subway home to Greenwich Village at 5:00 p.m., shed the gray flannel suits and basic blacks, and get into costumes which the police believe are worn only by “dope fiends”).

Why is the heat on all over America? For exactly the same reason it has always gone on in an American city after an outbreak of social disorder, a shocking crime, or a sudden rise in the crime rate. The police feel that they are dealing with a situation that is slipping away from their control and they are using the methods, most of them extra-legal, by which they have traditionally regained control — “discourage them and they’ll go away.”

Where the police once confronted unassimilated groups of the illiterate poor, they now face an unassimilable subculture of the college educated, unassimilable certainly to their own standards. Homosexuality, once a profitable source of shakedown, and a chance to release a few sadistic repressions, is now open and in fact tolerated. There are articles in theological magazines about the church’s responsibility to the homosexual and an interfaith organization to implement such responsibility — “homophile” organizations of both men and women stage national conventions addressed by notabilities in law, psychiatry, and sociology, and even by a few enlightened police officers. Such organizations recently sued the State of California to gain the right to operate a booth at the State Fair.

Racially mixed couples are common on the streets of every Northern city and are beginning to appear in the South, and they are far more likely today to be students or professional people than denizens of the underworld. Outlandish costume has become the uniform of youth all over the world who are in moral revolt against a predatory society.

Today, when extramarital sex is a commonplace, from grammar school to the senior-citizens’ clubs, we forget that only a generation ago people were still serving sentences in American prisons for fornication, adultery, and oral sex between men and women, but the police have not forgotten, most of them anyway. A weekly book-review section that once refused advertising of all books whatsoever by Kenneth Patchen or Henry Miller now runs a “cover story” on The Story of O, a detailed, graphic description of the most extreme sado-masochism, homosexuality, and “deviance” generally. There are regular underground movie houses which publicly show movies which would shock even a police smoker. Due to their seriousness of intent, they still horrify the police but in a new way.

Adolescent Negro prostitutes in San Francisco when arrested “go limp,” and put up long, highly sophisticated arguments for legalized prostitution and do everything but sing “We Shall Overcome.” I must say that the police with whom I have talked who have been involved in such situations have enough sense of humor to think it’s all just hilarious.

At one time marijuana and the various pharmaceutical kicks were part of a hard-dope subculture and unquestionably led in some instances directly to heroin addiction — “Whatsa matter, you chicken? When are you going to graduate?” This is certainly no longer true. The squares and the oldies have no conception of how common the use of marijuana is amongst the young. Pick-up and put-down pills are used by everybody to sleep or wake up and we have just gone through a craze for hallucinogens that seems to be leveling off. It is my impression that this was accompanied by a proportionate decline in the use of heroin except possibly in certain sections of New York City. Although large numbers of informed people believe that marijuana is harmless and that even the worst of the other drugs cause neither delirium tremens, polyneuritis, extensive brain damage nor lung cancer, the police, egged on by some of the press, persist in treating all users of all drugs and intoxicants except alcohol and nicotine as narcotic addicts.

Everybody talks back to the cop today. This “disrespect for law” has two contradictory sources — the general criminality that seeps through all American business and politics, and the growth of a new culture of revolt against precisely this “business ethic.” In a sense the police are caught in the middle of a class war, a war between antagonistic moral rather than economic classes.

Most policemen come from conservative levels of the society, lower-middle and working-class families that have preserved an authoritarian structure and fundamentalist religion and puritanical attitude towards sex and a fear and contempt for any nonconformist behavior. The great majority of patrolmen in America have no more than a high-school education and that in substandard schools.

An additional factor seldom taken account of is the class hostility of the people on this social level for the educated, sophisticated, and affluent generally and most especially for those to whom the proper definition of bohemianism specially applies, those who mimic the habits of the idle rich without possessing their money or their reserves of power and who forego the commonly accepted necessities of life to enjoy the luxuries. This type, this model personality, is specifically designed to outrage the type or model policeman who is likely to be suspicious of anybody who drinks brandy instead of bourbon or smokes Turkish cigarettes, much less someone who thinks Juan Marichal must be an obscure Spanish poet.

At one time the great web of police custodial care could isolate such types in Greenwich Village or the Near North Side or North Beach. Today they are everywhere and increasing geometrically. If all of their activities, from peddling poetry on the streets or marching in demonstrations to smoking marijuana and attending nude parties, were suddenly to become accepted, the police forces of the country would be threatened with mass nervous breakdown. This may be one of those processes of historical change where the resistance of the past is not altogether valueless. For instance, laws against the possession of marijuana have become practically unenforceable. If everyone who smoked grass were arrested, we’d have to build concentration camps all over the country. Yet even today it would be quite impossible to legalize marijuana by referendum. It is doubtful if 1 per cent of the state legislators of this country would have the guts to go on record as voting yes on a law like the British one abolishing the criminality of homosexual acts between consenting adults.

The most dangerous social tensions between police and people is certainly in race relations. The most enlightened police chief, with the aid of the most dedicated community-relations detail, cannot control the policeman on the beat, in his personal relations with ignorant, poor, and obstreperous members of a race which he does not understand. The only solution for this within the police force is education and the changing of group pressures. As one police officer said, “We all use the word ‘nigger’ in the squad room. You’d be looked on as a kook if you didn’t, but I won’t let my kids use it at home.”

Most chiefs of police rise directly from the ranks and are often less well educated than the new generation of rookies. Most city charters forbid the recruitment of executive officers from outside the force. What this means is that the precinct captains are men from a less enlightened age who have risen by seniority to that point and are not competent to go further. They are the real bottlenecks and they can defeat all the efforts of an enlightened chief and police commission in their own bailiwicks.

The paramilitary structure of the police force is such that it is exceedingly difficult to create a board of review, or an office of complaints or of human relations within the force which will not be dominated by police politics and civil-service inertia. This is the reason for the ever-growing demand for outside surveillance — civilian policing of the police.

Most cities now have boards of police commissioners of various sorts but these are made up of well-to-do businessmen and politicians and seldom meet more than a couple of hours once a week and have at the best only a small secretarial staff. Negro members are usually lawyers and politicians or pastors of respectable churches. It would be possible totally to reorganize such commissions, make them representative, give them power, and a large working staff.

Within the police force itself it is possible to set up an inspector general’s office, outside the chain of command, which would process, investigate, and act on all citizen complaints. This is the common proposal of the more enlightened spokesmen from within the police system.

It would be possible to set up in each city an Ombudsman office with the job of clearing all manner of citizens’ dissatisfactions with the functioning of the city and its employees. This has worked in Scandinavia from which the word comes, but the vision of pandemonium which the prospect of such an American office conjures up is frightening. It is doubtful if it would be possible to get people to take the jobs and certainly not to stay on them.

A civilian review board, either elected or appointed by the mayor from completely outside all political apparatus, would be ideal but the very terms contain a contradiction. How is this going to come about? It is a popular proposal with the civil-rights organizations and the one most fervently resisted by the police. Although it is true, as Bayard Rustin says, that it would protect the unjustifiably accused officer, it would strip naked the paramilitary structure which the police consider essential, not just to their morale but to their actual function.

In some cities, Seattle and Los Angeles amongst others, the civil-rights organizations have set up civilian patrols who prowl the prowl cars. They follow the police and stand by during arrest, politely and usually silently. They must be made up of citizens of all races, of unimpeachable respectability who are willing to donate eight hours at least once a week to difficult and unpleasant work. Obviously they will obtain from the officers in the patrol cars the most elaborate compliance with all the amenities of the etiquette of arrest. How much effect this has in the long run is questionable and by its nature a civilian patrol program is not likely to endure beyond a few critical months. People are unlikely to engage in such activity night after night, year after year.

What is the best of these alternatives? Only experience can tell. If we were to set up in American cities a kind of neighborhood civil militia which checked on all police activity, we would soon find that we had created a police system like that of the Russians in which the law and the police and their party and neighborhood representatives function as agents of public order and education in social ethics. This may be an estimable theory of how to run a society but it is in total contradiction to every principle of British-American law and social organization. We do not want the police as custodians but as instruments of a law which regards all men as equal and at liberty to run their affairs to suit themselves as long as they do not inflict damage on others.

The police spokesmen are perfectly right in saying that what should be done is truly to professionalize police work. This means changing the class foundation of the police force itself. A professional is a man with a salary at least comparable to that of a small-town dentist, with at least one college degree, with an advanced technical and at the same time broadly humanistic education and whose work demands that he keep abreast of its latest developments. The thought of turning all the policemen in America into such persons staggers the imagination. However, the nursing profession, which by and large is recruited from exactly the same level of society as the police, has been professionalized in one generation in everything but salary. An executive nurse in a big-city health department may have more years of college than most of the doctors working with her. She is lucky indeed if she makes $800 a month.

What is the answer? I have no idea. This is one of those many regions of frustration which are spreading across all of modern life, blotches on the skin of a body which is sick within with a sickness of which all diagnoses differ. I suppose society will smell its way to some sort of solution, muddle through the muddle. This is not a very hopeful prognostication for what is, after all, one aspect of a grave crisis, but none of the other prognostications about any of the other aspects is hopeful either.
A bearded Tom Sawyer, nattily clad in a policeman’s tunic and blue jeans, had a run-in with authority here yesterday.
Unlike his Mark Twain namesake, San Francisco’s Sawyer lost this round to a pair of policemen.
Officers Tony Delzompo and Jim Bailey, in fact, found the wearing of parts of police uniforms so unamusing they arrested Sawyer.
Sawyer, 23, of 1253 Willard Street in the Haight-Ashbury district, was booked on suspicion of possession of stolen property.
The officers admitted that there was no report of stolen police jackets on file, but said that Sawyer’s uniform, nonetheless, might well be stolen.
Sawyer, questioned at 7 p.m. at Frederick and Stanyan streets by the officers, told them he got the jacket from a friend.
Perhaps an explanation for the officers’ investigative zeal could be found in Sawyer’s substitute for the police badge, a large lapel button pinned on the left side of the tunic. It read: “Overthrow the Government.”
[San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 1966]

This article was originally published in Playboy (July 1967) with the title “The Fuzz.” It was reprinted with the present title in The Alternative Society (Herder & Herder, 1970) and in World Outside the Window: Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth (New Directions, 1987). Copyright 1987 Kenneth Rexroth Trust. Reproduced here by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

The original appearance of this article apparently caused Rexroth to be fired from three different jobs, including his position as columnist for the San Francisco Examiner.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Yesterday about 300 people gathered in downtown Winnipeg to protest the closing of the Winnipeg and Halifax flight attendant bases on the part of Air Canada management. As Molly has reported before the federal government has refused to allow Air Canada an exemption from the law to "consult" ie present a non=negotiable demand with their employees. But, as I have said before this is a setback that hardly affects the timetable of management, let alone their intentions. may it be time for more militant action on the part of Air Canada employees ? The story from the Canadian Press....
Air Canada attendants rally across the country to fight for jobs:
— Air Canada (TSX:AC.A) flight attendants took to the streets in several cities Monday to protest job cuts and warn of more delays in the skies.

"I say to (Air Canada CEO) Robert Milton, how dare you send letters to these employees telling them they're surplus to your requirements?" Paul Moist, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, told more than 300 cheering attendants and supporters outside an Air Canada call centre in downtown Winnipeg.

"There's only one thing that's in surplus at Air Canada and that's the ... arrogance of Air Canada management."

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer lent his support to the attendants, telling them the plan to cut jobs in Winnipeg makes no economic sense.

"We are the only airport in Canada that has a 24-hour capacity, and we're also building and building ... the air cargo capacity which in fact helps the revenue bottom line of Air Canada and other airlines," the NDP premier told the crowd.

There were similar scenes in other cities.

About 100 Air Canada flight attendants and supporters marched at the Calgary International Airport, while 150 people rallied in front of city hall in Halifax and others gathered at Vancouver International Airport.

In Montreal, some 100 flight attendants demonstrated outside the departure lounge of Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport.

"We survived Sept. 11, the integration of Canada's new airlines, the SARS crisis, bankruptcy protection in 2003 and 2004," said Suzanne St-Jean, head of the CUPE branch in Montreal.
"The union is of the opinion that these draconian measures could have been avoided."

The demonstrations are unlikely to change minds at the struggling airline. Faced with rising fuel prices, the air carrier announced plans in June to cut seven per cent of its capacity and lay off up to 2,000 of its 28,000 workers.

As part of the plan, 632 of the airline's 7,000 flight attendants are to be given pink slips.
"Given the pressures we're under from fuel and the economy, it was just a decision that was forced upon us," Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said from Toronto.

"We can understand that it's disappointing and upsetting for our employees. That's why we're keen to sit down with them and look at ways to mitigate this and see what options there are for people."

The two sides were to meet Thursday to look for ways to make the job cuts as painless as possible - measures which could include early retirement incentives. Last week, federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn rejected Air Canada's request for a waiver from a requirement to set up a joint union-company committee to examine ways to ease the impact.

The job cuts will hit hardest in Winnipeg and Halifax, where flight attendant bases will be closed. The bases are not physical buildings, but simply the designated starting point for an employee's work day.

The closures mean attendants in Winnipeg and Halifax will have to move to one of the remaining base cities - Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and Calgary - or try to commute to their jobs via free standby flights. Flying standby, they run the risk of not being able to get to work on time if flights are full.

Attendants also warned the base closures will result in fewer workers on hand to help out with rescheduled flights or staff shortages.

"We're here to cover the Winnipeg flying and there won't be anyone covering the Winnipeg flying. They'll all be coming in from Toronto," said flight attendant Sandy Menjivar at the Winnipeg protest.

"Any time there's a cancellation - for whatever reason, weather or anything - there won't be anyone here to cover that. It'll just be cancelled, so good luck getting to Toronto; good luck getting to Vancouver."

But Fitzpatrick noted that Air Canada flies to dozen of airports now with only six bases.

Deborah Purvey, president of the CUPE local in Vancouver, said flight attendants have lost wages and benefits since 2004 while Air Canada has become profitable.

"They're using the price of fuel as an excuse to lay off employees," Purvey said.

Heather Tilroe, a flight attendant with 10 years experience, said at the demonstration in Calgary that she believes the cuts are simply the start of an erosion of service.

"We're always going to need flight attendants. Otherwise, we'd have a vending machine at the back of the plane," Tilroe told the Calgary Sun.

Molly has reported on this matter twice before and will, continue to do so until its conclusion. The latest news is that the family of Andrew James, recently killed in an accident in Stony Mountain Manitoba, has opted to "stand behind" the contractor who employed their son. That is their privilege, and Molly will hardly try and second-guess their decision, being as she is very experienced with the problems of dealing with sudden death in a family, on more than one occasion.
All the same the question remains- how many underage workers are actually illegally employed in dangerous jobs in this province ? The vast majority of "deaths at work" are among younger workers, underage or otherwise, who, as the following article makes plain, have little idea of the dangers of the job. What does this say about the so-called "enforcement" of our province's labour laws ? Molly has already proposed the alternative- massive unionization with unions willing to fight for their members. NO LAWS will prevent such future tragedies, but action by workers themselves will.
Here's the latest from the CBC.

Charges possible in teen's construction site death
Parents' support won't save company from prosecution
Memorials erected near the construction site where Andrew James, 15, was killed under a load of hot asphalt on July 25. (CBC)A construction company involved in a horrifying workplace accident that killed a 15-year-old Manitoba boy last week could face prosecution, even though the teen's parents had given their permission for him to be on the site.

Andrew James died Friday after he was buried in hot asphalt on a construction site in Stony Mountain, Man. RCMP said it appeared the boy was helping to unload asphalt from a truck when he was buried under its contents.

James's family has said they're too distraught to speak to CBC News, but his parents, Roberta and Rick James, told the Winnipeg Free Press they had supported their son's summer job and don't blame the owner of the construction company, Interlake Asphalt Paving.

"We want to let the world know, and everybody know, who are trying to find someone to blame, there is no one to blame," Roberta James told the newspaper.

But under Manitoba law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to work on a construction site.

Stan Kruse, director of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association's safety program, says the family's support of the company won't stop the investigation.

"The laws aren't made to be fair sometimes, and they might not have been fair to this young person or any young person that's working right now without a permit or on a construction site under 16," said Stan Kruse, director of the safety program for the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association,

"It's not meant to be fair. It's meant to protect workers."

Two workers on the site suffered burns to their hands trying to dig James out of the asphalt. (CBC)People in the construction industry say even when workers are old enough to work legally, they must be closely supervised.

"You've got to be careful when young guys are around, you know, because they're just not skilled, not knowledgeable about what could happen," said Keith Assels, who owns a concrete company working in the area.

The demand for general labourers is high in Manitoba, but the Manitoba Federation of Labour says that doesn't mean rules should be relaxed.

"I hope that if there are young people working in places where they are not supposed to be, this will be a real wake-up call, not just to the legislators who can't stop this, but to the people who are employing them," said federation president Darlene Dziewit.

Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health and the RCMP are continuing to investigate the situation.

Under Manitoba laws, the company could face fines of up to $150,000 for workplace safety and health violations or $25,000 under employment standards violations.

The company could also face charges under a section of the Criminal Code, amended in 2003, that allows companies to be held criminally negligent when workers are put in danger. The legislation was amended in the wake of the Westray mine explosion, which killed 26 workers in Nova Scotia in 1992.

The James family is planning Andrew's funeral for Thursday.

The following was recently published on the Mostly Water site, a Canadian news aggregator. Its original source is the Z Communications site (see our Links section). What Molly finds most outstanding about this essay is that it resolutely refuses to "take sides" while, at the same time, raising all the necessary questions that should be asked about such "gleaming cities from afar" as Chavez's Venezuela. Molly has her own opinion of such matters, informed by a much more severe "class analysis" of what Albert calls the "coordinator class". But read and enjoy. All the questions that I could think of are raised here. One last comment. This essay is the same as others that I have republished from the Z-Net people. I don't agree with them totally, but the fact that I have to make NO grammatical or spelling corrections, unlike most of the anarchist sources that are presumably from English speaking people, says that they have, at least "clear thought". Good language is obvious evidence of clear thinking, whatever the fashion in academia may be these days.
Which Way Venezuela?
By Michael Albert;
July, 24 2008
- Z Net
The diverse factual reports and other data included are culled from documents made available by the Venezuelan Embassy in the U.S.

Venezuela's Bolivarian Revolution is exciting and exemplary, yet few people know much about where Venezuela is headed.

Misrepresentations abound. Data is limited and people interpret it in quite contrary ways. Information deficit plus skewed interpretations cause many people who ought to support the Bolivarian Revolution to instead doubt or even reject it. Useful lessons from Venezuela go largely unreported and thus have less than their widest possible effect.

Hugo Chavez became President in 1999 and in that year, largely due to the ravages of neoliberal reforms in the 80s and 90s, the Venezuelan poverty rate had reached 50%. The aim and promise of Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution was to not only eliminate rampant, raging, poverty, but to attain a new economic and social system consistent with the highest standards of human fulfillment and development.

In the 1999 constitution, Article 299, for example, emphasizes "human development" as the cornerstone of social judgements and Article 70 states that the "involvement of people in the exercise of their social and economic affairs should be manifest through citizen service organs, self-management, co-management, cooperatives in all forms, community enterprises, as well as other kinds of associations guided by the values of mutual cooperation and solidarity."

But, as many skeptics would point out, words are not deeds, and you can find nice words everywhere - including, say, in the constitutions of countries suffering dictatorship and economic and social injustice, as but one example, in the constitution and other literary organs of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Words matter some, but they become infinitely more important and reliable as evidence if there are deeds in their support and particularly if institutional relations breathe life into the words every day.

So what about deeds?
Bolivarian Policies and Their Meaning
According to Venezuelan statistics, "unemployment has decreased from 14.7% in 1999 to 7.9% in 2008. Employment in the informal sector has decreased by 6.4% during that same time. The number of people living in poverty has decreased from 50.4% in 1998 to 33.6% in 2007 and the number of those living in extreme poverty has decreased from 20.3% to 9.6% in that same period. The Human Development Index (HDI) increased from 0.72 in 1998 to 0.8 in 2007, and during that time, the GINI coefficient (a measure of economic inequality) decreased from 0.49 to 0.42.5."

These changes, and many more statistical indices that could be offered - tell us there have been monumentally important improvements in the lives of many Venezuelans. But are those improvements a sign of a revolution going down a path that will lead to worthy ends including classlessness, social justice, etc.? Or are the improvements a sign of a corrupt and rotten version of familiar social structures having some of their most egregious excesses reigned back, but with no likelihood for fundamental change? Or are the improvements a marker of revolutionary change that will wind up in rotten results?

By analogy, are the gains worthy and hopeful for a hugely transformed future? Or are they like, say, gains we find in the U.S. under FDR or in Sweden transformed by social democrats? Good, but not fundamental. Or are the gains a sign of a process, temporarily serving diverse popular interests to win allies, but headed toward untoward final relations, like the Bolshevik process?

Why is it that some people see an unfolding revolution that they feel will wind up creating a new society in Venezuela and a beacon for humanity more widely? Yet other people see an unfolding struggle within existing relations, already causing some very wonderful and worthy gains, but going nowhere much beyond that? And other people see a process that is doing nice things at the moment, but which they believe is going to inexorably devolve into familiar authoritarian outcomes that will, in retrospect, compromise it all?

Is it that some people have more information to go on? Is it that there is enough information for all, but some read it one way - and others read it another way due to priori expectations or greater insight? Or is it that the information is vague, and we all tend to read into it based on whether hope or fear is momentarily most active in our consciousnesses?

I think all these reactions happen - and regardless of which is dominant, I am certain more information of a probing sort, getting at the heart of aims and methods, would help.

According to the Superintendence of Cooperatives (SUNACOOP), in Venezuela, there were 910 cooperatives nationwide in 1999, while by the end of 2007, that number had risen to 228,004. According to SUNACOOP, the cooperative sector in Venezuela now represents about 14% of Venezuela's GDP, and accounts for about 18% of employment in Venezuela. Most of the cooperatives fall under the service sector (61.29%) and the production sector (27%).

But what do these facts tell us? No one could deny that they reveal an incredible dynamism. But about ultimate aims... people will have different reactions.

In one reading, the facts noted indicate that the reform effort to make life better for the poor against the mega rich has utilized coops - a good thing. But in this reading, these facts are not the stuff of revolutionary transformation.

In another reading, the facts noted indicate that Venezuela is on the road to fundamentally transformed economic structures - a true revolution. More, folks with this reading see a revolution not just concerning property relations, but also concerning the division of labor and methods of decision making and remuneration. They see that in a world situation complicated by both a lack of revolutionary aspirations in much of the Venezuelan population and a hostile international context, the Bolivarian process is taking critical steps on the road to profound and worthy revolutionary changes which still are, however, a ways off.

In a third read, these facts show only that in Venezuela there is an appeal to poor constituencies - and while the associated reforms are good in their proximate implications for those constituencies, they are part of fundamental changes which lead in ultimately bad directions along paths we have seen revolutions travel before. Chavez says the Bolivarian goal isn't twentieth century socialism all over again - but doubters say, sure, what did you expect Chavez to say? Where's the evidence?

How does one know which read makes most sense, or even have a truly informed estimate?
We must know Venezuela's long term goals and methods as evidenced by structural lasting deeds. We must know how the changes taking place so far are viewed at different levels of society. We must know what steps the changes have involved and, even more so, what steps are in the pipeline to come? But we don't know these things. Do people who confidently say they know where Venezuela is going use tea leaves to read the future? More understandably, [do] they read into the future based on what they have seen elsewhere in times past - whether that is, for them, hopeful or fearful?
Looking Deeper
A report available from Venezuela points out that: "The rise of cooperatives began in 2001, with the Special Law of Cooperative Associations." It emphasizes the importance of the State in "promoting cooperatives through various mechanisms including education, improved access to financial services, direct tax exemption and the prioritization of cooperatives in public contracting" (Article 89). In fact, Venezuelan sources report, "economic growth accelerated in the year 2003 as a result of the implementation of these mechanisms through various state agencies."

For example, one of the most important programs in this regard was the creation of the Vuelvan Caras Mission in early 2004. In its own self description, "this state-run program offers both technical education, such as classes in agriculture, tourism or construction, and orientation as to what the Bolivarian economic projects are about." Rather incredibly, "between March 2004 and August 2007, over 670,000 people completed the program, resulting in the creation of more than 10,000 cooperatives by its alumni, more than 3,000 of which pertain to the agricultural sector."

Is this worthy reform but no more?

Is this the first moves in an inspiring journey toward a truly classless economic and social structure?

Or is this a sop to the poor while establishing a new class rule and even authoritarianism, using but then failing to fulfill poor peoples' support?

Different people see the events in Venezuela differently - but what is missing to decide with real confidence what we think, is more information about what the goals are, about the extent to which the goals are widely shared and owned by leaders or by everyone, and what the methods are and how they connect up to the goals.

"Vuelvan Caras" is one of 25 "social missions," or state-sponsored social development programs, currently operating in Venezuela "in diverse fields of human development such as education, health, culture and nutrition. They are a fundamental part of Venezuela's policy of redistributing wealth and making basic social services accessible to all citizens. Studies have found that the social missions contributed to a 9.9% decrease in the poverty rate since 2003."
But what [do] the missions mean - writ larger?

When you compare the Venezuelan government's agendas and accomplishments to what, say, the U.S. government does for its less privileged and downright poor citizens, the contrast is incredibly stark. But still, having better government policies than the U.S. is not the same as having wonderful policies. So where is it going?

I am no expert, but my guess is if we were to look back at the New Deal in the U.S. we would be able to find, over a period of years, a great many comparable statistical achievements.
Similarly, I am sure that if we were to look at the Bolshevik transition in the Soviet Union from one harsh and horrible system, to what turned out to be another, we would again see a huge pile of innovative and positive, albeit it in some cases temporary, gains. And I think we can also easily comprehend how a sincere effort to really transform a capitalist, patriarchal, culturally divided, bureaucratic society into something fundamentally oriented to human well being and development could involve diverse steps like those we see in Venezuela, giving an extensive list of short term gains, but most important also leading forward in worthy new directions. So, again, for Venezuela - which is it?

In September 2007, "Vuelvan Caras" continued under its new name, "Che Guevara," to emphasize the incorporation of new elements into its educational plan. "This new plan aims to educate students about the distinctive socio-economic models that have been evolving over time, including, for example, the Social Production Enterprise (EPS) which is [a] model that has developed in Venezuela within the last few years." These EPSs are defined by the government as "economic entities dedicated to the production of goods or services in which work has its proper and authentic value, with no discrimination associated with any type of work, no privileges related to certain positions or hierarchies and with equality between its members, based on participative planning."

That certainly sounds very good - as words. But what about associated deeds? Are there really units being constructed that involve all actors in planning and decision making and that have real equality of material and social circumstance among members, including equitable remuneration? If there are, what is the make up of these units? What features do they have? What is the plan for those features to become core to the whole economy? Should we be optimistic about these innovations carrying forward? Should we be emulating lessons?

Venezuelans report - though almost no one outside hears the words much less critically engages with them - that "in practical terms, Social Production Enterprises represent an advanced cooperative model, where part of profits are invested into community projects."

Profits? How advanced is it as a real model for a better future, if there are still profits, albeit some enlightenment in their use? "Today, there are at least 3,060 Social Production Enterprises in Venezuela, representing about 30% of the supplier contract value with state enterprises." If these are all internally on a path to classlessness, this is major news, to say the least. If these units are modestly improving internal and broader social relations with nice social policies, it is very good news, but unstable and short of revolutionary. If they are on the path to authoritarianism, then there are nice aspects, but no hope for a truly enlightened future. So which is it? Limited reform, careful but innovative and hopeful revolution, or careful but familiar and not too hopeful revolution?
Oil and Venezuela?
PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, we are told, "has taken a lead role in bringing about the move towards a new socio-economic model. 10% of the investment volume of every project carried out by PDVSA goes into a social fund that is used for projects in education, health, infrastructure or the social missions."

This is a good policy, of course, but if Mobil in the U.S. did the same, under pressure or due to a very innovative administration, what would that mean? It would be good, but how good? The answer would depend on whether it was just a temporary policy or a step on a revolutionary path - and on where that path was going.

PDVSA, we are told, "is supporting endogenous (or inward-focused) development in Venezuela. By working hand in hand with the private sector, they plan to invest $56 million in 6 large development projects until the year 2013."

Private sector? And will that persist? And if so, will it eventually bring back all the old crap?

In Venezuela, gas for autos and other vehicles is subsidized so that the price of a tank of gas for your car in Caracas, for example, is a tiny fraction of what people pay in Boston, New York, London, or Rome. What is the logic of this policy - which is ecologically and socially backward in so many respects, but persists due to popular desire? What does not tackling the retrograde approach tell us, if anything?

In 2004, we are told, "PDVSA's national contracts were valued at $6 billion. Of this amount, 80% was concentrated in the hands of 148 firms. In accordance with the concept of participatory democracy in Venezuela, PDVSA made it a priority to democratize its supplier base, meaning that it opened up to the many small cooperatives prevalent throughout the country. This way, the state oil company fostered an endogenous model of development that is in line with Venezuela's social principals. By December 2007, PDVSA's supplier network included more than 3,000 Social Production Enterprises."

But, really, is this about fundamentally transforming the basic underlying structures of the economy - its property relations, division of labor, its modes of decision making, norms of remuneration, methods of allocation - or is it only about ameliorating the most egregious injustices while retaining old structures?

The fact that in their words, PDVSA "developed an extensive program around the inclusion of EPS, having hundreds of people work on the identification of supplier opportunities, a standardized EPS registration system, and an educational program aiming at strengthening social production enterprises and preparing them to do business with PDVSA and other government entities" is undeniably a massive social experiment that is at least, unto itself, extremely progressive. But is it more?

In its "EPS School," the potential suppliers "pass through three phases of socio-economic and technical education, receiving up to 760 hours of preparation, depending on the sophistication of the service to be provided."

But is this education about the techniques of oil provision mostly, or does it have a social and structural component building consciousness headed toward new social relations? And if the latter is true, what are the features and what success and problems are encountered?
We are told that "once an EPS has a contract with PDVSA, it commits itself to contributing about 3% of profits to PDVSA's Social Fund, which currently holds millions of dollars being invested in community projects."

Okay, is that a small step, but a step nonetheless, on the road to eliminating profit as a social category - or is it just a minor tax on firms, with profits still overwhelmingly in command?
Venezuelans quote from graduates of the EPS programs to demonstrate their impact:

"Today a dream is coming true for us. In the past, doing business with PDVSA was the privilege of a [few] large enterprises. Small companies found closed doors at PDVSA. This changed with President Chá it's the first time that small businesses are given the chance to participate as suppliers and partners of PDVSA, contributing in this way to the socio-economic development of our country....and we are feeling proud of this."

Is it just a program redressing gross imbalances? Or is it, beyond what the above person perceived - a program on the road to fundamentally transforming how production, consumption, and allocation are accomplished?
Programs Beyond Our View
Here is another bit of news from Venezuela I was sent. "Beyond the Social Production Enterprises, many other new socio-economic concepts have evolved in recent years, such as the "Nuclei of Endogenous Development" (NUDES)." How many people outside Venezuela had heard of that? I hadn't.

"In Venezuela NUDES are formed when communities discover potential projects, linked to a physical space in their surroundings (installations, factories, land) and organize in and around this space to carry these projects out. For example, various cooperatives might join to reactivate the area of an abandoned factory, reviving in this way a whole neighborhood and linking the inhabitants of this area to the activities of the NUDE, such as in the case of the Nucleus Fabricio Ojeda."

Again, you can imagine these efforts existing as a broad social democratic effort to improve the distribution of income, engender participation, etc., while maintaining the basic structure of society. Or you can imagine them to be part of a movement and process that will wind up in the old style socialist swamp. Or you can imagine them as a part of a rich and diverse process seeking something entirely new, true classlessness, real participation, even self management.
To judge which picture is real depends on knowing what is said, day to day, back and forth, by the people involved. Are the changes seen as tributaries of a growing tide - or are they seen as the whole point, themselves? Is the process coming ever more under the control of the populace, or is it centralizing outside the purview and influence of the populace?

We hear that, "a huge inventory plant in the neighborhood Catia in Caracas had been inactive for 12 years until the community decided to turn it into a NUDE. In February 2004, 330 persons formed 24 cooperatives for carrying out diverse construction projects in the nucleus and bringing the area back to life. Today, the Nucleus is a flourishing and active community center hosting more than 60 cooperatives in various areas and counting on important facilities and services such as health care clinics, Misión Che Guevara, sports camps and pharmacies, just to name a few. Today one can find more than 100 NUDES in Venezuela including more than 950 cooperatives active in various fields and especially in agriculture."

Again, it is very clearly a vast and exciting social and economic project with extremely progressive implications. That much is certain. But beyond that, we still don't know.
"Social Production Networks are formed when a Nucleus connects with other Nuclei, or with cooperatives, EPS's, Socialist Production Units or any form of alternative organization to carry out activities for the benefit of the community."

One person sees in this New Deal innovation and dynamism(probably the right view-Molly). Another person sees in it positive programs which, however, will sooner or later be compromised by elite rule. A third person - okay, I am this person - sees an incredibly rich pattern of innovation which seems to auger truly revolutionary aims. What I see seems to be building up, slowly, on a base that was not highly politicized, and in a hostile international context, the infrastructure of new relationships in a kind of parallel economy and polity, that will be ready, in time, to challenge for the future of Venezuela(As long as it is ready to challenge the "revolutionary myth" of the Chavez government-Molly.)

Another innovative feature of the Bolivarian project - or revolution - depending on your opinion - are the Socialist Production Units. These "are companies run by the government and marked by extensive community involvement. UPS's are found predominantly in the agricultural sector, and they promote national agricultural sovereignty. Part of the profits of these companies is invested into community projects, which are identified jointly with local community leaders. In the long term, UPS's will ideally be handed over directly to the community and run as community enterprises."

Profit? Maybe it is just a word, referring to something other than surpluses accruing to private owners. And what of the internal organization of the "socialist" structures. Are they internally like the 20th century firms of Russia, say, or do they offer something new, or headed toward something new, at least? And if there is originality, what shape does it take? Does it address the division of labor? The norms of remuneration? The modes of decision making? The allocation relations to other firms and consumers?

For example, we are told that the UPS Agrimiro Gabaldon which was "formerly a privately-run coffee plantation" was "forced to close down due to a drop in coffee prices," but "was recently inaugurated as a Socialist Production Unit." The report says that "under the new model, it extended its coffee cultivation area from 35 hectares to 96 hectares in the year 2005, and began selling its output mainly to public entities."

Okay, but did the plantation also alter its internal division of labor? Is it becoming democratic or even self managing? Is it becoming equitable in its approach to wages? Does it compete with other firms - or cooperate?

We hear that "thanks to the creation of these NUDES, Socialist Production Units, and Social Production Networks, an important number of neglected sites and companies have been revived, providing new jobs and linking local economies to local communities to carry out infrastructure and social projects."

In other words, the changes are occurring in firms and neighborhoods where things are virtually falling apart. Is this a wise strategic/tactical way to begin innovations, to make them seen, to develop support for them, and then to spread them? Or is it a kind of emergency method for dealing with horrendous problems, to be transcended later, by settling for more familiar and less innovative and participatory options when the worst problems are left behind?
We hear that "in order to strengthen regional economies and make them less vulnerable to financial crisis, the government of Venezuela has actively supported the rise of barter system and the creation of communal currencies throughout Venezuela. Currently, about 4,000 people practice bartering in 6 different regions in Venezuela (Yaracuy, Falcón, Sucre, Nueva Esparta, Margarita, Barinas, Trujillo). Each has its own local currency. Agricultural products are mainly available for barter trade, and the practice fosters local agriculture."

This reveals that indeed some changes are stopgap and instituted only to deal with problems that wouldn't be present in a transformed future. Other changes, however, may be part of that future. Which are which?

We hear that "Communal Banks were developed hand in hand with Communal Councils, or elected neighborhood-based councils. Communal Councils oversee local politics and execute development projects geared toward improving the socio-economic status of their communities. The concept of Communal Councils is grounded in the Law of Communal Councils, which was passed in April 2006."

Is this a method for getting out of poverty with support from the population - or even beyond that is it the beginning of structures of local grass roots self management that will eventually override the apparatus of mayors, governors, president, etc.?

Communal Banks "are the financial arm of the Communal Councils. They are constituted as cooperatives and administered democratically by five persons elected to the Citizens' Assembly, which is the highest decision-making body of the Communal Councils. Communal Banks facilitate the flow of resources toward community development projects."

Is this an example of doing some good things with old structures? Or is it a step away from old structures and toward overcoming market logic and behavior, having investments and production and consumption determined by cooperative negotiations among producers and consumers? We need more information to have a solid opinion.
A New Type of Economy and Polity?
We are told that "according to the Ministry of Popular Power for Participation and Social Development, there were 19,500 Communal Councils in Venezuela by March 2007, and the majority of them received funding from various ministries and state institutions."

Some would say local councils - venues for neighborhood folks to be politically involved - are little more than means for the government to poll a passive populace.

Others would say it is even worse, they are the infrastructure of state intervention and oversight of daily life, via snitches and the like(like the situation in Cuba-Molly).

Others would suggest, and I am in this last more optimistic camp, that these local structures are the beginning of an effort to build a completely new type of political system - for legislation, adjudication, and also, as per above, for implementation of shared programs.

In Venezuela you have the new, the incredibly new, the old, and the incredibly old - and you could replace the word new with progressive and the word old with reactionary and the sentiment would remain valid. It is not easy to navigate such complex phenomena, with limited consciousness present in the population, with media and finances arrayed against your endeavor, and trying to avoid open warfare and win change peacefully, and to simultaneously be forthright and clear at every stage about where things are headed. It is easy to empathize with the complexity and constraints and to understand why information is limited. Still, if possible, clarity would help win informed allies, supporters, advocates, and perhaps most important, would spur emulation elsewhere as well.

We are told that "by March 2008, the Ministry of Popular Power for the Communal Economy alone has approved more than $400 million to be handed over to 2,540 Communal Banks for productive projects. 1,533 of these banks have already received the whole amount assigned to them, and another 833 received part of the amount. With this money, 21.277 micro-credits were allotted to cooperatives and individual entrepreneurs. Most is used for projects in the service industry, or in commerce or agriculture."

Okay, this is obviously very good by many standards, but is it revolutionary?

"By the end of this year, FONDEMI (the Microfinance Development Fund) plans to finance 3,000 more Communal Banks, distributing yet another $420 million for productive projects."
This is clearly also very pogressive, but will it lead to a temporarily enlightened and certainly better developed Venezuela which is still, however, fundamentally capitalist, patriarchal, etc.? Or will it yield a Venezuela that is socialist in the old manner - the 20th century style? Or will it yield, as Chavez urges, something new, a classless and socially just society?

We are told that "thanks to the thousands of community projects carried out by Communal Councils, many important initiatives such as street pavings, sports fields, medical centers, and sewage and water systems have been financed and implemented."

Is this the New Deal Venezuelan style - and like the New Deal likely only to revert to familiar shapes once crises are averted and development proceeding? Or is it a process using reforms as means of arousing support, but headed toward old socialism? Or is it a process using diverse reforms as means to enlist participation, comprehension, and creativity, not passive support but active participation, toward a truly new type society?
21st Century Socialism?
Hugo Chavez tells us he wants to build twenty first century socialism. He often decries market relations. He regularly excoriates capitalism. His innovative approaches to popular political and economic decision making via councils and his prioritization of radicalized health, education, and other human services via innovative public missions, inspire great hope. But beyond Bolivarian claims and short term policies, where is the Bolivarian Revolution structurally going? What are its main institutional goals and timetables? What are the methods it is employing and will employ to attain its ends? These are questions I think a lot of people need answers to if they are to have solid attitudes about Venezuela.

By self description Hugo Chavez is aggressively anti-capitalist, but what does that mean?

Regarding economics, for example, does the Bolivarian revolution reject private ownership of the means of production? Verbally it says it does, and likewise in many innovative structures - but what about the bulk of the economy(No kidding-Molly)?

Does the Bolivarian revolution reject markets? Again, verbally, yes, I think it does. More, internationally, it seems to already often conduct trade and international aid by cooperative negotiation that ignores competitive market dictates(I think that this statement desreves serious proof beyond the Chavez desire to subsidize the Cuban dictatorship-Molly). This is wildly hopeful, not just for solidarity in Latin America, but as a challenge to the entire system of market exchange. But is there a path for transcending market relations writ large?

Does the Bolivarian revolution, as an aim, to be attained when able in light of growing consciousness and means, reject capitalistic remuneration such as people getting profit on property, or getting wages for bargaining power or even for output?

Similarly, does the Bolivarian revolution reject capitalism's typical division of labor in which about 20 percent of the workforce monopolizes all the empowering tasks while the other 80 percent does only rote, repetitive, and obedient labor?

Is the gigantic spurt of Bolivarian attention to innovative education - including not just literacy campaigns but also the Bolivarian University, etc. - meant to catch up to typical educational achievements of developed countries? Or is it meant to create a population able to control its own destiny rather than being ruled from above?

Given that Chavez is against particular capitalist institutions, does he have a feeling for what would replace them in a better economy? Do the other ministers of the government have visionary aims? Do the grassroots activists in the missions and coops? What about the broad public? How are aims to be generated? How are they to become widely advocated? How are they do won? Is there a path of innovation that can bring these features into play?

Put differently, if the Bolivarian Revolution is for twenty first century socialism, I wonder what that means? What is it about the old twentieth century socialism, for example, that Chavez and the Bolivarian revolution rejects? Is it central planning such as we saw in the Soviet Union? Is it markets such as we saw in Yugoslavia? Is it the typical 20th century socialist division of labor as we have seen it in Russia, Yugoslavia, and China, which is essentially the same as the division of labor we see in capitalism? Is it the norms of remuneration these socialisms have employed, which while they have jettisoned profit for property have retained payment for power and output? I hope and suspect it is all those things that are being dumped, but I don't know. And if it is, saying so would not only help people get excited about supporting the project, but would also inspire people to engage in similar movements elsewhere.

Similarly, in whatever ways Chavez disagrees with "twentieth century socialism," what does he propose to construct in Venezuela instead? And more, beyond the President, to what extent do other Venezuelans have similar aspirations? To what extent will other Venezuelans, especially at the grassroots, help define outcomes and attain them?
A New Participatory Society?
Regarding the economy, does the Bolivarian revolution believe workers and consumers should have a say in economic decisions in proportion as they are affected by them - which would be self management? Does it believe self managing workers and consumers councils, not boards of directors or managers, should be the seat of economic decision making power in each workplace? Does it believe there should be decentralized and participatory planning by these workers and consumers councils, including a cooperative negotiation of allocation rather than top down command allocation or competitive market allocation?Does it believe workers should be remunerated for how long and for how hard they work, and for enduring onerous conditions, but not for property, power, or even the value of output? If these features aren't part of the Bolivarian economic agenda, then what is preferred for Venezuela's future economy and why? When can such features appear in the state sector, in the coop sector, in the private sector? What are the hopes and plans?

And beyond the economy, Chavez has been very vocal not only about democracy in the polity, but about Venezuelans literally being able to have a say over their own social and political lives. Does the Bolivarian revolution reject, not only capitalist economics, but also the typical top down alienated approaches to government we see in the world today? Is the Bolivarian Revolution seeking something fundamentally different for politics with its grass roots assemblies, and if so, what are the values and features it prefers? Will these local assemblies be transmission lines for the will of rulers at the top? Or will these assemblies in time usurp mayors, governors, and the president himself, being the ultimate seat of political participation and influence?

Many international observers are worried there is a personality cult around Chavez. They site the lack of leaders who enjoy anywhere near as much popularity as he does and also slogans such as "Chavez is the people," "With Chavez anything, without Chavez nothing," or "Who is against Chavez is against the people." If these sentiments and the key role of Chavez is a necessary part of the early stages of transforming toward greater participation and self management, shouldn't their centrality and logic be better explained, and shouldn't it be very explicitly labelled an interim method, not a permanent goal?

Likewise, is there any exploration, as yet, of new approaches to law enforcement and adjudication? I would bet there are, but I have no idea. And wouldn't it be good for people to know, if we are to relate as more than voyeurs - and if we are to be able to dig in and try our own hand at related work? On the other side of the coin, human rights groups have criticized Venezuela's penal code saying that the 2004 reform of the penal code makes certain bad aspects of the penal code worse, such as its provision outlawing disrespect of government officials. Is such a clause really necessary? Why is it there? Why not get rid of it (Can i Suggest that it will be nothing but strengthened-Molly)?

And does the Bolivarian revolution have a revolutionary agenda around gender issues and around race issues? Is it ultimately seeking only vastly better gender and race policies but within old structures, a major and profound gain, to be sure - but not the ultimate revolution in culture and gender we all desire. Or are there fundamental changes it seeks in underlying familial and cultural institutions? Policies protecting minorities and advancing the rights [of] women are exemplary. But does the Bolivarian revolution have ideas about what additional needed structural changes might be, and if not, does it have a method for arriving at potential ideas and then evaluating them? Is there to be that kind of participation?

I would also like to know about Bolivarian media, not least because there is so much confusion, so much ruckus about it. Venezuelan mainstream media are currently narrowly owned and controlled and in no way reflect the desires of the Venezuelan population. Indeed, to whatever extent they are able to do so, Venezuelan mainstream media are hell bent on hindering positive change. I wonder about the Bolivarian view of how media ought to be organized in a better future? And I wonder what the plans are for media in Venezuela.

It has seemed, from far away, that the Bolivarian approach to education, health, coops, and the media as well, and other areas too, has been to construct a parallel set of structures to what now exists - for example, the Bolivarian University, health clinics, thousands of coops, and a Bolivarian state run TV station and I bet a newspaper soon, too - with the idea that these new approaches will in time replace the old ones. Is that the plan? And is there concern that the arena in which this competition between old and new occurs is the arena of the market, which of course does not favor solidarity, sociality, etc.? And does this plan, this approach to discovering, refining, and then spreading new models, given all the difficult constraints it tries to navigate, do a sufficient job of enlisting the leadership of the Venezuelan people in the definition of their new society? Regarding media, for example, rather than a face off between private and state run, what place is there for grassroots community based and otherwise self managed media beholden to the public and its workers, but not owners or the state?
International Relations and Where is Venezuela Going?
As we all know, the United States routinely uses its wealth to bludgeon foreign countries in ways overwhelmingly aimed at preserving and enlarging the power and wealth of U.S. elites not caring a whit about the suffering this imposes on others. Venezuela also seems to be utilizing its assets in the international arena via initiating diverse trading patterns, grants, etc. I wonder what guides these acts? Why isn't it explicit - thereby providing a norm against which we can all judge international exchanges?

When Venezuela exchanges oil and other products with other countries, is the Bolivarian revolution intent upon exchanging at market rates, or does it have a different attitude about what ought to determine exchange rates, and if so, as certainly seems to be the case(NO,NO NO it doesn't except in the case of Cuba and buying Cuban labour at "below market" rates- a good deal for Venezuela), what is it?

And finally, by way of understanding the timing of the Bolivarian Revolution, I wonder what Chavez and other Venezuelan activists expect to be the most important and exemplary accomplishments in Venezuela in the next five or ten years? And I wonder the extent to which Chavez's views and the views of other Bolivarian government officials, labor leaders, and grass roots activists compare with the views of the broad population? Is the broad public in synch with activist agendas or is it just watching - more or less as by-standing save in moments of crisis? Is the population ready to take initiative in advances or is it being pulled along without taking its own initiatives? And if the public is largely passive, what steps are in place to enliven public involvement and will they be pursued and pursued and pursued, rather than falling back on old models?

The above are just part of the kinds of concerns I have repeatedly heard from sensible and serious leftists about Venezuela. Clarifying may well involve strategic difficulties for the Bolivarian Revolution internally and on the world stage as well. But clarifying also promises a gigantic leap in interest from outside Venezuela and of active support at home, I suspect, as well.

The Brazilian path has been to moderate and accommodate and restrain not just communications, but also policies, in order to prevent massive external opposition. The price of that choice has been to dramatically reduce the worth of the whole undertaking. Hopefully Venezuelans will find a different way to ward off external assault. How about strength domestically and internationally, predicated on people knowing what is occurring and even being part of exploring option[s], choosing paths, and creating related and supportive commitments.