What's Left 2015-11-22 Volume 36

| November 23, 2015


Terror, totalitarianism and weaponization of outer space are the themes in What’s Left this week. The aftermath of shock and terror has long been used by the state to push regressive policies that further concentrate power and wealth. One of the most effective means by which to counter such concentrations of power is through broad private and public dissemination of knowledge. It should be no surprise then, that governments (and corporations) throughout history have sought to intercept and monitor any information that could pose a challenge to their totalitarianism.


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“FEATURE”

Paris attacks exploited to justify totalitarian crackdown on and offline

The aftermath of shock and terror has long been used by the state to push regressive policies that further concentrate power and wealth. One of the most effective means by which to counter such concentrations of power is through broad private and public dissemination of knowledge. It should be no surprise then, that governments (and corporations) throughout history have sought to intercept and monitor any information that could pose a challenge to their totalitarianism.

The advent of electronic communications has resulted in two important developments. First, new forms of advanced encryption that allow communication to be private and secure. Second, a centralized concentration of information systems that make it easier for those in power to intercept and scrutinize. As Edward Snowden revealed, many governments have gone to extreme lengths to break or circumvent any mechanisms used to keep communications private, against state and corporate enemies alike. Ironically, these same governments are desperate to obscure their actions from the public.

As in the past, attacks like those in Paris are quickly and often easily exploited as excuses to expand and intensify the intrusion on private communications. Every attack is used to promote the message that people will not be safe until the State (and their private contractors) can intercept, catalogue, and examine every word, picture, and video being communicated. The drumbeat of war and terrorism is expertly used to silence those who advocate for measured and thoughtful responses, those who resist the racist, reactionary policies that have so often stained history. Historical and fact-based responses (highlighted most recently in the left by UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn) are denounced and replaced with panicked shrieking from talking heads in corporate media who attempt to justify the dangers of privacy.

Following the most recent attacks in Paris, these apologists for totalitarianism have been practically salivating about the need to eliminate encryption and provide governments with complete access to everyone’s communications. Daily, the media regurgitates the argument that these attacks could have been prevented, if only state security services had not been prevented from reading encrypted communications. But this is misleading and false. The truth is, the attackers were not anonymous criminals hiding using sophisticated technology. Most were petty criminals already known to police and communicating through unencrypted text messages and phone calls to coordinate their plans. Text messages are one of the easiest forms of communication to tap, and a standard warrant would have been (and was in fact) granted for the surveillance of these criminals. The evidence from this and previous attacks shows that well-proven investigative techniques being used by standard police officers continue to be a more effective use of public money than the expensive and unrestricted technologies of mass surveillance advocated by state security services.

In addition to these attacks on privacy and free electronic speech, the French government has also taken the opportunity to clamp down on free speech at the Paris climate talks. While large sporting events, concerts, and other gatherings of mass consumption have been deemed important for demonstrating Freedom™ and a return to normalcy, all public marches and demonstrations around the climate summit have been banned. Such public gatherings are critical contributions to the discourse around the summit. It is through these gatherings that those most deeply impacted by climate change are most likely to be heard.

The worlds of climate change and war are not isolated. It is well understood that terrorism is a symptom of perceived and real desperation – both social and economic – making recruitment easier for these criminal organizations. It is no coincidence that those parts of the world most vulnerable to exploitation, oppression, and violence are also those that have suffered so dramatically (and often silently) at the hands of global capitalism and climate change. It shouldn’t be forgotten that, in 2004, even the Pentagon was arguing that climate change was a greater threat than terrorism.

Socialists need to cut through the nonsense and respond critically to the far-right tendency of ever increasing oppressive state control. Communities must be reminded that attacks such as those in Paris have occurred many times before. History has shown that further totalitarian crack-downs and military actions only assist those who profit from division and stigma. There must be a greater effort at improving the lives of those who have been left to suffer in the wake of capitalism and climate change – not just in Paris but in every corner of the world. Only by standing in solidarity with each other will we be effective in preventing further suffering, hate, and violence.

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=d0900f3fea&e=8484a6ba75][Paris is being used to justify agendas that had nothing to do with the attack]]

More: There Is Only One Way to Destroy ISIS

More: [[https://citizenspress.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=981ca03171&e=8484a6ba75][Exploiting Emotions About Paris to Blame Snowden, Distract from Actual Culprits Who Empowered ISIS]]

More: Tapped phone led Paris attack leader to his death

More: The left in France: a moment of decision

More: A Police State to Avoid Any Critical Evaluation?

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=3634c3f573&e=8484a6ba75][What’s really at stake at the Paris climate conference now marches are banned]]

More: Orwell’s 1984 Audio Book

“CANADA”

Workers disciplined for having opinions

Even in the age of free speech, Canadians are still being punished for expressing their opinions outside of the workplace. Even unionized employees are being fired or disciplined for things they do, write, or say when they’re off the clock – especially on social media.

Increasingly, employers are using surveillance to target employees they dislike. Posts on social media are being used to attack workers and fire those who say things employers find inappropriate. While, in some extreme cases, a few workers have been disciplined for crossing the line and engaging in harassment of their peers, this does not justify the zealous and unregulated actions of employers. It will be critical for regulating bodies to tackle the question of just what is appropriate in these circumstances.

More: [[http://citizenspress.us10.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=27d7d00e19a37005743125d7e&id=e6f68a48ed&e=8484a6ba75][To Post or Not to Post: Online Posts by Off-duty Employees can Result in Discipline or Discharge]]

“ELSEWHERE”

The cosmos is quietly being commercialized and weaponized

The United States has recently adopted a law granting rights to private companies to mine asteroids and similar celestial objects. It may sound small and far-fetched, but this law is a sharp change in the historical approach to space governance and regulation – one that has dire consequences.

The commercialization of space has been publicly argued against by almost every single scientist and explorer involved in its study. Great effort went into building and signing international treaties – even between super-powers bent on each other’s destruction – protecting the neutral commons of space. Put simply, commercialization would mean the eventual weaponization of space since profit-driven companies would “need” to protect their “valuable” property rights. This weaponization of space (state or commercial) is justifiably frightening.

By definition, space is all encompassing. It surrounds the Earth and allows those who control it an unprecedented level of power over communication, transportation, and numerous other daily activities many take for granted. Because space is limitless, the battle for power and control will be similarly unending. With finite resources being invested in an infinite endeavour, the impact for those living on earth will be devastating.

Unfortunately, with ongoing cuts in public funding for space exploration and space-related services, there has been a rapid growth in direct private sector involvement in the space industry. The fact that there is such private-sector excitement should be a warning in itself. The natural extensions of this private sector power grab: more lobbying and more demands for states to eliminate their own scientific programs and instead “invest” in the ridiculous schemes of the private sector (mainly to ensure that private corporations won’t lose any of their own money).

Space is the ultimate commons (and the final frontier). It must be protected from the tragedy of capitalism.

More: Satellite wars

Korean police raids seek to halt progressive organizing

In the early morning of November 21, the South Korean police raided the offices of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU), the Korean Public Services, and the Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU). Following an earlier raid of the KPTU office, these latest actions resulted in police seizure of all documentation relating to the People’s Mass Mobilization that took place on November 14, the KPTU-TruckSol’s Safe Rates Rally, the April 16 Sewol memorial event, and May Day. The scope of the search and seizure makes it clear that the government is seeking to crackdown on those involved in the People’s Mass Mobilization, as well as the entire Korean movement fighting for workers’ rights and a just and safe society.

Not since the end of the dictatorship in Korea has the KCTU and its affiliates seen this kind of state response to legitimate protest. The government has turned to violence in response to widespread public opposition to its policies. The violent actions of the government would seem to represent a regression where the democracy that Korean workers and common people won is, once again, moving towards dictatorship.

More: KCTU Facebook Page

More: ITUC condemnation of Korean anti-union violence

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