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Building a Body-Positive Consciousness in the United States

“Food is the primal source of social worth. Whom a society values, it feeds well. The piled plate, the choicest cut, say: we think you’re worth this much of the tribe’s resources”.

-Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

The fight against sexism has come a long way in the past century. The notion that women can and should have equal rights within society, including the right to vote and the right to work, are almost universally accepted. While sexism is far from being eradicated, at least it is now being recognized as an issue in the progressive community and most work to address issues of male chauvinism both internally and externally. But one component of sexism – weight prejudice – is still virtually invisible from the progressive movement. Instead of praising women who want to break from the paradigm of diets and weight obsession, progressives brand those who are “fat” as being lazy and unhealthy.

Weight prejudice is inherently sexist in nature. The ‘penalties’ for being fat are far greater for women than they are for men. While fat men can sometimes be the object of ridicule, they are just as often seen as being the ‘typical male’ that likes to watch football and drink beer. Men can openly joke about being fat, often while eating junk food, and will not be judged for doing so. For women, being fat is going against the very grain of what society expects out of you. For a woman to openly acknowledge being fat – not even to speak about being proud of it – is a social faux-pas that will be met by silence and uncomfortable glances away.

In truth, weight prejudice is simply misogyny covered up. What was once acceptable to say about all women – that they are lazy, only good for child-rearing, likely to give in to their cravings and desires for lack of control – is now wholly acceptable to say about fat women. The “sexy” or idealized version of what a woman should look like shows a lot about the unconscious collective male attitude towards femininity. An otherwise boyish, slim figure with large breasts is a woman that can be easily dominated and is not very feminine, but can still satiate a man’s sexual appetite. W. Charisse Goodman said in her book ‘The Invisible Woman’ that “male control of feminine imagery makes women malleable and docile by convincing them that they are never good enough as is, that they must always adhere to what they are taught is every man’s desire, i.e. a slender body with large breasts, if they want sexual acknowledgment, approval, and fulfillment”. The unspoken social law in the United States and other countries dictates that a woman must look according to these standards in order to fulfill their role in society. Oftentimes you will hear husbands griping that their wives are “letting herself go” – breaking the unspoken contract that a woman is there to fulfill the man’s sexual desires and needs.

This kind of prejudice has its consequences. Most obviously, anorexia and bulimia in women have both grown exponentially over the last few years. But other lesser-acknowledged forms of self-mutilation such as stomach stapling, gastro-bands, and liposuction are not only ignored, but actively promoted by some health-care professionals to “control the disease of obesity”. The ads for these procedures target women’s insecurities by showing bikini-clad women and asking the viewer “don’t you want to look like her?”. On the Lap-Band system site, they show women with the words “If I lost weight, I would feel more comfortable shopping for clothes”. Women constantly harm themselves by trying diet pills with ridiculous side effects or opting for risky surgery, just to make themselves look more like what society thinks they should be.

If women are a sex symbol in our society, then fat women would be the ‘anti-sex symbol’. Cartoons and sitcoms depict fat women as undesirables, often the butt of a joke against a man who mistakenly thought the woman was “beautiful”. This ideology in and of itself is harmful to women’s self-esteem and in building healthy relationships, but it goes farther than that. Many people still think that rape is related to sex (instead of being an act of violence and domination – which is another topic to be written about later). As a result, fat women are considered “safe” from sexual harassment or sexual assault. In the magazine “Big Beautiful Woman”, a woman writing in recounted her personal story of the aftermath of her rape. When she called the police, they came over and blatantly told her that they did not believe her story because of ‘factual inaccuracies’. Later, she overheard one officer as the other in amazement “Who would want to rape her?”.

The progressive community also gives a pass to this brand of misogynistic behavior, branding it as a “health” problem and masking their prejudices by saying it is because of contempt for the fast food industry and lack of local foods. It is common to hear Lefists complain about “fat, lazy, and ignorant” Americans. Mocking fat people, especially fat women, is an acceptable practice because it is supposedly symptomatic of what is wrong with the country. In reality, even progressives have internalized the image of what a woman “should” be in society and are using that against women who do not fit into that model. We know that male chauvinism still exists among progressive groups and movements in the U.S., and this is one aspect of that.

The reality about the health excuse is that the meter for which to measure a “healthy” weight has dramatically shifted over the past 20 years. The BMI, which was invented over 100 years ago by a social physicist, is a grossly inaccurate measurement for what a “healthy” weight should be. Recent studies have shown that as much as 80% of your figure is genetic, or passed down from relatives. In other words, if your mom, your aunts and uncles, and your grandparents were all fat – guess what? you probably will be too! Nowadays, doctors are asking patients what their ‘healthy weight’ is, or what weight they feel the most comfortable at. The BMI has told women as skinny as 130 pounds that they are “overweight” because of their height. A woman who is 5’2” and weights over 135 pounds is considered “overweight”. George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt are also all overweight according to BMI.

Commercial sanctions against fat women and men are not confined to bogus pharmaceutical companies and diet firms. Any clothing for “plus-sized” women (I am only commenting on women’s clothing as that is my experience) is ill-fitting and overpriced. Many styles that you would find in the “regular” sized department are not copied in the “plus-sized”; rather, plus-sized women apparently like to wear clothes that mask all their curves and often have Disney cartoons or flower-patterns printed on them. If you are a “plus-sized” woman and want clothes that are flattering to your figure and professional-looking, you have to go to specialty stores such as Lane Bryant or Avenue, where the prices skyrocket compared to regular department stores. Airplanes are also cashing in on fat-phobia. There is a significant size difference in airplane seats if you compare newer-built planes to older ones. Newer airplanes have much smaller seats, yet are blaming their customers for being “too fat” and charging them for things like seatbelt extenders or in some cases second airplane seats altogether.
Until the progressive community steps up and addresses fat bias, both internally and externally, the poor self-esteem that inflicts women of all ages will continue to multiply and affect women of all shapes and ages. The jokes need to stop, the pointed references need to stop, and the equating of “fatness” to “health” needs to end. We need to embrace all women, of all sizes. Until we do, no women will truly be made to feel comfortable in their own body by the community that they belong to.

Blagojevich: The Railroading of a Governor

Governor Rod Blagojevich was recently unanimously ousted from office by the Illinois State Senate. His ouster has been met with jubilation from the “liberal” media, which pursued a merciless press war against him. I only wish our former Governor Taft, who was guilty of far worse “offenses” than Blagojevich, was subject to the same kind of unrelenting scrutiny. Governor Taft was indicted for accepting a number of gifts and faced four misdemeanor charges. His cronies invested millions of dollars of public taxpayer money intended for Workers’ Compensation into a bizarre rare coins scheme that led to these millions disappearing. Taft subsequently pled no contest to the charges against him, and was “penalized” with a measley fine and an public apology to the state of Ohio. Despite the convinction while in office, Taft never faced any impeachment proceedings whatsover. There was no media hysteria to do so either.

This is in sharp contrast to Blagojevich, who has not been convicted of any crime whatsoever. The federal tapes stemming from wiretapping, reveal nothing more than conversations.  I’m sure the Obama administration didn’t offer people cabinet posts in exchange for painful endorsements, like say Governor Bill Richardson? The idea that the Governor of Illinois did not want to “give away” the Senate seat for nothing in exchange is not new to politics. It is done every day. Deals are made. Senator Lieberman was allowed to keep his plush chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee in exchange for a number of behavior modifications. By the way, the press has yet to ask why the federal authorities wiretapped Blagojevich’s wife, who is not a public official. It’s shocking that the feds would listen in on private conversations had between a person and their spouse.

The tapes seem to be quite irrelevant, since much of the impeachment trial didn’t involve the tapes at all. The Illinois State Senate didn’t go over hardly any of the criminal complaint made against the Governor. Much of the trial centered around him going around the authority of state government committee (specifically the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules) with his decision to extend healthcare benefits to poor children. That’s right, he was impeached for giving healthcare benefits to poor children after President Bush changed policies that left 35,000 families vulnerable. Even though it is clear that the committee that has oversight over such decisions is an advisory committee, and he did not abuse his power. In addition to giving social services  to children, the state Senate complained of his efforts to import generic drugs from Canada. I wish I had a Governor who engaged in such “criminal” acts!

Another “criminal act” Blagojevich supposedly did was cost the Illinois state government 2.5 million in some kind of “scheme” to *gasp* get flu vaccines in 2005. This is utter nonsense, as the Governor didn’t cost the state 2.5 million anything. The case is still pending in the courts. Blagojevich was trying to get flu vaccines from the same he did business with in his importing generic drugs from Canada for seniors and small children. The FDA intervened to stop him, because the FDA largely acts to defend the interests of US drug companies. The FDA then ordered the taxpayers to pay the 2.5 million. This is being challenged. Everything the Governor did in this case was entirely legal.

But Blagojevich wasn’t allowed any possibility of defending himself. He wa refused the opportunity to call witnesses involved in the criminal complaint that would have cleared his name of any wrongdoing. The Illinois State Senate relied on the vague conditions by which they are given authority to impeach and remove a Governor. The idea that he is “unfit for the office”. Nothing was made of his supposedly violating any law. Because they know they didn’t have a case. They also wanted to protect the newly inaugurated Obama administration from having its officials have to testify and vindicate the Governor. Better to bury him immediately and remove any hint of scandal from reaching Washington.

The press treatment of Blagojevich has been shameful. Instead of focusing on the merits of the criminal complaint, the pundits obsess over the Governor’s hairstyle. Instead of analyzing the justice of the trial proceedings, they deride his use of cowboy metaphors. I believe, like the media lynching of Congressman Gary Condit in the summer of 2001, this will eventually come back to haunt them. Of course, the damage to the reputation of the Governor is irreparable, and he is forbidden from holding public office in Illinois. I anticipate a lawsuit in which the state of the Illinois is forced to settle for damages resulting from this campaign of villification.

This is a Governor who stood up for the workers of the Republic Windows and Doors by suspending all business with the Bank of America. The very next morning, at 6:15 AM, he is arrested in an episode of political theater engineered by the overzealous US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald apparently wakes the Governor up before dawn and tells him to go to the door so the FBI can arrest him, in a brazen act to humiliate the Governor in his own home. The same Patrick Fitzgerald who held an extraordinary press conference that very same day outlining his fraudulent “case” against the Governor (including the extraordinary public dissemination of the taped conversations, including taped conversations between Mr. Blagojevich and his wife), which we’re still waiting to be substantiated by something called “evidence”. The US attorney claimed the dramatic pre-dawn arrest was done to prevent the Governor from engaging in some kind of “crime spree”, but yet he did not nofify any relevant authorities about the supposed imminent sale of the Senate seat. The US attorney claimed the public release of the tapes was done for the purposes of “deterrence” of similar conduct. This is nonsense. The purpose of releasing the tapes was to engage in a press war against the Governor, and to humiliate him as much as possible. People should note, it is illegal for grand juries to use any information they hear outside of the grand jury proceedings in deciding to indict a person. The entire theatrical process against Blagojevich was unorthodox at best and illegal at worst.

Slavoj Žižek: A Case Study in Opportunism

I don’t pretend to understand Dr. Žižek’s “Lacanian” “post-Maoist” philosophy or critiques of popular culture or whatever it is that he does. All I know is that he pretends he’s some kind of adherent to some form of Marxism Leninism and “Maoism” and people seem to have an impression of him as a genuinely progressive academic. When it counted, however, Žižek was an unabashed leader of counterrevolution in his homeland of Slovenia. Žižek in fact fought to destroy the system he claims he now supports, or at the very least that people he now admires (Lenin, Mao) fought so hard to build. Žižek during the era of socialism was one of the prominent members of the “dissident” circles advocating for its destruction. In the late 1980s he joined the secessionist anti-socialist movement developing in Slovenia, and become an active member of the Liberal Democratic Party (who came to power once Slovenia seceded from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia). He was not just a passive participant in this movement, since he was the candidate for the position of President of Slovenia for the LDP in 1990.

People like to taunt socialists about the supposed “misnomers” characterizing a lot of the formal names of the regimes of socialist countries (for instance, there is always a chortle about the name ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’). However, the name “Liberal Democratic Party” of Slovenia is a joke. For one, these cold blooded killers murdered members of the multi-ethnic JNA (Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija – Yugoslav National Army) in cold blood, simply for being stationed in their own country. There is video footage of Slovenian nationalists gunning down JNA soldiers waving white flags. The “liberal democrats” then proceded to steal the bank accounts of non-Slovenes who had bank deposits in the banks of Ljubljana. Ljubljana (the capital of Slovenia), was the banking center of Yugoslavia. The Ljubljana banks avoided paying back money to their non-Slovene depositers by simply changing the name of the bank, and saying the new bank should not be held responsible for the previous accounts. The LDP quickly went to work dismantling the socially owned economy in their new ‘republic’, undoing what had been built for generations. This included workers’ self-management, directing authority back into the hands of the capitalists.

This is the movement with which Dr. Žižek became an integral part, and even led. Of course, Žižek had also been a member of the Communist Party of Slovenia at times. He seems to have done whatever it took to ensure that he himself would be of influence and power. He claims he left the Party because of the trial of four people by the JNA in the late 1980s. The Slovene Communists had nothing to do with that trial and in fact implemented the “punishment” in the mildest manner possible. The fact is Žižek was writing anti-Communist diatribes for decades.

Since socialism has been dismantled in many parts of the world, parroting the line of his new masters is no longer new or novel. He must do something different in order to get attention. So he tries to meld his Lacanian gibberish with some kind of revolutionary politics. The question is: where was Slavoj Žižek when it counted? He was on the side of counterrevolution. An old wine in a new bottle is a still an old wine.

Italy and the ruthless attacks on the Romani people

The Romani people are among the most oppressed on the face of the planet. There can be no question about this. Many people continue to use racist epithets against the Roma and not know it, even in the United States. The word “gypped” is a epithet referencing being “ripped off”. The fact that it escapes people’s attention when almost every other kind of epithet is treated as a scandal, it is a sad reflection of consciousness about the oppression of the Romani. In some countries the oppression of the Roma goes behind the acceptance of epithets, like for example Italy. According to a recent poll, 68% of the Italian public want all Romani expelled (regardless of whether they hold Italian passports) and 75% want unauthorized Romani camps demolished. The reactionary Berlusconi government which is in league with outright Fascists like the Northern League Party, has implemented a law which  requires the fingerprinting of all Romani people (including children). The law was implemented in order to make it easier to identify child beggars and have them promptly removed from their families, as well as expel “illegal residents”.

This reactionary law along with other recent incidents like the torching of a Romani camp by an Italian mob near Naples:   indicates that the Romani people are increasingly under attack.  When they’re not under attack, their deaths are treated like non-events. For example there is the case of the Italian vacationers sitting by idly as they clearly see two dead Roma children right near them. Italy is supposed to a member of the European Union, the so-called “vanguard” of human rights, that likes to tell the rest of the world how bad their human rights’ situation is. But these kinds of policies towards Roma people are not new or unique to Italy. Many other EU states have similar despicable policies towards the Roma, and there is little outcry. The Czech Republic and Hungary (new EU members) have for years forcibly sterilized Roma women. Roma children are routinely segregated and placed in “special schools’ for the mentally disabled, regardless of whether they actually have a disability or not. The unemployment figures for Roma people in all European countries are staggering, averaging between 70-90%. Roma people are routinely denied access to healthcare, and basic living infrastructure like clean water facilities. The inequality in education (and forced segregation into schools for the less gifted) precludes the Romani from getting access to the training needed for gainful employment.

It is true that Roma people were also mistreated under socialism in many countries. But Roma people were uniformly treated better, particularly in socialist Romania and Yugoslavia, than currently.  It is no coincidence that Romani people lined up to fight alongside the Yugoslav government against neo-fascist separatists and terrorists. The plight of the Roma underscores the failed promise of ‘social democracy’ and the European model of so-called “democratic socialism”. Only by destroying the economic system which operates under the principle of “divide and rule”, and fans ethnic hatreds in order to bolster its crumbling edifice, will the Roma be free.

Kronstadt: The Anarchist Icon

“Remember the Kronstadt” is a taunt familiar to many a Marxist when interacting with people of various anarchist sects. Of course, the anarchists of Kronstadt have nothing in common with the present-day variations of individualist anarchists and other people engaged in lifestyle politics. Anarchism was a very different – almost respectable – beast in the early 1900s. But anarchists of the present-day enjoy invoking the name of Kronstadt to justify their sectarian prejudices, redbaiting and other behavior. So what does “Kronstadt” mean? What happened at Kronstadt that we should remember it?

Kronstadt was the site of an important naval base outside of Petrograd (then Leningrad, now Petersburg). It was key to the defense of the most important city in Russia. In 1921, the newly established Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR)was still in the midst of a civil war and war of independence against a number of imperialist countries trying to kill it in its infancy. Among the factions fighting the Bolsheviks during this time were the Anarchist Makhnoites (Black Army). So the anarchists were already waging a struggle for counterrevolution prior to the Kronstadt incident.

More to the point, the RSFSR at this time was under the condition of ‘war communism’, which involved among other things the strict rationing of food and supplies in order to ensure there was not famine under conditions when the normal economy was in absolute disarray. The sailors of Kronstadt (or I should say, some of the sailors of Kronstadt since support for the rebellion was no where near unanimous) were unhappy with the conditions of war communism because a good number of people made their living off of speculation, illegal trade, and criminal activity. They also were doing better off than the rest of Russia, and did not want to give other communities and soviets loans of food and supplies. The anarchist uprising, far from being a “popular” uprising against the ‘tyrannical” Bolsheviks, had little popular support. Even some of the sailors of the Kronstadt turned against the putschists. The workers of the town of Kronstadt liberated the city before the Red Army ever got there. It is also a lie that these sailors were loyal Bolsheviks who had become disillusioned with the RSFSR. The truth of the matter is Kronstadt had always been populated mostly by anarchists and SR (Socialist Revolutionary [anti-Bolsheviks]. There were very few if any Bolsheviks and even fewer Mensheviks.

The leaders of this putsch were not remotely sympathetically to socialism, social democracy or anything else. S.H. Dmitriev  Stephen Petrichenko, and General Koslovsky, two former members of the White Army and one who had tried to join the Whites.  Koslovsky and 8000 of his bandits ended up fleeing to Finland to join his fellow counterrevolutionary brethren after the uprising was defeated. Petrichenko made  no secret of his links to the White Army. There is documentary evidence, now available in the Columbia University archives, that details the coordinated plans of the Kronstadt rebels with foreign imperialists and vestiges of the defeated White Armies. Indeed, Lenin himself said the plot of Kronstadt was hatched from within Paris, with Paris printing newspapers describing the rebellion weeks before it occurred. Members of the White Emigre communities in Paris and elsewhere mobilized themselves to volunteer to fight on behalf of the Kronstadt mutineers. Documents have been found detailing the money transfers which took place between Whites in Finland and the Kronstadt rebels and their White Generals (who did far more than serve as mere ‘technical support’ to the mutineers)

The most active putschists among the Kronstadt sailors were not only not progressive, they were outright reactionary.  Even scholars sympathetic to the mutineers admit that anti-Semitism (“the Jews murdered Russia”) was rife among the mutineers.

Then finally, there’s the matter of the number of people killed in this tragic uprising. Anarchists raise a good hue and cry over the number of sailors reportedly slaughtered by the Bolsheviks. The real fact is the number pales in comparison to the number of Red soldiers who died trying to suppress their irresponsible, counterrevolutionary conspiracy. At least 10,000 Red soldiers were killed, injured, or missing  trying to retake the “Kronstadt fortress” as compared to 600 putschists.

So when I hear “remember the Kronstadt”, I remember the 10,000 brave Red Army soldiers who crossed the ice to battle and destroy a White Guard counterrevolution and gave their lives so that socialism could survive. I remember the petulant actions of criminal elements bent on sabotaging a new society before it could establish itself. I remember the anti-Semitic reactionary drivel that was spewed forth by the mutineers.

We need to remember the Kronstadt, and learn the lessons well.

The return of Never Forget Class Struggle!

Hello all,

In dealing with personal and other situations, I have woefully neglected my nascent blog that the Marxist-Leninist had so graciously helped me set up. In this new year, I will try to do better with said blog. In order to do this, I have invited a co-author – May9th – to help update this.We will try to update the blog twice a week, along with any important news that comes across our way.

Happy reading and a Happy new year!

-Never Forget Class Struggle

Ricardo Palmera sent to Super Max prison

The following is a statement from the National Committe to Free Ricardo Palmera on his recent imprisonment in a super maximum facility in Colorado. Palmera is a political prisoner of the United States, captured in Ecuador in 2004 while representing the FARC-EP as a peace negotiator.

Super Max Isolation For FARC Leader

September 11, 2008

Colombian revolutionary Ricardo Palmera is now imprisoned at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, as reported by the Spanish EFE news service in August. Known as the Colorado “Super Max”, it is a modern dungeon where political prisoners of the U.S. government are kept isolated from all human contact. The treatment is degrading, meant to break an individual’s spirit, and defines “cruel and unusual punishment”.

Ricardo Palmera is a leader with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). He worked on peace negotiations and the political education of Colombian rebel fighters for more than fifteen years. His extradition, imprisonment, and trials are part of the White House’s dirty war in Colombia. Palmera is a victim of the Bush Administration’s so-called War on Terror–an unending war that respects no national boundaries and leads to war and oppression around the world.

Starting in October 2006, the Bush administration put Professor Palmera on trial in Washington D.C. Bush thought he could label the FARC as terrorists and drug traffickers. Instead, with everything stacked against him, Professor Palmera convinced American jurors again and again that he and the FARC are rebel fighters with a just cause. Despite four trials and ten separate charges, the only charge that stuck was the one claiming Ricardo Palmera belonged to a “criminal conspiracy”–the FARC–the oldest, largest, and most well respected rebel army in Latin America. U.S. Judge Royce Lamberth unreasonably sentenced Professor Palmera to 60 years. All other charges were dropped at the request of the U.S. State Department. They could not win in their home court in front of American juries.

Ricardo Palmera stands for the poor against the rich, the oppressed against their oppressors. Like all patriotic Colombians, he defends the sovereignty of his country, its independence, and the rights of the people. Professor Palmera has done nothing wrong. He rightfully rebelled against a corrupt, death squad government that represses and kills its own people so a powerful elite can continue to enrich themselves and U.S. investors.

The U.S. government circus is not over yet for Ricardo Palmera. He will face nearly 50 trials in Colombia by videoconference from isolation in Colorado. This method of trial is unfair. The U.S. claims Ricardo Palmera is a criminal, but continues to make special rules and violates U.S. and international norms for court proceedings. There is nothing normal about Ricardo Palmera’s trials. Professor Palmera is a U.S. political prisoner.

Free Ricardo Palmera!