September 2011, Week 2


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Sat, 10 Sep 2011 19:13:51 -0400
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Portsiders Reflect Number 3

Ten Years After 9/11

We at Portside asked a number of our past contributors
and all our readers for brief reflections on the 
significance of the event and this anniversary. 
This is the third in a series of comments on that 
day and what has come after it.

the Portside moderators


A Wakeup Call - Judith Ackerman

The  9/11, the left,& Women's Human Rights -
     Meredith Tax

Some Thoughts on the 10th Anniversary - Mark Solomon

9/11 As Seen From Berlin - Victor Grossman

9/11 Opened Windows Onto Our World - Saru Jayaraman

New Demons & New Enemies - Judy Summersby


What happened ten years ago remains  a wake-up call to
the USA for  overwhelming arrogance, bullying and
excessive exploitation of other nations throughout the
world. Things like this will happen again if we don't
overhaul our foreign policy as well as our attitude
about the natural resources on the planet including
water, precious minerals, forests and fossil fuels.
Regular innocent folks are the ones who die.

Judith Ackerman


The  9/11, the left, and women's human rights

The US left was theoretically unprepared to deal with
the attacks of 9/11 and the resulting upsurge of
nationalist politics.  There had been no widespread
effort after the end of the Cold War to sum up the
history and problems of "actually-existing socialism,"
much less to examine the way globalization was creating
a surge of rightwing fundamentalist movements.

The global feminist movement had been warning of the
dangers presented by political fundamentalism since the
civil war in Algeria.  In the nineties, a wave of
political fundamentalism began to sweep the world,
expressed in movements like Shiv Sena, the Muslim
Brotherhood, Jewish settlers, the Christian Coalition--
all groups that mobilize religious identity in the
service of rightwing goals.  9/11 and the subsequent
"war on terror" were global manifestations of the kind
of struggle that went on in Algeria, where salafi-
jihadis attempted to control local communities through
terror, rape, and murder; the government responded with
counter-terror, kidnapping, and murder; and civil
society was caught in the middle.

Long before 9/1, feminists were aware of this
terror/counter-terror dynamic because control of
women's bodies and lives is a primary object of
fundamentalists.  The global women's movement also
recognized the ways neoliberalism was destroying local
communities, livelihoods, and environments.  We
responded to both threats by reframing women's economic
and social problems in terms of human rights, and
enlarging older definitions to include reproductive and
sexual rights, and to address crimes committed by "non-
state actors"--militias, fundamentalist groups,
fathers, brothers, and husbands.  We had to fight to be
heard; but through the nineties the global feminist
movement developed an analysis and praxis which
departed from previous leftwing politics by making
human rights--including economic and social rights--

Then came 9/11.  Instantly, complexity went out the
window and we were drowning in binary politics.  Either
you were pro-US, pro-war, and pro-human rights (as
defined by the administration) or you were anti-US,
anti-war, and only interested in human rights if they
were being violated by the US.  In some circles, even
mentioning women in Afghanistan led to jeers and
accusations of being like George W. Bush.  It was "out
now!" and "support for the insurgency!"  Very few in
the US left seemed to grasp that it is necessary to
oppose both US militarists and jihadis, for both are
enemies of human freedom, security, and social

The war in Afghanistan has to end; the problems there
cannot be solved by military means.  But we have really
messed up that country and we cannot just walk out and
leave people there to clean up the mess we've made.  We
need to listen to people on the ground, in this case
the Afghan Women's Network (
http://www.afghanwomennetwork.af/), a fifteen year old
mass coalition with specific recommendations about how
to reintegrate Taliban fighters while at the same time
protecting women and civil society.  A pdf file of
their program, Recommendations on Afghanistan's
Reconciliation, Reintegration, and Transition
Processes, can be found at

Unfortunately, nobody in the US government seems to be
paying attention to this program.  So how about some
real solidarity?--not just mouthing slogans but giving
political support to the concrete program of
progressive people who are asking for help.
Strengthening the voices of Afghan progressives would
be a hell of a way to commemorate 9/11.

Meredith Tax

Some Thoughts on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

On the late afternoon of September 11, 2001 a dozen or
so saddened and worried activists gathered to
collectively digest the day's shattering events and to
explore a response.

One of the participants uttered what some were
thinking: "This is chickens coming home to roost." But
we knew that the chances for a probing public
discussion of the grievances that motivated the suicide
attack on the World Trade Center were slim to none. Nor
was there a chance that the victims would be honored by
a governmental pledge to work for a peaceful world. We
also sensed that stateless terror would not be treated
as a criminal act, but would become the rationale for
full-scale warfare against states targeted as havens
for terror.

Because of that, we all felt a compelling need for a
public response. I was concerned about a negative and
perhaps even violent reaction to a hasty public outcry
for sanity and peace, arguing for waiting a bit to
organize a gathering led by respected public figures.
But one activist emotionally declared that within 48
hours he intended stand, even if alone, on a street
corner to express his grief and his opposition to
escalating violence.

That carried the day. On September 13, a few activists
gathered in Harvard Square in Cambridge to silently
convey their worry and their hope for no more killing.
Within minutes, hundreds appeared to quickly fill the
square, with a seemingly endless candle-lit line
snaking around the Cambridge Common. They had come in
mourning and in fear that the Bush administration would
unleash its own state terror that could produce
unforeseen, terrible consequences.

The response to 9/11 was both a qualitatively new
reactionary offensive and a reflection of a deeply
embedded political continuity in US history. Two of the
most persistent strains that have undermined
progressive change and have constituted a life-blood of
reaction have been racism and anti-communism. Those two
lethal strains were transmuted in the wake of 9/11 into
seemingly "new" phenomena. Racism heretofore aimed at
African Americans, Latinos and other oppressed
communities was expanded to envelop Arabs and virtually
the entire Islamic world. The evil identified with
communism became an irreversible cultural "clash of
civilizations" manifested in a "War on Terror" that
allowed a massive military economy to steam ahead
despite the end of the socialist bloc. The
transmutation of racism and anti-communism into
loathing for Muslims and into the creation of new
enemies led inexorably to ten years of long wars with
extensive death and destruction, to interventions that
contravene international law, to the Patriot Act and
other assaults on constitutional rights, to
environmental catastrophe, to Guantanamo, rendition and
torture, to deportation of hundreds of thousands of
immigrants, to the emergence of menacing pseudo-
populist right wing movements and to deepening economic

Yet out of the pain and horror of 9/11, out of its
exploitation for imperial aims, out of the economic
wreckage worsened by militarism and the carnage of
Iraq and Afghanistan - the flickers of resistance are
erupting into flames around the world. With a
progressive community mobilized to expose the vile
manipulation of 9/11 and to point a way out of the
historic and contemporary barriers to the unity of all
impacted by the assault on their rights and well-being
over the past ten years - the next ten years can mark
a genuine turn towards peace and progress.

Mark Solomon


9/11 As Seen from Berlin

The horrifying shock from Manhattan also hit my distant
home city, Berlin. Old-timers recalled with a shudder
the 1940's when thousands of buildings became
smouldering ruins and so many died in their flames.
Many - not all- grasped the bitter truth: this was
terrible retribution for the giant wave of slaughter
which began in Berlin and brought death to thousands of
Communists, Social Democrats, homosexuals, dissenting
Christians, then to six million Jews, six million
Poles, Yugoslavs, Greeks, Italians, more than half of
all Sinti-Roma 'Gypsies" and over 25 million Soviet
citizens. It ended with the death of 8 ,million in
Germany and the wreckage of almost every city. Has the
September tragedy in a way echoed these events, in
reverse? First came the catastrophe (about which many
still hope for more facts); the deaths of those
innocents thern loosed a ferocious wave, misnamed
"conflict of cultures" and bringing death to hundreds
of thousands in Iraq and directly or indirectly,
thousands in Afghanistan, Somalia,Yemen, Gaza, Libya.
And who can tell? In Iran, Korea or somewhere else?

Will the still potent forces behind the monsters of
1933-1945, Krupp, Siemens, BASF, Deutsche Bank, join
American producers of bombers, missiles, drones, and
warships to "oppose terrorists" by blasting ever more
homes, killing ever more innocents, and destroying our
earth's green-blue beauty? The people could not stop
the killers in 1936, 1939, not in 2003 or since then.
Can we halt them at last? Impossible as it often seems,
it is the imperative of our lives!

Victor Grossman


How 9/11 Opened Windows onto our World

73 low-wage immigrant workers died at Windows on the
World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade
Center, on 9/11. Shortly after the tragedy, the
workers' union asked Fekkak Mamdouh, a Windows waiter,
and I to create an organization to support the
survivors and restaurant workers citywide. We
discovered that we had stepped into a minefield: with
over 10 million workers, the restaurant industry is one
of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the US
economy, but provides largely poverty-wage jobs with no
benefits, pervasive employment law violations, and
severe discrimination.

Today, ten years later, we are the Restaurant
Opportunities Center (ROC), a national restaurant
workers' organization with close to 8000 members in
nine states. We have won more than $5 million in stolen
tips and wages for workers, achieved significant policy
changes in large fine dining restaurant companies,
opened our own worker-owned restaurants in New York and
Detroit, trained more than 2500 workers in livable-wage
job skills, published 15 industry reports, even gotten
the first restaurant workers' bill introduced in
Congress. We have used 9/11 to highlight industry
challenges that existed long before the tragedy, and to
build a legacy for our fallen 73 brothers and sisters.

Saru Jayaraman

Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
Check us out on facebook.
Please visit Colors at: www.colors-newyork.com


September 11th

In history books it will be a date marking the final
nail in the coffin of the American Republic which has
been dying slowly since the glory days of the middle of
the last century. It was a  coup of sorts and no matter
who you think was behind it,,it is still a coup.

Life changed here in the United States on that day and
the course of our democratic government was altered
forever. We now have as a result new demons and new
enemies in this our third world war: the war on
terror, which is dominating our every thought.,
threatening our precious Constitution and consuming
our every penny under the large umbrella of fear. For
those who wanted to change the nation in the direction
of their personal and selfish choice,a successful
attack on our soil did it and fear maintains it.

If we can ever get out from under this umbrella of fear
we might be able to change course and return to a more
just and democratic America  However, it will take much
clear thinking and brave action to see the truth of the
nine/eleven event for what it really was..

Judy Summersby


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