AGITPROP NEWS: Join Us in Palestine

Alewitz, Mike (Dept. of Art) ALEWITZM at
Sat Jul 5 20:13:12 MDT 2003

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AGITPROP NEWS: Join Us in Palestine

In this issue:

1.  Join Us in Palestine
2.  Here Comes the Big Picture


1.  Join Us in Palestine

(The following remarks by Mike Alewitz, Artistic Director of the LaBOR aRT & MuRAL PRoJECT were given to a spirited rally in Chicago on June 28.  Alewitz was a guest at Socialism 2003, sponsored by the ISO)

Whenever and wherever workers begin to engage in struggle - they immediately turn to art and culture.

When the Wobblies were going to jail - they would memorize different parts of the poetry of Walt Whitman to recite to each other.

When textile workers struck the mills of Paterson - aided by John Reed and other NY artists - they marched to NYC, where a road was painted onto the stage of Madison Square Garden, and conducted a great pageant of their strike.

Workers who occupied the auto plants of Buffalo during the sit-down strikes formed an orchestra on the rooftop to serenade the assembled masses below.  In victory they transformed into a brass band and led a victorious parade through the streets of the city.

In 1984, meat packers struck the Hormel Meat Co and battled against the bosses, the Nat'l Guard and their own international officers. We painted a brilliant mural on their union hall.

Most workers don't know of these things because our history has been stolen.

Bread and Roses

During the revolution in Burkina Faso, the revolutionary government initiated a world-class film making program.  I once asked some artists there how they could make films when the resources could go save the lives of starving people.  They explained that you could not separate art from life.  Art and food.  Or 'Bread and Roses' as the women textile strikers in Lawrence said. 

For them, and for us (for most of our history,) it would have been unthinkable that you could organize - let alone make a revolution - without poetry.

Art is essential of life.  It teaches us to be critical thinkers. 

Art is how we reach into the hearts and minds of the people - It cannot be an adjunct, but must be reknit into the very fabrics of our organizations.

On to Palestine

The working class has a great tradition of AgitProp art that has been hidden from us. 

The Labor Art & Mural Project is part of rebuilding this tradition.  We have traveled the world to give visual expression to the struggles of working people.

And in a few weeks we will travel to the Mideast  and show the US and Israeli governments that they can never build walls high enough or thick enough to separate us from the children of Palestine - who continue to inspire the world with their amazing and heroic struggle.

We intend to paint some holes in their walls.

The first mural will be created with comrades Tikva and Toufic at the Beit Jibrin Cultural Center-Handala in occupied Bethlehem.

The second mural site will be with the Worker's Advice Center (WAC) in Nazareth, who are organizing Arab workers in the Israeli construction industry. 

The trip will culminate in the creation of a third mural to adorn a new Rachel Corrie Peace Center being built by international volunteers, Palestinian construction workers, and Israeli peace activists on the site of a demolished Palestinian house in East Jerusalem.  

Join Us

On behalf of LAMP, I invite you to join us in this exchange of solidarity from August 10-22.  

We will join a solidarity camp for international activists, help construct the Peace Center and participate in a series of political tours with leading unionists and activists.  We will use that experience to return and help educate unionists about the issues facing labor in the mid east.

Artists and Revolutionaries

Late last night I watched the Democrats and Republicans pay tribute to Strom Thurmond, racist symbol of the past. When you think about the class struggle of today, the contrast of visions could not be more startling.

They mourn Strom Thurmond.  We celebrate the life of our fellow artist and activist Rachel Corrie, not because of how she died, but because of how she lived.  Her brief life contained more meaning than exist in a thousand corporate boardrooms. 

They have George Bush.  We have Mumia Abu Jamal - a poor black artist - a cab driver - from a jail cell he commands the love and respect of more millions than Bush will ever know.

Can there be any question as to the outcome of this struggle?

When the people of the world -in defiance of their parties and governments and union officials - turn out in the largest anti-war demonstration in human history -that is cause for great optimism for what lies ahead - and we need art and artists to envision that future.

One of the things that distinguishes revolutionary Marxists from the anguished hand ringing of liberals, the moral witness of the religious community or the desperation of anarchists  - is that we fight to win.  

They see only the permanent US war.  We understand that permanent war is born of permanent rebellion.  We embrace that rebellion, in all it's forms, because that is the future.

It's a great time to be an agitprop artist. It's a great time to be a socialist.  


2.  Here Comes the Big Picture

In Gaza, Here Comes the Big Picture
CCSU muralist Mike Alewitz is on his way to Palestine, to paint some politics 

by Dan Levine - July 3, 2003 
Hartford Advocate

He traveled to Austin, Minn., in 1986, to the site of an intense strike against the Hormel meat-packing company where he constructed a massive mural, for instance. 

Ten years later, he went to Slavutich, Ukraine, to make a mural dedicated to the workers of Chernobyl. 

Sanction-plagued Baghdad was the destination in 1998. 

Now Alewitz is embarking on one of his most complicated ventures yet. At the end of July, he will travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories to construct three murals. 

The overall goal is to build links between Palestinian, Israeli and American workers in order to fight against both governments' imperial ambitions -- ie. President Bush's actions in the Middle East and Iraq, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, says Christine Gavreau, director of the Labor Art & Mural Project (LAMP). 

"LAMP's goal is to come up with projects to advance the ability of trade unionists in the United States to express solidarity with working people around the world," Gavreau says. 

The first mural will be painted at the Beit Jibrin Cultural Center-Handala, in a refugee camp in Bethlehem. The second will be near the Worker's Advice Center in Nazareth, and the third will be at a proposed Rachel Corrie Peace Center, on the site of a demolished Palestinian home in East Jerusalem. Corrie was an American college student crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while protesting against a home demolition. 

Alewitz, who is LAMP's artistic director, sees his mission in terms of bringing his experience, and the history of the American labor movement, into contact with the audience he visits. "I'm not going to paint what I think a Palestinian might paint," he says. 

When he went to Northern Ireland, Alewitz bypassed the pantheon of Irish freedom fighters and instead chose Malcolm X as his subject, he says, because Malcolm thought from an "internationalist/nationalist" perspective that mirrored Republicans in Northern Ireland. 

The artist says he will think about general concepts to emphasize beforehand, but specific designs won't come together until he is in the country and talking to people. "What I will be prepared to do is make changes," he says. 

The organized labor situation in Israel and the occupied territories is in a state of flux. Palestinian workers fall under the umbrella of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, a group established in 1982. Since the Oslo peace accords came into effect in 1994, the PGFTU has received a revenue stream from the Histadrut, the Israeli version of the AFL-CIO. 

Activities of the PGFTU have been hampered by the same restrictions that affect all Palestinians in the occupied territories: Curfews, roadblocks, and high unemployment, Gavreau says. "It's a fairly desperate situation," she says. 

On the other side, the Histadrut has been plagued by an influx of foreign workers that drive down wages for its Israeli members. Because of the costs of occupation, the Sharon government has pushed austerity budgets that slash spending in the public sector in favor of defense. 

Historically reluctant to take a strong position on the peace process, the Histadrut may be forced to reexamine its stance because the inevitable cost of the military will continue to eat away at its members' standard of living, says Gavreau -- who just returned from a two-week preliminary trip to the region. 

"Activists will come to see that eventually, they will be able to win Israeli workers away from the militaristic vision of the Israeli state," she says. 

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the delegation can send donations to Alewitz at Department of Art, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT, 06050. 



Help LaMP use art as a weapon in support of international working-class struggles for social and economic justice.  Become a the LaBOR aRT & MuRAL PRoJECT sponsor! 

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Department of Art
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, Connecticut 06050

Office: 860.832.2359/ Mobile: 860.518.4046


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