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Photo essay: World Food Day protest at Monsanto's world headquarters

Photos by Don Fitz and Barbara Chicherio

October 17, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- It ain’t easy organising anti-Monsanto pickets in St. Louis, where it seems that every other person has a relative, neighbour or friend who works for the corporate demon and is worried about its retaliation. Nevertheless, the Gateway Green Alliance and Safe Food Action St. Louis planned a demonstration as part of the October 16, 2011, World Food Day and Millions Against Monsanto nationwide events put together by the Organic Consumers Association.

 Several dozen activists fighting the company’s efforts to force GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on everyone who eats food, as well as its attempt to destroy small farmers in the US and across the globe, met at the Monsanto's world headquarters on the afternoon of October 16. Soon we were joined by a couple of carloads from Occupy St. Louis and had a lively group of 50.

A big problem with picketing Monsanto’s headquarters is that Olive Boulavard traffic whizzes by at 40–50 miles per hour, meaning that drivers can’t read a sign with small or thin letters. But several of us remembered the old Burma Shave signs on two-lane highways.These are photos of the picket.

Revolutionary health care in Cuba and Venezuela: Beyond Western 'sickness-based' medicine

Monthly Review Press has kindly given permission to Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal to publish an excerpt from Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care by Steve Brouwer. You can download the excerpt HERE (PDF), or read it on screen HERE.

Readers of Links are also urged to purchase copies of Revolutionary Doctors. Those in Australia can order copies from Resistance Books; in other parts of the world, please click HERE to order.

Revolutionary Doctors: How Venezuela and Cuba are Changing the World’s Conception of Health Care
By Steve Brouwer
New York, Monthly Review Press, 2011, 245 pp.

Review by Don Fitz

The deep green meaning of Fukushima

[For previous articles by Don Fitz, click HERE.]

By Don Fitz

June 26, 2011 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Humanity must decrease its use of energy. The decrease must be a lot (not a little bit) and it must happen soon. A failure to do so will lay the foundation for the destruction of human life by some combination of climate change and radiation.

How long will the disastrous consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan continue? A good estimate is about 4.5 billion years — the half life of uranium-238. [1] The March 11, 2011, meltdowns sounded alarms that environmentalists have rung for over half a century. There is also a deeper green meaning: the limits of economic growth have long since passed and we need to design a world with considerably less stuff.

The industry claims that there is such a thing as a safe level of radiation and that nuclear production can be safe. Both are profoundly untrue.

Why does health care in Cuba cost 96% less than in the US?

Claudia Lopez, an intern, with outpatients at 5 de Septiembre Polyclinic, Havana. Photo by Gail Reed/World Health Organisation.

By Don Fitz

January 5, 2011-- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When Americans spend $100 on health care, is it possible that only $4 goes to keeping them well and $96 goes somewhere else? Single payer health care [government-funded universal health insurance] advocates compare US health care to that in Western Europe or Canada and come up with figures of 20–30% waste in the US.

But there is one country with very low level of economic activity yet with a level of health care equal to the West: Cuba.

Life expectancy of about 78 years of age in Cuba is equivalent to the US. Yet, in 2005, Cuba was spending US$193 per person on health care, only 4% of the $4540 being spent in the US. Where could the other 96% of US health care dollars be going?

1. A fragmented system

Cuba: Reversing the medical `brain drain’ – the many faces of ELAM

ELAM students.

By Don Fitz, Havana

November 7, 2010 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Cuba is doing more than any other country in the world to reverse the “brain drain” of doctors abandoning impoverished areas. A physician who leaves Sierra Leone for South Africa can earn 20 times as much. Higher pay in English-speaking countries lures medical graduates from India (10.6% of doctors), Pakistan (11.7%), Sri Lanka (27.5%), and Jamaica (41.7%). Only 50 of 600 doctors trained in Zambia remained there after independence. There are more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago than in Ethiopia.[1]

The Cuban alternative is the 11year old Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM, Latin American School of Medicine). With their educational costs covered by the Cuban government, students focus on returning as doctors to under-served communities in their countries.

The more than 20,000 medical students in Cuba receive much, much more than a free education — they are participating in a project to build a new model of medicine for the world’s poor. Students are well aware that they represent 1 of 100 countries, each of which has a unique relationship to the yoke of imperialism.

Barry Sheppard reviews Peter Camejo's `North Star -- A Memoir'

North Star – A Memoir
By Peter Camejo
Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2010

Order a copy

Review by Barry Sheppard

[Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

July 8, 2010 -- North Star – A Memoir by Peter Camejo, who was an important figure in the radicalisation of “the Sixties” and beyond, up to his untimely death in 2008, should be read by veterans of the socialist movement and wider social causes. It also should be read by new activists thirsty for understanding of previous struggles in order to better equip themselves for present and future battles.

Also, the book is a good read. The first chapter is set in 1979, out of chronological order from the rest of the book. It explains how the CIA attempted to get Peter arrested in Colombia, on a leg of a speaking tour in South America. If he had been imprisoned there it is possible that he would have been “disappeared”. Without giving away the story, Peter escaped this fate through an unlikely intervention, quite a tale in itself.

The false promise of energy efficiency and a real alternative

By Don Fitz

August 22, 2009 -- An action can have opposite effects, depending on it s social contexts. An isolated individual who protests company policy by refusing to go to work could well get fired and become an example used to intimidate others. When an entire workforce stays off the job, it’s called a “strike” and has a very good chance of forcing the company to change its policy.

As positive as they may be for friends and family, individual lifestyles of non-violence do not stop wars from being fought. But a society that eliminates corporate control of the economy gets rid of the need for expansion and takes an enormous step towards non-violence. In this context, non-violent lifestyles solidify non-violent global politics.

It is even more so with “energy efficiency”. It is impossible for individual choices to purchase energy-efficient products to have any positive effect on climate change. But, in a democratically run economy, energy efficiency would be a cornerstone of resolving the catastrophic legacy of production for profit.

United States: Industry-backed opponents of healthcare reform react with racism, violence


Elston McCowan. Photo by Don Fitz.

By Don Fitz

August 14, 2009 -- St. Louis -- Did you hear about the town hall meeting in St. Louis on August 6, where union thugs attacked a black conservative and sent him to the hospital with multiple injuries? Well, it didn’t happen exactly like that. In fact, events were the opposite of what talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly broadcast and what the corporate media relayed across the US.

The right-wing Tea Party group announced to the world that their supporter Kenneth Gladney was assaulted by Elston McCowan, who is an organiser for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Earlier this year I worked closely with McCowan, a black minister, when he ran for mayor of St. Louis on the Green Party ticket. Since nothing that I heard fit the McCowan I know, I interviewed him about the August 6 incident.

What’s wrong with a 30-hour work week?

By Don Fitz

May 30, 2009 -- With millions of jobs lost during the first part of 2009, who is calling for a shorter work week to spread the work around? Not the Republicans. Not even the Democrats. But why is there nary a peep from unions?

In the US, the vehicle industry sets the pace for organised labour. The only discussion at the top levels of the United Auto Workers Union (UAW) is how quickly the gains won during the last 50 years can be given back. Does the UAW have no memory of the 1930s and 1940s when a shorter work week was at centre of organising demands?

The gross domestic product is plummeting at the same time that jobs are disappearing. Why should there be any connection between the two? If society produces 10% less, why don’t we all just work 10% less? Didn’t things work like that for hundreds of thousands of years of human existence? When people figured out easier ways to get what they needed, they spent less time doing it.

A Green's view of Cuba: Reflections on the 50th anniversary of the revolution

Barb in Cuba
Barbara Chicherio and husband Don Fitz in Havana.

By Barbara Chicherio

During January 2009 I visited Cuba over a long weekend. My stepdaughter started medical school there this past August and this was the first chance in several months for her Dad and me to see her. Visiting Rebecca was wonderful, but I was unprepared for what I encountered during the three short days spent in Cuba and how the experience would shift my perception of the global economy.

The best way to protect auto industry jobs is to stop making cars

By Don Fitz and Tim Kaminski

In the days when there was an Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union (OCAW), its St Louis business agent, Bob Tibbs senior, enjoyed coming to Green Party events. He would tell us that his union knew how bad nuclear powerplants were and that it would be happy to get rid of them if workers would be guaranteed jobs of equal pay in other industries. That’s “social unionism”. The union looked beyond wages and working conditions – it asked if what it was producing truly benefited humanity. [1]

Social unionism is most needed in times of crisis. The automobile industry is truly in crisis. According to the February 14, 2009, Wall Street Journal, car sales have dropped to a 30-year low. In November and December, 2008, Ford, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler went to Washington, whining that without tens of billions of dollars in government handouts they would go belly up.

Production-side environmentalism -- Can we produce less and consume more?

By Don Fitz

Corporate "environmentalism" is consumer-side environmentalism. "Make your dollars work for the Earth." "Buy green!" "Purchase this green gewgaw instead of that ungreen gadget." "Feel guilty about driving your car."

Consumer-side environmentalism is loath to discuss production. Consumer-side environmentalism does not challenge the manufacture of cars. Rather, it assumes that producing more and more cars is a sacred right never to be questioned.

Production-side environmentalism places blame on the criminal rather than the victim. It looks at the profits oil companies reap from urban sprawl rather than demeaning people who have no way to get to work other than driving a car. Production-side environmentalism looks at an agro-food industry which profits from transporting highly processed, over-packaged, nutrient-depleted junk thousands of miles rather than the parent giving in to a child bombarded with Saturday morning pop-tart-porn TV.

Production and consumption: A broken connection

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