Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Meerkat Manor

The attached link is to Animal Planet, and the fabulous series, Meerkat Manor!

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Socialist Resistance held a public meeting on The Wind That Shakes the Barley, yesterday, October 30th.
Paul Laverty was the speaker. It was a small meeting but the audience were enthralled by paul's presentation of some of the key parts of the film.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Born Againers meet the follower of the Ori on the journey to Celestis

As I was walking down the road to the papershop on Sunday morning, in South Tottenham, I was accosted by 4 smart-almost-Mormon-looking-Osmond-types, a particularly strange brand of our local born against Christian fundamentalists.
I have often had them land on the doorstep and shut the door in their faces.
Never met these weird bods ever before.
They stopped me and, being a Stargate fan--and having just seen episode one of season 10 (see http://www.gateworld.net/sg1/s10/1001.shtml) I decided to have some fun.

They asked me if I was a believer in the one true god, and did I want to buy whatever nonsense they were selling. To which I replied, as only the Doci (see http://www.gateworld.net/omnipedia/characters/links/doci.shtml) could that:

"Those who seek the path to enlightenment must not be led astray."

"Those who abandon the path are evil."

"Enemies of the Ori show no mercy in their attempts to draw believers away from the path."

"Then to Tyolus: say to the people of the low plains, seek not the wickedness amongst your neighbors lest it find purchase in your own house."

I continued that I had just finished my PROSTRATION and that it was a session akin to Catholic mass where an Ori village comes together in worship of chants and prayer. It is led by the village administrator. During Prostration, it is customary to carry a copy of the Book of Origin. The administrator lights candles and recites chants hailing the Ori. Prostration is known to last six hours.

By this time my four fundamentalist pals were about ready to run away. I said, no you have not ascended and reached enlightenment yet.

I finished them off with the coolest quote of all, and this makes me an utter Stargate nerd:
"Great holy armies shall be gathered and trained to fight all evil."
"Ships shall be built to carry Ori warriors out amongst the stars and they shall spread Origin to all unbelievers."

I asked them if they wished to join me on my journey to the City of Celestis (see http://www.gateworld.net/omnipedia/planets/index.shtml)

By this time they were in deepest Enfield!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Caroline Lund

Caroline Lund (1944-2006)

John Percy

Caroline Lund, a lifelong fighter for socialism, workers’ rights and women’s liberation, died at her home in Oakland, California, on October 14, aged 62. She will be sorely missed by her friends and comrades in the US and around the world, especially her lifelong partner and comrade Barry Sheppard.

Caroline succumbed to the ravages of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease — physicist Stephen Hawking being a long-term sufferer.) Caroline first noticed the symptoms in August last year, but doctors took some time to make the diagnosis. The rapid muscular degeneration would have been especially frustrating to her, an athletic person and a regular runner.

Caroline came from a conservative Lutheran family in the US mid-west, but was won to revolutionary socialist ideas in 1962 when she attended Carlton College — a small liberal arts college just south of Minneapolis. Carlton had a very active socialist discussion club, whose members would later become part of the central leadership of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the main Trotskyist grouping in the US at the time, including Jack Barnes, Elizabeth Stone, Mary-Alice Waters, Dan Styron, Doug Jenness and John Benson.
Caroline quickly became a leader of the SWP’s youth organisation, the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA). In 1965, she moved to New York where she met and married Barry Sheppard, one of the younger SWP leaders. From 1967 she often worked on staff for the SWP with a range of assignments — leading different campaigns, local organising, international work and writing for its weekly paper, the Militant.
In recent years, both Caroline and Barry have been strong supporters of Green Left Weekly and collaborators of the Democratic Socialist Perspective in Australia. But both Caroline and Barry played a special role in helping the development of the revolutionary Marxist current in Australia during the late 1960s and 1970s, as leaders at the time of the SWP and the international Trotskyist organisation, the Fourth International (FI).
Barry visited Sydney in July 1969 on behalf of the FI and the SWP to make contact with the fledgling movement here, the socialist youth organisation Resistance that had grown out of the campaign against the war in Vietnam and the youth radicalisation, and the Marxists who eventually formed the DSP.
One result of that trip was an invitation for a Resistance leader to attend the December 1969 YSA convention in Minneapolis. I was selected to go, and that’s where I first met Caroline. I was immediately impressed by her political sharpness.
Minneapolis had been the site of a major industrial struggle by the Teamsters Union in the 1930s, and a victory by the US Trotskyists, well told by Farrell Dobbs in his series of books, Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Power, Teamster Politics & Teamster Bureaucracy.
A leader of the 1934 strike, Dobbs was the SWP national secretary in 1969. Holding the convention in the former stronghold of the US Trotskyists registered the new rise of the movement during the campaign against the Vietnam War after the difficult years of the 1950s.
I was very impressed by both the YSA convention — an extremely exciting event attended by 800 revolutionary youth — and the SWP.
Caroline gave the report to the convention on a document titled “The Worldwide Youth Radicalisation and the Tasks of the Fourth International”, debating a leader of the FI’s French section.
From 1969, a fierce debate developed in the FI, initially over the question of FI majority’s call for its supporters in Latin America to engage in a continental strategy of guerrilla warfare, but quickly extending to many other political issues.
Caroline and Barry were based in Brussels at that time, taking responsibility for the SWP’s international work and working with the FI leadership. When they returned to the US, one of Caroline’s assignments was on the staff of The Militant, and many of her articles, especially on issues of women’s liberation, were republished as pamphlets, which we distributed in Australia.
I next met Caroline in 1974-75, when I went to New York to work on Intercontinental Press, the weekly news magazine published by the SWP for the FI and edited by Joe Hansen. In 1975 Caroline also joined the IP staff for a time. I got to know her much better, reinforcing my impression of her as a wonderful human being and political leader.
In 1977-80, Caroline and Barry again went to Europe to work with the FI leadership, this time to Paris. During much of this time, the DSP also assigned party leaders to work with the FI in Paris — first Jim Percy, then DSP national secretary, and Nita Keig, and later Doug Lorimer. Australian comrades worked closely with Barry and Caroline, being in the same faction in the FI.
The 1960s and early ‘70s was a period of great political advances for the SWP and YSA. The party had played a key leadership role in many political struggles, especially the mass movement against the Vietnam War, and had recruited many of the best of the radicalising youth to its ranks.
New generation
In 1972, this new generation took over leadership of the SWP. Jack Barnes became the SWP national secretary, and Barry Sheppard became for many years the SWP’s national organisational secretary. Caroline was elected to the SWP national committee.
This period of growth and political advance is described in the first volume of Barry’s history of the SWP (The Party — The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988. Volume 1: The Sixties, A political memoir. Resistance Books, 2005). The book was written with the editorial assistance of Caroline. Barry’s introduction recognises his indebtedness to his comrade — “This book would have been impossible without her”.
The second volume, which Barry is currently working on, will analyse a sadder period — the sectarian degeneration of the SWP.
At the end of the 1970s the SWP decided on a “turn to industry”, a push to get all its members into “blue-collar” jobs, in expectation that a sustained fight-back against the capitalists’ attack on working-class living standards would be led by “blue-collar” unionists, opening the way to a mass labour radicalisation.
Unfortunately that projection didn’t eventuate, but the SWP leadership persisted with the turn, “deepening” it, and increasingly losing touch with reality. The SWP’s and YSA’s political work became increasingly divorced from and hostile to the actual course of US radical politics — a sharp contract to the exemplary united-front campaigns they led in the 1960s and early ‘70s.
Critics of the sectarian course were increasingly denied their democratic rights within the party. In the early 1980s more SWP members were expelled than in the party’s entire previous history. Barry and Caroline were also pushed out, in 1988. They moved from the east to the west coast, settling in the San Francisco Bay Area where they could be near their old friend and comrade Malik Miah, who had been expelled from the SWP a few years earlier.
The DSP had broken off our relations with the SWP as we saw it degenerate, but renewed our collaboration with former SWP leaders as they were expelled or forced out — first with Peter Camejo, then with Barry, Caroline and Malik.
Those who had been expelled formed different organisations as they tried to pick up their political lives. Barry and Caroline have been involved in some of these — Solidarity, Socialist Action — and also formed an organisation with Malik for a while in the Bay Area, called Activists for Independent Socialist Politics.
Caroline had begun work at a General Motors plant in New York in 1980 as part of the SWP’s “turn to industry”, and for the rest of her life was an active union militant. In the 1980s she was an autoworker, a garment worker, an electrical worker, a telephone worker, an oil worker and a steel worker.
Union militant
In the Bay Area, she briefly worked at an oil refinery, then at the Toyota-GM New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant from 1992. At NUMMI, she was a production worker until early 2006, when she went on disability pension, due to her illness.
For the last eight years, Caroline produced a newsletter at NUMMI that was a model for rank-and-file union militants. Called the Barking Dog, it defended workers against the company’s abuses and criticised the United Auto Workers union bureaucrats when they did not.
Caroline believed in the ability of workers to run their own unions and workplaces. “The rank and file are very ignorant about what real unionism is because they’ve never seen it in action, like the old-timers in the 1930s and 40s. But in many ways the rank and file understand more than the union officials”, she argued, adding: “I don”t think most of the existing unions can be reformed. They are too steeped in the culture of 'cooperation’ with the companies, where the leadership thinks of the union as a source of perks for themselves and their friends. New unions are going to have to arise, from the bottom up, out of the ashes of the old.”
Caroline was a GLW supporter, and a contributing editor of Links magazine. She attended the DSP December 2003 congress, writing a report that concluded: “Overall, the congress was very inspiring, full of energy, commitment and idealism. It reminded me so much of the US SWP in its good days of the ‘60s and ‘70s.” She also attended the Third Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference in Sydney in March 2005.
Those who met her at these events will warmly remember this passionate, courageous comrade, and deeply mourn her death, but her lifelong commitment to her socialist principles and activity will continue to inspire us.

[Memorial meetings for Caroline Lund are being organised in Oakland on Saturday November 11, at 2 pm at the Humanist Hall, and in New York on November 18 at 3pm at the Brecht Forum. Messages should be sent to . Messages of condolence can be sent to Barry Sheppard at .]
From Green Left Weekly, October 25, 2006. Visit the Green Left Weekly home page.

Caroline Lund


A strong voice for rebuilding labor

By Lee Sustar

October 13, 2006

LONGTIME SOCIALIST and union militant Caroline Lund died October 14 after a long illness.
As a college student, Caroline was among the young people who reinvigorated the Socialist Workers Party in the 1960s amid the rise of the New Left and the civil rights, antiwar and women’s movements. With her skills as a writer, speaker and organizer, Caroline made important contributions to all of these struggles, and remained a committed socialist.
As readers of Socialist Worker’s labor coverage will know, Caroline was also devoted to rebuilding the labor movement at a time of crisis and decline.
As a worker at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI)--an auto assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., jointly owned by General Motors and Toyota--Caroline was on the front line of the struggle against “lean” and “flexible” labor practices, management euphemisms for the system of perpetual speedups and outsourcing that have since become generalized throughout the auto industry.
Her newsletter, the Barking Dog, was a scrappy shop-floor handout in the best traditions of the United Auto Workers rank-and-file activism of the past--and, thanks to the Internet, was distributed in several plants across the U.S. While the newsletter focused on day-to-day battles with management and the fight for union democracy in UAW Local 2244, Caroline never shied away from taking up controversial political issues, such as U.S. wars from the Balkans to the Middle East.
After years of organizing, Caroline won union office in 2003 as an independent ally of a reform election slate in Local 2244. “The backdrop for this election was Bush’s war on Iraq,” Caroline wrote then in Socialist Worker. “The [previous local leadership that supported the UAW International] beat the drums of patriotism, cosponsoring a ‘support the troops day’ with the company.
“My plant newsletter, the Barking Dog, said the best support for the troops was to bring them home and explained that company and union officials ‘are using sympathy for the troops to try to manipulate us into supporting the war on Iraq, silencing complaints on the shop floor and prettifying our union officials for the coming union elections.’”
The new leadership made a big difference for the 4,000-plus-member local in the 2005 contract talks, mobilizing for a strike against NUMMI management’s demands for unprecedented concessions. NUMMI tried to force workers to pay for 30 percent of their health insurance premiums--which had been entirely paid by the company in the past--along with a permanent lower wage for new hires.
Panicked by a credible strike threat, management dropped its worst demands, and workers voted to okay the contract by an 80 percent margin.
But as Caroline readily admitted, some serious concessions remained, such as an expanded period for temporary workers. “We have experienced how damaging it is to have second-class union members who do the same work we do, but with no benefits, raises or job security,” she wrote in Socialist Worker.
The mobilization at NUMMI foreshadowed the rank-and-file activism in the UAW the following year and the formation of the Soldiers of Solidarity (SOS) network, a group that formed in the wake of Delphi Corp.’s bankruptcy and massive downsizing at General Motors and Ford.
Caroline was frustrated that her illness prevented her from personally taking part in SOS, but her UAW activism--such as supporting the long strike and lockout at the Accuride wheel plant in Kentucky--had helped prepared the ground for that activism.
“I feel so proud to have been associated with the SOS cause,” she wrote recently in an e-mail to UAW rank-and-file activists. “It turned out this time that Delphi and other workers were not ready for a real mass, serious fightback. But you never know when the tinderbox is going to be ready to explode. At least SOS was out there putting out the truth and a voice of resistance that could possibly have found a massive echo.”
Caroline’s own voice of resistance has been stilled far too soon--but we are sure to hear its echo in the struggles of the future.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Image of the Pegasus Galaxy

Here is an image of the Pegasus Galaxy

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Stargate--fight to keep it going

It is essential that if you are a sci-fi fan but have never seen Stargate SG-1 that you both watch it and then fight to keep it going. It is simply the most fabulous TV sci-fi show to come out of the USA.
The series began with the SGC (Stargate Command) fighhting the Gouald and other enemies and allying with the Asgard and others along the way.
Season 5 saw Daniel Jackson, one of the four central characters die and meet the Ancients--a group of beings also known as Alterans, who left their human form behind after they came here from the Pegasas Galaxy.
The Alterans/Ancients invented the Stargates or Astria Portas.
Jackson returned after an internet campaign to reinstate him, in series seven.

Series 9 and 10 introduced the Ancients alter-ego, the Ori. The Ancients refused to intervene in earthy affairs whereas the Ori force sentient beings to worship them.

Watch it.


A Fabulous new Stargate website

Below find a link to a fabulous new Stargate website:


Caroline Lund

Caroline Lund died yesterday, Saturday, Nov. 14.

She was suffering from ALS.

This message is from Solidarity:

"The National Committee of Solidarity is saddened by the death of our longtime friend and comrade Caroline Lund. Her work as a socialist, trade unionist and fighter for women's liberation will be remembered by everyone who knew her during her decades of activism. We send our condolences to her companion Barry Sheppard and to all her comrades and friends."

Alex Chis and Claudette Begin are organizing the memorial for Caroline in the Bay Area. We have tentatively set the memorial for Saturday, Nov. 11, at 4 pm at the Humanist Hall in Oakland. (It's only tentative because I haven't been to the Humanist Hall to sign the contract.) I'll send further details when they are available.We are also soliciting messages from those too far away to come.

Those should be sent to <achis@igc.org>.

Messages of condolence can be sent to Barry at <lundshep@comcast.net> .

alex chis

Alex Chis BooksAlex Chis & Claudette BeginP.O. Box 2944Fremont, CA 94536-0944
Phone: 510-489-8554

Email: achis@igc.org


Member: Independent Online Booksellers Assoc. (IOBA)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Reason in Revolt

An alternative to the Big Bang: "The universe had no beginning and will have no end."

By Alan Woods
Tuesday, 30 April 2002

The publication of Reason in Revolt seven years ago was greeted with enthusiasm by many people, not only on the left, but by scientists and other people interested in philosophy and the latest scientific theories, such as chaos and complexity, which in many respects reflect a dialectical approach to nature.
The latest discoveries of palaeontology, in particular the pioneering work of Stephen J Gould (punctuated equilibria) have fundamentally modified the old view of evolution as a slow, gradual process, uninterrupted by sudden catastrophes and leaps. Gould himself has paid tribute to the contribution of Engels, who, in his little masterpiece The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man, brilliantly anticipated the latest discoveries in the investigation of human origins.
Since the book first appeared, there have been a number of other spectacular advances in science - notably the human genome. These results have completely demolished the positions of genetic determinism that we criticised in Reason in Revolt. They have also dealt a mortal blow to the nonsense of the Creationists who want to reject Darwinism in favour of the first chapters of Genesis. It has cut the ground from under the feet of the racists who attempted to enlist the service of genetics to peddle their reactionary pseudo-scientific "theories".
However, there was one part of Reason in Revolt that some found rather hard to digest - namely the section on cosmology, where we argued against the theory of the Big Bang. The standard model of the universe seemed to be so entrenched that it was apparently unassailable. The overwhelming majority accepted it uncritically. To call it into question was almost as unthinkable as the Pope in Rome questioning the Immaculate Conception.
The Big Bang theory was an attempt to explain the history of the universe on the basis of certain observed phenomena, in particular the fact that we can see the galaxies receding from each other. Because of this, most astronomers believe that these star groupings were closer together in the past. If we run the film backwards then all matter, space and time would have erupted from a point in a massive explosion, involving staggering amounts of energy.
In the most widely accepted cosmological model, called the inflationary model, the universe was born in an instantaneous creation of matter and energy. It is the modern equivalent of the old religious dogma of the creation of the world from nothing. The Big Bang is alleged to be the beginning of space, matter and time. As the universe has inflated since that event, matter and energy have spread out in clumps. The spreading could potentially continue forever.
This model has gained widespread acceptance because it accounts for several important features we see in the universe - such as why everything looks the same in all directions and the fact that the cosmos appears "flat" (parallel lines would never meet however long).
"The inflation idea has been tremendously influential," notes Robert P. Kirshner, an astrophysicist at Harvard University. "No observation's been found that proves it wrong." But, he added, "that does not, of course, mean that it's right." (National Geographic News, April 25, 2002)
In fact, there are serious problems with this theory, which we outlined in detail in Reason in Revolt. In particular, questions about what happened "before" the Big Bang cannot really be asked because there is supposed to have been "no before" - since there was no time. In this way, an absolute limitation is placed on the possibility of our understanding the universe, thus leaving the door wide open for all kinds of mystical ideas - which have been pouring out in vast quantities in recent years. Nevertheless, the inflationary theory has survived since it was introduced in the late 1970s, while cosmologists have discarded competing ideas one by one.
However, new problems with the existing theory were becoming apparent all the time. The latest was in 1998, when studies of distant, exploding stars showed the universe was expanding at an accelerating rate. This was a big surprise, since most researchers believed that either the universe would expand forever at the same rate or else slow down and contract, eventually coming back together in a "Big Crunch".
In the last week, a report by Paul J. Steinhardt and his colleague Neil Turok of Cambridge University posted on April 25 on the website of the prestigious journal Science, has thrown down a serious challenge to the accepted wisdom. The two scientists have put forward a new model to explain how the cosmos is and where it might be going. They argue - as we did in Reason in Revolt - that the universe had no beginning and it will have no end.
Steinhardt and Turok point out that the standard model has several shortcomings. It cannot tell us what happened before the Big Bang or explain the eventual fate of the universe. Will it expand forever or stop and contract? These were some of the objections we raised in Reason in Revolt.
They propose that the cosmos goes through an endless cycle - of Big Bang, expansion and stagnation - driven by (an as yet unexplained) "dark energy". They argue that it is necessary to take account of recent discoveries that have surprised the scientific community - such as the observation that everything in the universe is moving apart at an accelerating rate. The apparent acceleration has since been checked and shown to be real. The standard model certainly did not predict such features!
To explain this, astronomers invoked an old idea that space contains a so-called dark energy that is pushing the galaxies apart. Steinhardt and Turok have put this energy - a scalar field as they mathematically describe it - at the centre of their new model. They think the dark energy drives a cycle of activity that includes a big bang and a subsequent period of expansion that leaves the universe smooth, empty and flat.
The new model offers a streamlined alternative to the standard model. It treats the big bang not as the moment of creation, but as a transition between two cycles in an endless process of cosmological rebirth. According to the model, the big bang is followed by a period of slow expansion and gradual accumulation of dark energy. As dark energy becomes dominant, it stimulates cosmic acceleration. The current era is near the transition between these stages, the authors maintain.
At present, they argue, the universe is in an expansionary phase, and the current expansion will go on for trillions of years, before reaching a critical point where the process takes a new direction. Although there are many questions still to be answered (in particular the question of this hypothetical "dark energy"), the new model seems to be a vast improvement on the existing one, which states that the Big Bang was the beginning of time, matter, space and energy - clearly a mystical and unscientific conception. The new theory does away with the idea that the universe has either a beginning or an end - it is infinite in both time and space.
Steinhardt adds: "In the standard picture, it's presumed that the Big Bang is actually a beginning of space and time; that there was nothingness, and then suddenly out of nothingness there sprang space, time, matter, radiation, etc."
Although the standard model has proved difficult to dislodge, many scientists were already becoming troubled about its contradictions and inconsistencies. According to Steinhardt, the new theory "predicts all the features of the standard model, using fewer ingredients." In fact, several features of the cosmos can be better explained by the cyclic model, including the geometry of the universe, its overall uniformity, and in particular, the existence of acceleration. The authors of the report have discussed their ideas with other scientists and have received a positive, but "cautious", response.
The new model is yet another example of the dialectical law of the transformation of quantity into quality. "The scalar field changes its character over time," Paul Steinhardt told the BBC. "Finally, the field begins to build up energy to a point where it suddenly becomes unstable and bursts into matter and radiation, filling the universe, and driving the next period of expansion."
We are dealing here with unimaginably vast periods of time. As accelerated expansion proceeds over trillions of years, matter and energy are gradually stretched thin across the universe. Eventually, matter, radiation, and even black holes become so stretched out that they are dissipated to almost nothing, leaving behind a massive universe that is virtually empty.
"At this point in the cycle, particles of matter are so far apart - and moving away from each other so rapidly - that they cannot interact and are effectively separated into distinct universes. Steinhardt and Turok call this vacuum-like stage the "big crunch". The vacuum triggers dark energy to materialize into matter and radiation in another Big Bang, refreshing the cycle of expansion." (National Geographic News, April 25, 2002)
This model puts an end to the nonsense of the creation of the universe from nothing:
"What we're proposing in this new picture is that the Big Bang is not a beginning of time but really just the latest in an infinite series of cycles, in which the universe has gone through periods of heating, expanding, cooling, stagnating, emptying, and then re-expanding again." (BBC report)
The picture of the universe presented here is one that is entirely consistent with the theories of dialectical materialism, which state that the universe is infinite, eternal, and ever changing. This does not at all preclude the possibility of a big bang. Indeed, we have already argued that there have probably been many big bangs. But what it certainly does preclude is any question of matter (or energy, which is exactly the same thing) can be created out of nothing (as the Big Bang theory implies) or destroyed.
It is, of course, extraordinarily difficult to solve the kind of problems posed by an infinite universe. Cosmology writer Marcus Chown concedes it will be extremely difficult to finally prove any model of the universe. He is refreshingly honest about the problems involved: "The history of cosmology is the history of us being completely wrong," he told the BBC. "I mean, cosmology is the hardest of all sciences; we sit on this tiny planet in the middle of this vast universe, we can't go anywhere and do any experiments - all we can do is pick up the light that happens to fall on us and deduce some things about the universe."
Yet despite this, scientists continue to probe the secrets of the universe and nature, wresting one result after another. The whole history of science is the history of humanity's advance from ignorance to knowledge, from error to the truth. This is itself a dialectical process, where each generation arrives at a theory that explains many things. But at a certain point, small irregularities are found that contradict the accepted model. This eventually leads to its overthrow and replacement by a new model, which will itself eventually be surpassed.
In this way, human knowledge penetrates deeper and deeper into the secrets of the universe. And this process is never-ending. The day will never dawn when humanity will be able to say: "We now understand everything." The universe is infinite, and so is the process of human understanding, which inevitably proceeds through a whole series of errors, or, more correctly, partial truths.
The new theory must, of course, be demonstrated through observation. There are ways in which this can be done. For example, gravitational waves, a feature of the universe predicted by general relativity, would take a different form in these two models. There would not be long-wavelength gravitational waves in a cyclic universe, whereas there would be in an inflationary universe.
Thus, measurements of gravitational waves and the properties of "dark energy" can provide decisive ways to discriminate between the two pictures observationally. Efforts are underway to measure and characterise gravitational waves, but it will likely take at least several years to gather useful data. The Planck satellite, which is scheduled to be launched by the European Space Agency around 2008 may help settle the question.
It is too early to say whether it will be verified in detail. However, what is clear is that the deficiencies of the Big Bang theory are now becoming clear, and the search is on for an alternative. Whether or not the present theory is correct in its detail, the method that its authors have used - a materialist and dialectical method - is obviously correct. And, as they correctly write in Science: "The ultimate arbiter will be Nature."

Where we live...the Milky Way Galaxy

The most fabulous villains ever on TV--meet the...ORI

The Ori (pronounced "OR-eye") are fictional characters on the Stargate SG-1 television program. Collectively, they are a group of "ascended" beings who use their advanced technology and spiritual knowledge of the universe to trick non-ascended humans into worshiping them as gods.
They were introduced into Stargate SG-1 in its 9th Season, replacing the Goa'uld as the show's primary antagonists. Whilst the Goa'uld relied almost exclusively on technology to portray godlike power, the Ori are one step further - beings of almost godlike power, but nevertheless not gods. The Ori fabricated a religion, called Origin, which they force on all non-ascended beings for the purpose of total control. The Ori try to destroy anyone who rejects their religion. A central theme that surrounds story arcs involving the Ori is that power does not make someone a god, nor does great power entitle anyone to be worshipped; rather, the way they use great power is the measure of how they should be revered.

1 The Ori and the Ancients
1.1 Differences in Beliefs
1.2 Ontological Comparison
1.3 Demise of the Ancients
2 Religion ("Origin")
2.1 Symbolism
2.2 Teachings
2.2.1 Verses
2.2.2 Parables - What They Are
2.3 Quotations
3 Priors
4 Orici
5 Technology
6 Story
7 Key Episodes
8 External links

The Ori and the Ancients
The Ori can be simply described as ascended beings who disagree with the Ancients' viewpoints about interference with less developed sentient beings, science, and the importance of free will. As Ascended beings, they live on a higher plane of existence of great power and knowledge, and, due to their immense power and transcendental state, are as close to being "gods" as any non-deific being can be.

Differences in Beliefs
The Alterans in the Milky Way Galaxy, often called the Ancients; the Ori refer to them as "the Others" (this of course is a contextual reference and should not be confused with "the others" which has been used by de-ascended or banished Ancients such as Oma, Chaya/Athar or Orlin). They originally were not distinguished from each other, and lived in the same society. At some point however, the Ori became more religious, whilst the Ancients became more scientific. Ultimately their viewpoints diverged so much that the two races split apart and began to oppose each other.
The Ancients are well known for their fierce belief in free will. As such, they do not interfere on lower planes of existence at all, even if something terrible is about to happen. In contrast, the Ori teach that failure to share the secrets of the universe to those on the lower planes of existence is an evil act, that anyone not following their religion must be eliminated (anti-free will), and they have no rules against taking direct control of living beings or completely changing them to behave as they desire. However, Orlin, an Ancient who retook human form to help the SGC, states that their religion ("Origin"), which promises its followers Ascension, in fact offers no such thing. Orlin goes on to explain that the Ori are able to drain power from their followers, and this is the real reason they created Origin, as the more followers they have, the more power they have.
The Ancients who came to the Milky Way decided to shield the second evolution of humans (i.e. current human culture) in the Milky Way Galaxy from the Ori. It is their policy that humans may find enlightenment through their own means, in the spirit of free will. Even though the Ancients do not believe in interfering in mortal affairs, it is speculated that they are responsible for generating the associations of fire and certain other characteristics (e.g. horns, spikes) with Demonic imagery in the Milky Way. This would be a method of shielding humans from the Ori, as the central symbols of Origin involve fire and (what we would call) Demonic costumes. For instance, the Doci, the leaders of Origin, bear a very close resemblance to a devil or demon. The worshippers of the Ori view fire as a cleansing symbol. As Daniel Jackson points out, there is no immediate illogicality with fire as a symbol of all that is good: it provides warmth, light, etc.

Ontological Comparison
Daniel Jackson speculates in "Avalon" that the Ori and the Ancients are on the same level of evolutionary existence, in as much as that both are Ascended. The Ancients have Ascended to a point of existence where they only exist as energy, which is manifested as light. The Ori have taken to manifesting as tendrils of flame and they appear to dwell eternally in the Flames of Enlightenment.
Although the Ancients (Alterans) as a whole refrain from interfering with lesser beings, a small few have taken it upon themselves to interact and even help lower beings to Ascend, a prerequisite of this assistance is that one must be pure of heart, however it is now known and demonstrated by the Ori that if one has the ability to Ascend "naturally" (with no assistance from other Ascendants) no such limitations exist.

Demise of the Ancients
It appears that the Ori sought to wipe the Ancients out; however, the Ancients fled to the Milky Way. It appears however that the final jump towards Ascension was made by necessity when the Ancients contracted a deadly plague of unknown origin. Daniel Jackson posits that the pre-Ascended Ori may have been responsible for this plague.
The plague that the Ori use against human non-believers is very similar in nature to what is known of the Ancient's plague. Orlin - a de-Ascended Ancient - said that the plague is made by modifying the DNA of a Prior, a missionary of Origin, and giving it to a "Patient Zero", who will feel no effects, to enable a wide spread of the virus. The virus not only rapidly evolves, but can also remain airborne across small distances making quarantine an almost impossible means of prevention. There was no known cure or vaccination prior to Season 9's The Fourth Horseman. Stargate Command was able to formulate a cure for the plague with the help of Gerak, leader of the free Jaffa Nation.
The Ori ultimately wish to destroy the Ancients once and for all.

Religion ("Origin")
The religion which the Ori wish to impose on all sentient beings is called Origin, or the Path of Origin, and it is their way to assert dominance by promising to guide humanity towards enlightenment (i.e. Ascension). Its central promises are supposedly false, and is nothing more than a way to garner worshippers, which in turn increases the power of the Ori. To grant Ascension to all their followers would mean sharing their power, an idea the Ori find less than appealing. Followers of the faith receive nothing whatsoever from the Ori.
It is a dogmatic, proselytizing faith, which comes with a holy book called The Book of Origin, and specialised missionaries called Priors, enhanced humans who are thus able to demonstrate some of the Ori's powers. Priors are responsible for spreading the Word of Origin, and only designate a people for destruction if they deny Origin outright. The Book of Origin contains tales of how the followers of the Ori returned to the path to enlightenment, and thus achieved Ascension.
The centre of the faith is the city of Celestis (also 'The Plains of Celestis': "The City of the Gods", according to the faithful), which apparently can only be reached by Ring Transporter or by a sort of mental teleportation which leaves the transported individual's body in the same place but brings their consciousness into the city.
The Ori keep human followers at a low level of development, on par with the Medieval period of English history. They use their powers to maintain a level of fear among the population, who worship the Ori as gods. Among the population of natives to the Ori home galaxy are a group of heretics who believe they are being suppressed, and seek to discover forbidden historical knowledge to show others that the Ori are, though powerful, not gods. These people are in a plight similar to that which the Jaffa were in. Individuals who show signs of doubt for the faith are deemed to be under the control of demons and are said to be "overcome". They are put through a Trial by Fire. It is only through the intervention of a Prior that anyone can escape this ordeal.

The central icon of this religion is fire, something which gives off light and warmth. The fact that on Earth this icon has some evil or Satanic associations in many modern religions prompted Daniel to posit that the Ancients had influenced this negative connotation in order to identify the threat the Ori pose.
The religion spreads its word through the use of simple, easy-to-grasp parables and aphorisms, using powerful and obvious symbolism and imagery of dark and light, the blind and the seeing, the right path and straying from it, and 'good followers' who have set shining examples of devotion and faith.
The Ori constantly assert that they "do not require blind faith." They generate true belief in potential followers by showing them real miracles (created through their great understanding of the universe).

Some viewers have noted that many quotes from the Book of Origin bear resemblence to the Holy texts of many religions. Several lines from the Book of Origin, or otherwise repeated mantras, are heard on the show. These include:

"Hallowed are the Ori." (this mantra is repeated by all believers almost as punctuation)
"Hallowed are the children of the Ori." (this mantra is said by the priors, which followed by the next mantra):
"Hallowed are we; hallowed are the Ori."
"Those who reject the path to enlightenment must be destroyed."
"The power and the greatness of the Ori cannot be denied."
"Those who seek the path to enlightenment must not be led astray!"
"Glorious are the Ori, who lead us to salvation, who did fight the evil that would doom us all to mortal sin. Did they defeat the old spirits and cast them out? And now, with the strength of our will, they do call upon us to prevail against the corruption of all unbelievers."
"Fear not the Ori, fear the darkness that would conceal the knowledge of the universe. Believe in the truth of all things, and you too may find the path to enlightenment."
"Guide us on the path that we may triumph over the enemy of our salvation and be with you in the end of ends on the planes of enlightenment."
"Those who abandon the path are evil."
"Blessed are those who walk in unison."
"And the people shall deliver the wicked unto your divine judgement, where their sins shall be weighed in the balance of all that is just and true."
"Life and death, light and darkness, hope and despair. The rift was created, and on that day, the Ori were born."
"The hatred of those who strayed from the true path festered and bloomed in the dark corners of the Avernakis to which they have been cast!"
"Consumed by this hatred, they poisoned all they touched, bringing death, darkness and despair."
"The souls of their victims knew no peace, until the Ori came and whispered to them: 'Sleep, for the end draws near!' And on that day all will rejoice, when the Ori come and lay them low."
"Those who follow the path of righteousness shall be raised up high."
"Ours is not to question, but to rejoice in their service, for they are perfection."
"Priors are beacons on the road to enlightenment."
"Pity not the blind man, for he is hindered not by the visions of this world, but rather pity yourselves, for he will see the light before you do."
"Those who reach enlightenment shall rejoice with the ori forever."
"The book of Origin tell us that enemies of the Ori will show no mercy in their attempt to lead us astray from the true path, likewise we must attack with all the Strength which we have been given."
"...and those who are prideful and refuse to bow down shall be laid low and made unto dust."
"...then did Tilius say to the people of the low plains: seek not the wickedness amongst your neighbors, lest it find purchase in your own house." --quoted by Daniel Jackson in a (failed) attempt to convince the Ori fleet to abandon its invasion of the Milky Way at Battle of P3Y-229
"Caelum videri esset. Et terra rus ad sidera tollere voltus. Ex uno discent omnes" --quoted by Prior announcing the divine nature of the Orici in Flesh and Blood

Parables - What They Are
"As he lay there, dying in the sun, the sand of desert all around him, Hetaris spoke to the rock, not with his lips, but with his mind, and the rock wept tears of fresh water and his thirst was quenched."
"When Hannor Mir fell from above and learned to fly on the way down, that was a miracle."
"Amica strayed from the path of enlightenment. He was forgiven, and was allowed back on the path."
"Egidius of Valdair needed to speak things that could only be spoken in the light of the fire." (to the Doci)
"Adelenus chose to hunt the lion and was eaten by his prey."
"The Ori fought the Alterans, to save their followers."

Prior: "Hallowed are the children of the Ori."Crowd: "Hallowed are we. Hallowed are the Ori."
Doci: "Great holy armies shall be gathered and trained to fight all who embrace evil. In the name of the gods, ships shall be built to carry our warriors out amongst the stars and we will spread Origin to all the unbelievers. The power of the Ori will be felt far and wide and the wicked shall be vanquished."
Prior: "Caelum videri esset. Et terra rus ad sidera tollere voltus. Ex uno discent omnes."

Main article: Prior (Stargate)
The Ori are served by those called Priors, who act as the prophets, messengers and missionaries of the Ori by travelling to different planets and reading from the Book of Origin. Priors are artificially "evolved" humans, with 80%-90% of their neurons firing at any given time. This massive mental power allows them to perform miracles, read minds, and attack enemies, as they are closer to being Ascended. The Ori use the Priors to spread the word of Origin throughout the universe, and believe that any who reject Origin must be killed.
Daniel Jackson has speculated that the Ori included a biological mechanism within Priors that would ensure physical destruction by Ori fire if a Prior changed sides.

Main article: Adria (Stargate)
In episode "Flesh and Blood" of Stargate SG-1, the Orici was introduced as a female Human/Ori hybrid created to lead the Priors and the army of the Ori on a campaign for galactic domination. The daughter of Vala Mal Doran, she was named Adria and was rapidly aged by the Ori. Adria is programmed with the knowledge of the Ori (as much as humanly possible) and possesses the ability to heal as well as several other abilities Priors poses. A Prior stated "ex uno discent omnes" or as Tomin translated "from one all will learn" suggesting she carries a tremendous amount of knowledge. Furthermore the Prior announced her part-divine, part-human nature saying: "et terra rus et sidera tollere vultus"-"the earth will rise his face towards the stars."

Main article: Ori technology
Not much is known of Ori technology, save that it is probably far more advanced than any in our galaxy. In Season 9, the show features powerful Ori weapons in "Ethon", ships in "Camelot" and supergates in "Beachhead".

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details for Stargate SG-1 Season 9 follow.
The Ori were first encountered by Daniel Jackson and Vala Mal Doran using an Ancient communications device. The minds of Daniel and Vala were transported to the Ori's home galaxy. There, they inhabited the bodies of Harrid and Sallis, a married couple who belonged to a secret underground of heretics who reject the path of Origin. The existence of this device suggests that the pre-Ascended Ancients who migrated to our galaxy wished to stay in contact with their brethren across the universe. [1]
Daniel's use of the communications device brought the existence of humanity in the Milky Way Galaxy to the Ori's attention. Because they believe that all humanity is their creation, the Ori have decided to spread their doctrine to the unbelievers. It is the dawn of a new age for the Ori. They've begun dispatching their missionaries, called Priors, through the Stargates and building spaceships with highly-trained militia for their holy war in the Milky Way Galaxy. [2]
Initially, the Ori sent individual Priors to worlds in the Milky Way to try to convert the inhabitants. Where initial calls to worship the Ori fail, a Prior has been known to unleash devastatating plagues, then healing the populace and raising the dead in order to seal a world's devotion to the Ori. [3]
Recently, the Ori attempted a full-scale invasion of the Milky Way Galaxy by collapsing an entire planet into a micro-singularity, which could then be used to power a massive Stargate, between 300 and 400 metres in diameter, connected to the Ori home galaxy indefinitely. SG-1, with the help of Vala, managed to thwart the Ori's plan, but not long after they attempted to create another 'Supergate'. [4]
With the conversion of Gerak to Origin, and his transformation into a Prior, the Ori had potentially gained a foothold in the Free Jaffa Nation. Gerak eventually chose the Free Jaffa Nation over the Ori and in helping Earth with the plague, was consumed by Ori fire. It was revealed in "The Fourth Horseman (Part 2)" that the Ori intend to destroy the Ancients.
Recently, the Priors of the Ori have attempted to convert the Rand Protectorate to the belief of Origin however this failed and the planet Tegalus has its Stargate now buried after a war with its neighbouring nation of Caledonia. Not only that but on many worlds that Priors have visited, they have left a bio-engineered asexual insect life form that feeds voraciously on crops. However, the bugs are capable of changing their physiology to allow them to eat different things when their food source runs out, and that can include meat. Currently, attempts are being made by the SGC to combat this new threat.
Meanwhile, in the Ori galaxy, Vala reluctantly becomes an undercover agent and learns of the Ori's plan. She makes contact with the SGC through the same communications device that she and Daniel used when they first discovered the Ori, and offers what may be the first glimpse of these beings as they manifest in her nightmare.
Daniel Jackson later uncovered a phase-shifting device created by the Ancient, Merlin, to hide a weapon he was creating from the other Alterans. The information in the phase-shifter revealed that the weapon was hidden on Camelot. Once they reached the legendary home of King Arthur, Daniel Jackson and Cameron Mitchell managed to unlock Merlin's secrets, revealing a hoard of treasure, but not the device capable of neutralizing the Ori. They discovered that Arthur had left long ago and hidden the secret of the weapon on three different planets.
In the meantime, a Jaffa vessel managed to locate the new Ori Supergate. The combined firepower of several Ha'tak vessels were unable to damage the supergate; as a result, Samantha Carter, assisted by the Asgard Kvasir, tried to dial out before the Ori could dial in, but was unsuccessful. The four Ori ships that came through were able to withstand the combined firepower of several Ha'tak vessels of the Lucian Alliance and free Jaffa, two Daedalus-class (BC-304) battlecruisers (the Odyssey and the Korolev — at this time the Daedalus was still in the Pegasus galaxy), and an Asgard O'Neill-class battleship. The main weapon aboard the Ori Cruisers appears to be much the same as the superweapon in Ethon. The Ha'tak vessels were unable to withstand fire from this weapon, and the Tau'ri ships fared little better, managing to take only two (this is based on the fact that when the Odyssey took a direct hit from an Ori ship a crewman commented that shields were down to 50%) and at the very most three direct hits. Many of the Ha'tak vessels were destroyed, as well as the Korolev. It is unknown how well the Asgard warship was able to fare against the Ori. The Ori ships suffered no apparent damage.

Key Episodes
^ Avalon (Part 2)
^ Origin
^ The Powers That Be
^ Beachhead
? The Fourth Horseman
? Ethon
? Crusade
? Camelot

Supper time for all cats

Ripley, the Sphynx Cat from Borderlands

The cows of Madison

The coloured cows of Madison

More cover versions

Number 28

and number 27:

Number 26:

Finally for now, number 25:

Workers Action has it covered

The following are our recent front covers:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


For those you not aware, a site worth checking out is the Marxmail discussion forum.
The site is


Interview in Socialist Action with Jeff Mackler

Socialist Action's Twelfth National Convention, July 14-16, voted to launch a campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in California. The delegates voted to run Socialist Action National Secretary Jeff Mackler against Democrat Dianne Feinstein, Republican Richard Mountjoy, and Green Party candidate Todd Chretien.

Mackler, 66, is a veteran fighter against U.S. imperialist war and intervention. He has been an activist from the time of the U.S.-backed invasion of revolutionary Cuba, in 1961, when he headed a chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

During the Vietnam War, he served on the National Committee of the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC). In conjunction with the heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people and the mass opposition to the war inside the U.S. military, NPAC was a major component of the broad antiwar movement that forced the U.S. out of Vietnam, a historic setback to American imperial war aims.
In the 1980s, Mackler was a founder and central organizer of the Northern California-based Mobilization for Peace, Jobs and Justice, a united-front coalition that consistently mobilized tens of thousands against U.S. intervention in Central America during the period of the Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, and Grenadian revolutions. Mackler visited Grenada and Nicaragua during that time to meet with leaders of these revolutionary struggles, including Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
In 1991, during the first Gulf War, when the U.S. slaughtered a quarter of a million Iraqis in a matter of weeks, Mackler worked to initiate two national antiwar conferences and chaired the Jan. 26 San Francisco antiwar protest of over 200,000. Similarly, in 2003, with the bombing and invasion of Iraq, Mackler worked to help initiate and co-chaired the San Francisco protest rally of close to 300,000.

"War and intervention, overt and covert, are fundamental to U.S. policy," said Mackler in a July interview with us. "Yesterday it was Vietnam, Cuba, Congo, Central America, Chile, Somalia, Iran, and Iraq. Today, the U.S. war machine focuses on Iraq again and the Middle East in general—aiding, abetting, and financing the Zionist slaughter in Palestine and Lebanon and making threats against Iran—while occupying Afghanistan and threatening intervention in Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia."

"War is an inherent part of capitalism," Mackler explained, "and the ultimate solution to the internal contradictions of the profit-driven and competition-driven system. The U.S. military-industrial complex is organized and designed to maximize profit rates for the corporate few and to serve the imperial economic and political interests of the war-making class—regardless of the capitalist party in power.

“Socialists acknowledge our fundamental obligation to challenge the U.S. war-makers and their twin parties and to defend the rights and struggles of all those who resist imperialist domination and oppression.”

The worldwide crisis of capitalism

"All of the evils of capitalism that the vast majority have come to abhor," Mackler continued, "from racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, unemployment, environmental destruction, and deterioration of social services and public education to abrogation of basic civil liberties and the dismemberment of the historic gains of working people on the job are necessary for capitalism's existence.”

Today the capitalist system is in a crisis, with each of the major industrialized nations and their competing regional trading blocs geared up as never before to win the mad race for declining markets and resources at the expense of the world's working masses. At a time when the technology and resources exist to build an environmentally sound world of plenty for everyone, the system is becoming unglued. Union pensions and health-care plans, as well as jobs that were taken for granted for decades, are eliminated by means of fake bankruptcy filings by the corporations.
Whole continents stand in ruin, with a third of the world living on less than $2 per day. Tens of thousands die of starvation daily in nations whose resources are looted by the U.S. and other neo-colonial exploiter nations.

Dianne Feinstein’s sordid record
Mackler's central opponent in the U.S. Senate race is Dianne Feinstein. "Feinstein, said Mackler, "is the classic California liberal Democrat. Her rap sheet is designed to demonstrate her ‘progressive’ record. She gets good marks from the AFL-CIO, the National Abortion Rights Action League, Peace Action (formerly Sane/ Freeze) and from other liberal groups whose political orientation is to Democratic Party lesser-evilism.

"And yet Feinstein has supported every U.S. war conducted by every administration since she entered the Senate in 1992" Mackler pointed out. "Today, she leads the bipartisan congressional chorus cheering on Israel’s bombing and occupation of Lebanon and its renewed occupation, subjugation, and starvation of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

"My opponent supported the fake ‘drug war’ in Colombia, in reality a move to refurbish and instruct the Colombian government's army and death squads as they seek to crush the national liberation struggle in that country. Feinstein supported the allocation of billions for the so-called National Missile Defense System and nearly every other boondoggle to transfer working people's money to the military.”

“Feinstein, at $50 million in net worth,” Mackler asserted, “is the fifth richest person in Congress, yet she voted to eliminate the Estate Tax, a measure that was designed to make the rich even richer.

“Feinstein voted for one of the most draconian pieces of anti-civil-liberties legislation ever, the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which President Clinton signed into law. This law, which will send hundreds, if not thousands more, to the nation's execution chambers, essentially scrapped critical due process rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.”

”Hardly a superstar on civil liberties," Mackler continued, “Feinstein sought to scrap the First Amendment's free-speech provisions by supporting a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. In the name of ‘fighting terrorism,’ she joined the congressional stampede to enact and renew the reactionary Patriot Act, and more recently backed legislation to increase government spy agencies’ ‘rights’ to tap cell phones.”

“My opponent is an ardent defender of the predatory capitalist system and its two-party shell game," said Mackler. “Her voting record and public statements, liberal or conservative, right or 'left,' are subordinate to this determining reality.”

“Reforming capitalism,” Mackler pointed out, “that is, efforts to transform it to a 'kindler and gentler' system of exploitation and minority rule by electing the least offensive of the millionaire and billionaire candidates the ruling rich periodically offer us during the election season, is both a utopian fantasy and a fundamental impediment to principled working-class politics.”

”Socialists fight for all progressive reforms, to be sure,” said Mackler. “We actively participate in and support all who fight for a better world on every front. Whenever working people independently organize to advance their own interests—in mass mobilizations in the streets, in trade-union struggles, on picket lines, and at public meetings and rallies—we are part of the struggle. But we have no illusions in the nature of the beast.

In the capitalist electoral arena there are no real choices. While socialists participate in elections to advance their political critique of the capitalist system and to build the mass movements that inevitably arise to challenge many of the evils generated by the system, we reject any support—directly or indirectly—to the candidates and parties of the rich. We don't play the ‘lesser evil’ game.”

Todd Chretien’s “Perfect Storm”

"Green Party politics," Mackler noted, "including it's current California expression in Todd Chretien’s U.S. Senate campaign against Democrat Feinstein, is simply the latest version of lesser-evil politics."

Mackler then quoted from a Nov. 19, 2005, article by Chretien, who is also a public spokesperson for the International Socialist organization (ISO).

Chretien had written: “The Senate race, with its diminished spoiler issue because of the huge lead pro-war Dianne Feinstein will have over her pro-war Republican opponent, likely to be more than 20%, opens the door for a larger vote for a pro-peace candidate than ever before."
Todd Chretien’s “Perfect Storm” article, said Mackler, “was centered on the proposition that superhawk Feinstein has a supposedly insurmountable lead of 20-plus percentage points over the virtually unknown and semi-retired Republican Party candidate Richard Mountjoy, a faithful ‘slot filler’ in a race that has been virtually conceded.

“Chretien’s conclusion? It's safe for even 10 percent or a ‘million people’ to vote for him and the Greens in 2006 without significantly harming Feinstein’s re-election chances.”

According to Mackler, Chretien then offered some “practical” advice to his Green supporters by stating: "Of course, if a close race develops for governor [in which Green Party candidate Peter Camejo opposes Arnold Schwrzenegger], many progressives may choose to split their ballot by voting against Arnold and for the Democrat, but voting for the Green Party against Feinstein."

Green Party politics are based on middle-class reformism, the notion that the capitalist parties, especially the Democrats, can generally pressured to do the right thing. In the 2004 elections Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb essentially told his supporters to "Vote Democrat"—that is, John Kerry—in all states where the polls indicated that the race was close.

In most states the Green Party practices a version of “inside/outside” or lesser-evil politics, wherein their candidates run in “safe districts” but step down in races where conservative Republicans face so-called liberal Democrats. “It is a sad day,” said Mackler, when socialists, like Chretien and the ISO, fall into the same ‘lesser-evil’ trap.”

A campaign for social justice

Jeff Mackler's U.S. Senate campaign is aimed at providing a serious political alternative to the twin U.S. parties of war, racism, poverty, and environmental catastrophe. "The Democrats and Republicans, no matter who their candidates or what their campaign promises," said Mackler, "are nothing less than the direct representatives of capital, of the ruling rich, who require death and destruction to protect their interests."

Socialist Action's campaign is aimed at today's new fighters against injustice, at the youth who have learned from experience that their prospects are bleak in the capitalist framework. It is aimed at working people who want to revitalize and democratize the trade-union movement and expand union power to the 90 percent who are without unions. It is aimed at fostering the construction of a class-struggle left wing in the unions, a militant fightback current that will seek to organize the majority to fight in the political and economic arenas to challenge the boss's parties on every front.

The Socialist Action campaign is directed to the immigrant workers of every nationality and their families, who courageously demonstrated on May Day that real power lies in the streets, in independent organization, and in solidarity—the prerequisite to reversing the boss's drive for cheap and defenseless immigrant labor and the deepened exploitation of the working class in general.

Our socialist campaign is aimed at the Black and Latino masses, who are always the first victims of any downturn, "the last hired and the first fired," at the dispossessed and shunned Katrina victims, and the victims of school re-segregation and calculated decay in public education and the gutting of bilingual education.

It is a campaign for women who fight for the right to abortion and equality, and for gays and lesbians who seek to exercise the democratic right to marriage—in short, for all people who desire a new world where human needs come first and capitalist exploitation and oppression are relegated to the insane oddities of history.

“We will challenge all who seek social and economic justice to unite in mass actions and democratic coalitions against all U.S. wars and against every attack on working people,” said Mackler. ”Only working people, including their allies among the oppressed everywhere, have the power to reverse the present descent to barbarism and to build a new world.”

In 1999 Jeff Mackler was co-coordinator of the first major national conference on the Cuban Revolution. Sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley and attended by 2000 people, including 30 Cubans who were specialists in as many fields, the Dialogue with Cuba Conference provided a format for the Cuban people to demonstrate the superiority of a state system based on workers and farmers that had abolished the profit system and private property in the means of production.

“The groundbreaking gains of the Cuban Revolution in health care, education, and human solidarity,” said Mackler, “are a model for the entire world.”

Mackler plans to devote a significant portion of his campaign to defending Cuba against the constant threats by the U.S. to invade. “Our campaign condemns the illegal and barbaric U.S. embargo of Cuba. We stand in solidarity with the Cuban Five, the heroic Cuban patriots illegally jailed by the U.S., who demonstrated for all to see that the real source of terrorism in the world today is the government of the United States.”

The Socialist Action 2006 Campaign will champion the fight for freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal, perhaps the world's most well-known victim of the racist frame-up operation that passes for the U.S. criminal “justice” system. Mackler will also campaign for Lynne Stewart, the New York progressive attorney who was convicted on "conspiracy" charges in a frame-up trial that ran roughshod over Stewart's basic constitution and democratic rights.

Mackler has been co-coordinator of the Northern California-based Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal for the past 10 years. He also serves as the West Coast coordinator of the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee.

The Socialist Action campaign will fight for the political independence of all progressive social movements. It will challenge the myth that the Democrats, the graveyard of all social movements, are a lesser evil to the Republicans. To the reformist credo, "Anybody But Bush," we answer, "No to the twin parties of war and oppression!" and "Yes to the independent organization and mobilization of working people!"

Join the 2006 Socialist Action California Campaign! Call: (415) 255-1080, or e-mail: macklerforsenate@yahoo.com.

Jeff Mackler runs for the Senate

Jeff Mackler, running for the Senate in California as a supporter of Socialist Action

Barry Sheppard's memoir, The Party. An interested, critical review

Barry Sheppard's memoir, The Party. An interested, critical review
By Bob Gould

The Party. The Socialist Workers Party, 1960-1988.
Volume 1: The Sixties, a political memoir
Resistance Books, Sydney, 2005

This is a book of considerable interest on the history of the revolutionary socialist movement, and it's of particular interest to me because Barry Sheppard and I crossed paths at an important time. As well, the US SWP, of which he was a leading figure, had some influence on my political development and a lot of influence on the evolution of the revolutionary socialist movement in Australia.

Sheppard's memoir has the same name as Trevor Griffith's interesting and illuminating play, The Party, essentially a playwright's portrait of Gerry Healy.

I find in reading Sheppard's memoir that we are roughly the same age. We were both born in the awful year, 1937, which Victor Serge dubbed "midnight in the century".

I'm interested to read that Sheppard subscribed to Dorothy Day's US Catholic Worker, as part of his political development, which I also subscribed to from Australia as a young leftward-moving Catholic in the labour movement.

Sheppard is in a pretty unusual position for someone of our generation, as he met both Max Shachtman and James P. Cannon in the course of his political development. He started out in the socialist movement as a supporter of Shachtman's bureaucratic collectivist theory of the nature of the USSR. He shares that unusual experience with Tim Wohlforth, James Robertson and probably Fred Mazelis.

His description of his political formation in the US is interesting. Larry Trainor, the working-class Trotskyist in Boston, who was one of his mentors, gave him C.L.R. James's World Revolution 1917-36 to read. That book also had some influence on me.

Sheppard's description of the evolution of the US Young Socialist Alliance, of which he was a founding member, parallels, from his point of view, the experience of the pseudonymous Workers League person (possibly Tim Wohlforth or Fred Mazelis) who wrote a pamphlet, The YSA: How it Began on the early years of the YSA. (Another interesting account of the same period is the memoir, Fragments of the Century of the left-wing Social Democrat, the late Michael Harrington.)

I used to have that pamphlet, but I seem to have lost it. It doesn't seem to be on the web, and if anyone on Marxmail knows how I can get hold of a copy of it, I'd be grateful for the advice.

Sheppard's book is a straight up and down account of his political experiences, and the evolution of the SWP in the first 10 years or so of his involvement. There's very little in it that Jack Barnes and the modern US SWP could object to as a history of their current, and it will be interesting to see how they react.

Sheppard describes the factional alignments in the SWP. He rapidly became a Farrell Dobbs supporter, rather than a supporter of Murry and Myra Tanner Weiss, or even an adherent of James P. Cannon in the period of his retirement.

He even gently chides Cannon for incipient factionalism against the leadership of the SWP after Cannon retired to California. He strongly defends the 1965 organisational resolution of the SWP that put almost impossible constraints on the formation of factions unless allowed by the leadership, saying it was a product of the fact that the younger members wanted a campaigning party that wasn't held back by a continuing stew of discussion.

He tends to dismiss Cannon's very public, although late in the piece, misgivings. Cannon pleaded for tolerance of discussion inside the SWP in three letters and a talk, later published with an introduction by SWP veteran George Breitman as Don't Strangle the Party.

In the subsequent evolution of the US SWP, the very stringent, Zinovievist rules of organisation adopted in 1965 turned out to be a structural form that accelerated the transformation of the US SWP, the Australian DSP and the New Zealand Socialist Action League into the monochrome sects that they have become.

As a participant, Sheppard defends this militarise-the-party resolution vehemently, and it was within that framework that he became an international political operator and enforcer on behalf of the Barnes leadership of the SWP until he fell out with Barnes in the last couple of years of his membership of the SWP.

It will be interesting to see how Sheppard handles the degeneration of the US SWP in his second volume. He was a vigorous participant in the elimination of all the oppositions in the US SWP up to his own departure.

Sheppard's book is quite absorbing. It's a bit on the dry side, almost laconic, a bit like Sheppard himself, but it's relatively calm and careful, unlike the hysterical memoir written by John Percy on the history of Australian DSP current, which was launched simultaneously with Sheppard's book at the Asia-Pacific Solidarity conference over Easter 2005. Sheppard's book is not entirely objective, but it's his memoir, and it's naive to automatically expect total objectivity from a participant.

The book's biases are, however, not allowed to prevent at least some account of the views of people or currents with which Sheppard had been in conflict. It's not as comprehensive on the development of the Vietnam antiwar movement as Fred Halsted's book, Out Now, but as a memoir it doesn't have to be.

As a revolutionary socialist and secretary of the Vietnam Action Committee in Australia, I used to follow pretty carefully the lead of the US SWP through the Bring the Troops Home Now newsletter and later material.

In Australia we weren't quite as legalistic as the US SWP and we didn't completely avoid all acts of civil disobedience, as the US SWP tended to do. Nevertheless, we closely followed the general lead of the US SWP in the antiwar movement, and the impact of this in Australia, in my view, was almost entirely positive.

We had, in Australia, however, a considerable advantage for our agitation in the fact that, broadly speaking, the whole of the official labour movement, particularly the courageous Labor Party parliamentary leader Arthur Calwell, strongly opposed sending Australian troops to Vietnam, and called for their withdrawal. The fact that some of us, particularly me, had a bit of a niche in the Labor Party was of great advantage to us, an advantage not shared by the US SWP.

The useful influence on us of the US SWP was considerable when our contact was entirely through SWP literature, and we were trying to do something similar in Australia. When our contact with the US SWP became more direct, however, with Barry Sheppard's visit to Australia in 1969, the situation changed.

When Sheppard arrived here on a kind of fact-finding mission on behalf of the US SWP leadership, it clearly emerged later that he was casing the joint, politically speaking. While paying ritual obeisance to the proposition that the SWP didn't interfere too much, it's absolutely clear from the references to Australia and New Zealand in his book that the objective was to find likely types who would model themselves totally on the US SWP and push aside unassimilable old Trotskyists such as Bob Gould and Hector MacNeill, who were perceived as standing in the way of the US SWP's political project.

At that stage, the US SWP's aim was clearly to establish organisations in English-speaking countries in its own rather authoritarian, ultra-Cannonist image, and which would also bow to the leadership of the mother party, the US SWP. For a while that worked in Australia, but it came to grief later, with the sharpest possible personal conflict for hegemony between Jack Barnes in the US and Jim Percy in Australia.

Sheppard writes of his 1965 visit:

"I had written to Bob Gould, the only Australian who had recent contact with the Fourth International, and I was expecting him to meet me. I was looking around the airport waiting room for someone who looked like they were looking around for someone. I noticed that there was a group of hippie-ish young people who seemed to be milling around. When all the other passengers had left, I was alone with them. Finally, I walked over to a young man with a red beard and asked him if he was looking for Barry Sheppard, and he was. They thought I was CIA or something, what with my suit and short hair.

"What I found was a very pleasant surprise. These young people had organised a youth group called Resistance. Resistance was in the thick of the antiwar movement Australia.

"One of the first things these young comrades did was provide me with some warm clothes.

"I was invited to a conference held in their headquarters and bookshop, which were quite impressive. It wasn't just for members, but included a lot of young people and their group, and the room was packed. They gave reports on their political work. I gave a report that covered the antiwar and Black power movements in the United States, the Socialist Workers Party, the Fourth International, and the World Congress.

"The main leaders of Resistance were brothers, John and Jim Percy. It was Jim Percy, with his red beard, that I had approached at the airport. The Percy brothers were in a group called the International Marxist League, along with Gould. The Percy brothers were attracted to the SWP's party-building perspective, and had been in a struggle with Gould over the direction of the group. In a private meeting, they asked me to intercede, backing them against Gould. I told them that as I had just gotten to know them and Gould, I thought it would be wrong for me to do that. I explained that experience had made the SWP very wary of jumping into internal disputes among groups in other countries. They were disappointed, but knew I agreed with them on necessity of building a party in Australia.

"The result was the beginning of a close relationship between the American SWP and the party they went on to build. They had to break with Gould to do it.

"In Brussels, the Bureau was also in contact with a person in Wellington, New Zealand, by the name of Hector MacNeill. I had thought that Australia and New Zealand were pretty close, but found they are 1500 miles apart when I flew to Wellington. I stayed with Hector and his wife in their small home. I remember that they had a whole lot of butter on their table, and we ate a lot of lamb, both of which were cheap in Zealand.

"As in Australia, I found that Hector had a group of youth around him interested in socialism. This wasn't as big a group as in Australia, but they were campus leaders involved in the antiwar movement. I encouraged them to go in the direction of building an organisation. The main young leaders I met were the Fyson brothers, George and Hugh. They did go on to build an organisation, and had to break with MacNeill to do it. As was the case with the Australians, the New Zealand group developed close ties with the American SWP in the years following my trip. They would jokingly refer to me as the `father' of their group.

"I flew back to Sydney for more discussions, and then headed back to the United States. At the immigration station, they were routinely checking the names of all passengers in a fat book. When they got to me, they evidently found me listed. I was hauled into a small room, all my belongings and papers were searched, and the papers were copied.

"I stayed in New York for the SWP convention, held in early September. I gave a report on the international political situation and the discussion that had begun in the Fourth International. After the convention, Caroline and I flew back to Brussels."

It would be difficult to exaggerate how much the Zinovievist process, of which Sheppard himself had become part, became a powerful factor in the later transformation of all three groups, in the US, Australia and New Zealand, into the rather rigid sects that they now are.

It's a mistake when reading history and memoir to impose on the past too much of what one now knows, or thinks one knows. That's a mistake that's obvious in current writing about the labour movement by DSP "historians" such as John Percy and Jim McIlroy.

Nevertheless, it strikes me that the difference in approach between myself and Sheppard are partly problems of the labour movements in our respective countries, which has culminated in the extravagant ultraleftism now advocated by Barry Sheppard, Caroline Lund and Malik Miah concerning the trade union movement.

I came in to the revolutionary socialist movement in the midst of a big fight between the left and right in the trade unions and the Labor Party for the future and soul of those movements, and I came into it from a family with deep roots in the Australian labour movement.

Those early experiences partly defined my approach to politics and they still do, to some extent. The experiences of Sheppard and the Percy brothers were quite different, and that shaped their approach.

That's all, however, another story. The rather exotic situation of Sheppard and his two associates in the US being forced to have his book published by the Australian DSP underlines the vicissitudes that can befall one in the socialist movement.

Taken as a whole, Sheppard's book adds quite a lot to our knowledge, and anyone interested in the history of the revolutionary socialist movement would do well to read it carefully, with the caveats, obviously, that I've just outlined.

I will take up my sharp disagreement with the political propositions on the trade unions and the labour movement, advanced by Sheppard, Lund and Miah, in another article. In the interim, anyone interested should read the article by Miah and Lund on these matters in the latest issue of Links.