It was sponsored by teachers' unions at the K-12 level, community colleges and the California Faculty Association, representing faculty in the California State College System, as well as high school and college student organizations, and drew 550 students, teachers and those with ties to people in the military. The conference was inspired by last spring's East Coast "Educators to Stop the War" gathering.
Many people donated time and money, helped with logistics, food and workshops, and the signing of petitions to prevent the LA Unified School District from withdrawing its permission.
PLP helped build the conference and participated in its workshops. CHALLENGE and PLP's call for communism was well-received in some workshops. Most people were open to discuss building a movement to fight imperialism. There was lots of friendly struggle over political ideas. Recent events like Katrina and the mounting death toll in Iraq have had an effect, as did concerted work within unions, student and anti-war groups and at workplaces.
Many agreed the Democrats were as pro-war as the Bush gang. In one workshop, when students noted their membership in PLP, one teacher thought it was bad that some students in a popular student club were also in PLP. Another teacher thought that was great. "Many people see the source of this war in the system of exploitation and profit," said this CHALLENGE reader. "They see the solution in a system that meets the needs of the workers of the world. I call that system communism."
There were debates about the best way to stop the war: encourage students not to join the military, or reach out to soldiers and expose this war as imperialist. This led some activists to re-think their upcoming campaigns. When someone related the excellent response from soldiers to leaflets linking the nature of this war to the capitalist system, people asked for copies to show their friends. There was friendly debate about a draft, whether anti-imperialists should join the military.
In one workshop, some young presenters said the U.S. was becoming a fascist country. They praised actions against open fascists like the Minutemen and exposed the Democrats as supporters of increased "Homeland Security." Another presenter who opposed organizing against the open fascists -- and advocated supporting the Democrats -- was criticized for passivity in the face of fascism. Others called for a mass revolutionary movement to defeat the source of fascism: capitalism.
In a workshop on fighting against the war budget, some participants explained the Council on Foreign Relation's proposal to cut all programs except those funding wars for decades to come, adding that we shouldn't let union leaders divorce the budget cuts from imperialism. There were discussions of the need for a worker-student-soldier alliance to fight imperialism, and the link between the current war for profits, past and future wars and the capitalist system. In a workshop on fighting the university's ties to the military, many suggested plans to fight back on their campuses. Workshops on Katrina connected the racist treatment of black workers in New Orleans and the war for oil profits in Iraq.
At the end of the conference, there was a call to support the anti-racist rebellion of black and Arab youth in France. Another speaker championed strikes and work actions against the war and its racist effects at every campus and work place. Both received enthusiastic applause.
The openness of the people to many aspects of PLP's line, and many families' growing anger at losing loved ones in an imperialist war, all make us more committed to struggle to up the ante against imperialism, and to show more of our friends that we must be in this struggle for the long haul.
Ultimately, imperialism can only be defeated by revolution to destroy capitalism. We need communism to end exploitation and wars for profit once and for all. For that, we need a mass PLP.
The excitement generated by this conference will help many sharpen the struggle and gain more confidence in the working class through the fight against imperialist war and the racist system that causes it.
"A lot of people...are really mad," said hourly worker Robert Paulk, employed at GM's Tech Center. "They think this is the thing that revolutions are made of." (Detroit Free Press, 11/22)
Workers who labored all their lives to produce tens of billions in profits for GM -- and struck many times to win gains that supposedly would produce this "dream" -- are now being robbed of their pensions, their health care and their very jobs. The politicians and media constantly refer to such workers as being "members of the middle class." But workers who are forced to sell their labor power to exist are constantly subject to the insoluble contradictions of capitalism. They're the first ones to suffer so the bosses -- the owners of the means of production -- can maintain their profits. Those who work for wages comprise the working class, no matter how much money they've managed to wrench from the bosses. All of this can disappear in the blinking of an eye -- or in the latest cutback to shore up their exploiters.
By 2008, GM will have cut its North American production capacity to 4.2 million vehicles, down 2 million from 2002, as its market share drops to about 25%. The cutbacks will save GM about $7 billion a year by 2006.
The Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., will close an assembly line. Saturn was set up as a separate GM division with a labor contract not part of the national agreement. The Saturn contract was supposed to be a "model" of labor-management cooperation, which workers resisted and ultimately trashed. Two plants that will close, one in the U.S. and one in Canada, are among GM's highest quality and most productive ones.
Once again we learn the hard way that concessions don't save jobs, nor does labor-management cooperation or producing quality cars. As long as the bosses hold power, no worker is secure, no job or benefit is guaranteed.
What is guaranteed is a future of war and fascism, poverty and terror. The UAW has served the auto bosses for more than 50 years, and seventy years of reform victories are rapidly disappearing. We must make sure that worker' illusions, their faith in the system and in the UAW leadership, disappear as well.
Just as hundreds of thousands are being sacrificed in the oil war in Iraq, millions of retired, current and future workers are being sacrificed as U.S. imperialism restructures its auto, steel, textile, aerospace and airline industries for a permanent war economy. The ripple effect will mean more poverty and racist terror for all workers.
GM workers are not happy with these latest attacks, and Ford workers will be next up. Also, Delphi workers are threatening job actions and a possible strike in response to the company's demands for more than a 50% cut in pay and an end to pensions and retiree health care. Internationally, autoworkers from Germany to Russia, from China to Brazil, face similar attacks as the imperialists and their nationalist union leaders all fight to beat the "foreign" competition.
For communists, there are no foreign workers. We are all one class, in one world, and we need a mass international PLP to defeat imperialism and build a communist world. The current period offers more opportunities to build a mass base for communism among industrial workers, not to win a flurry of reforms, but to abolish wage slavery with communist revolution.
Representative John Murtha touched off a firestorm last month by calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Tears and insults filled the House chamber as lawmakers debated the Democrat's statement condemning the war as Bush's "flawed policy wrapped in illusion." A 70-member "Out-of-Iraq" Democratic congressional caucus was soon handing out "War Isn't Worth It" bumper stickers. But don't count on politicians to bring the troops home.
What the Democrats lambasting Bush really want is a war machine much larger and deadlier than the ineffective force he sent to Iraq. Murtha's "anti-war" manifesto observes, "stabilization in Iraq...cannot be achieved without the deployment of hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. troops."
Murtha & Co. understand that present and future challenges to U.S. imperialism demand an all-out militarization of society. They criticize Bush for not creating the necessary spirit of sacrifice. Murtha complains, "This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft."
A 37-year veteran of the Marines, Murtha has close ties to top Pentagon brass. His outburst at Bush followed discussions "with longtime advisers, including two retired generals and a former secretary of the Army." (New York Times, 11/22) Military planners responsible for defending U.S. imperialism over the long term decry Bush's "off-the-shelf," "on-the-cheap" policies.
One severe critic (and probably a Murtha mentor) is retired general William Odom, who once headed the National Security Agency. Odom has a broader view of threats to the U.S. than the Bush gang. He specifically identifies Russia, China and India. He realizes that controlling Mid-East oil, key to the U.S.'s current supremacy, entails not just Iraq but militarily "stabilizing the region from the Eastern Mediterranean to Afghanistan," a task requiring massive U.S. and allied forces. He thinks Bush's decision to invade Iraq with insufficient ground troops and virtually no allies may be the "greatest strategic disaster in United States history." (Commentary, 11/11) Odom says the U.S. should pull out of the quagmire to prepare for a far bigger bloodbath: "U.S. withdrawal from Iraq is the precondition to winning the support of our allies and a few others for a joint approach to the region."
To Odom, having U.S. soldiers bogged down in Iraq, when they could be battling al Qaeda in Pakistan or preparing to invade Iran, is a gross waste of manpower. Tellingly, Odom identifies with World War II Nazi generals who told Hitler "that `staying the course' at Stalingrad in 1942 was a strategic mistake, that he should allow the Sixth Army to be withdrawn, saving it to fight defensive actions on reduced frontage against the growing Red Army."
Nazi-lover Odom appreciates the value of phony propaganda in motivating a nation for war. In August he chided "leading Democrats," who "have failed so miserably to challenge the U.S. occupation of Iraq." With greater carnage in mind, Odom urged liberal politicians "to establish as conventional wisdom the fact that the war was never in the U.S. interest and has not become so."
Murtha has heeded the rulers' voice. So have the liberal media. But whether the liberals can use the "withdrawal" lie to galvanize either capitalists or workers in support of their wider war agenda remains to be seen.
The recent turmoil on Capitol Hill shows serious disarray among the bosses. As for the working class, the rulers hope to replay the trick they learned near the end of the Vietnam War when they portrayed tactical withdrawal as "peace" and lured millions of militant war opponents to the dead-end electoral system. It's no accident that the "Out-of-Iraq" caucus includes representatives from the districts most rebellious in the 1960's and 1970's. John Conyers of Detroit is there, and with him the entire congressional delegation of Massachusetts, which has the nation's highest concentration of college students.
Billions of people worldwide and, by now, scores of millions in the U.S. recognize and hate Bush as a racist war criminal. This has become obvious even without communist leadership to expose him. However, our job isn't to belabor the obvious. Of course, we should mobilize against Bush and his gangsters. But they represent only one faction of a dogfight within their class. The other side, which masquerades as "peacemakers," is trying to lay the groundwork for the greatest mass slaughters in history.
Murtha, Odom and the rulers for whom they front have no intention of renouncing war for Iraqi oil. We mustn't fall for their phony peace moves. Imperialism always leads to war. Elections can't change its deadly nature. The answer isn't to line up behind the lying liberal politicians but to build the Progressive Labor Party.
The American air war inside Iraq today is perhaps the most significant -- and underreported -- aspect of the fight against the insurgency....One insight into the scope of the bombing...was supplied by the Marine Corps during the height of the siege of Falluja in the fall of 2004....A Marine press release said, "Marine close air support continues to put high-tech steel on target...." Since the beginning of the war, the press release said, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone [our emphasis -- Ed.] had dropped more than five hundred thousand tons of ordinance. "This number is likely to be much higher by the end of the operations," Major Mike Sexton said. In the battle for the city, more than seven hundred Americans were killed or wounded; U.S. officials did not release estimates of civilian dead, but press reports...told of women and children killed in the bombardments.
In recent months, the tempo of American bombing seems to have increased....
*Rep. John Murtha....reported that the number of attacks in Iraq has increased from 150 a week to more than 700 a week in the past year. He said that an estimated 50,000 American soldiers will suffer "from what I call battle fatigue...." The Americans were seen as "the common enemy" in Iraq.
*A retired senior CIA officer... [said] that...in a congressional tour there....legislators were repeatedly told, in meetings with enlisted men, junior officers and generals that "things were
*[A] former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported...to Bush in the White House: "I said to the President, `We're not winning the war.' And he asked, `Are we losing?' I said, `Not yet.'" The President "appeared displeased" with that answer.
PLP will march alongside these anti-racist fighters and share our vision of communism -- an egalitarian society controlled by the working class in which the people's needs are top priority, not the greed of bosses. We need a revolutionary movement. This system cannot be reformed. Whenever workers manage to squeeze gains from the bosses, they're taken away once the bosses must save their system from inevitable periodic crises. (see GM article, see page 1)
History may reveal the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina to be a turning point in the escalation of U.S. fascism. The rulers' actions reveal their plans for our class.
New Orleans sits where the Mississippi River meets the Gulf of Mexico. It's a major trading port of strategic military importance, and a critical center for domestic oil. The government has known for decades that the levee system was weak. In 2001, a major analysis in Scientific American predicted disaster if the levees weren't improved. In 2002, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, National Public Radio and PBS followed with reports based on in-depth studies made at Louisiana State University and the National Hurricane Center. All said that a direct hit from a major hurricane would demolish the city and kill 25,000 to 100,000 people. But U.S. imperialism was caught in international competition and its need to control Mid-East oil, and didn't have the resources to reinforce the levees. The loss of New Orleans exposes the rulers' weakness.
As CHALLENGE noted, "The ruling class has turned a hurricane into genocide of black and poor workers in New Orleans." Two days before the hurricane, National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield told all levels of government that no one would survive a direct hit and that public officials ought to do everything in their power to get people out of the way. But local, state and federal officials, Democratic and Republican, did NOT evacuate workers without cars, a death sentence for thousands.
However, New Orleans was sideswiped, not suffering a direct hit. If it had, the storm surge and winds would have wiped the city off the map. The roofs people were clinging to wouldn't have been there. The people caught by the floods would have been killed. Most of those stranded were black and poor. This represents a big step in the development of fascism. Leaving 100,000 people to die is a new day.
The day after the flood, Blackwater Security mercenaries were on the ground protecting ruling-class property. Nearby Army bases with tens of thousands of soldiers and plenty of helicopters and trucks sat idle. It was five or six days before they began to evacuate the city. They stocked the shelters with only enough food and water for one day, with no portable bathrooms, and forced people to stay in the shelters at gunpoint. FEMA turned back nearly all civilian attempts to help rescue people. (See box right.) The ruling class used the flood to ramp up militarization of society. Instead of being rescued, trapped residents were chased around by cops, shot at by the National Guard and deprived of food and water for days until they concluded their captors wanted them to die. This adds up to a policy of racist genocide and fascist control.
The racist nature of the press has been exposed by its portrayal of black victims as violent predators. Typical was a Sept. 4 news report that "roared across cable television" nationwide about "five or six marauders" shot to death on the Danziger bridge. Now it turns out the cops killed two brothers, one a 40-year-old retarded man, and the other a 49-year-old career Federal Express employee. Neither owned or had guns. "The police just went berserk," said eyewitness Jose Holmes, Sr. whose son was hospitalized in the shooting. (All quotes from Los Angeles Times, 11/24)
Now, with over 4,000 people unaccounted for, survivors scattered across the country threatened with homelessness, and the entire Ninth Ward condemned and awaiting the bulldozers, we have a news blackout that parallels the tightly-controlled reporting on the Iraq war.
PLP has been reaching out to displaced workers in Texas and other areas, and has linked their plight to our daily battles on our jobs and in our mass organizations. We will fight to build a mass PLP and create a revolutionary hurricane to blow away all the bosses who are raining down terror from Baghdad to New Orleans.
Number one, we could have had the evacuation of the 57,000 families in New Orleans who don't own motor vehicles completed before the storm arrived....I grew up in apartheid South Africa, and what I saw in a lot of the images was mostly white policemen and military officials ordering mostly black Americans around. And I flashed back on the apartheid scenes that I saw back in the 1980's. It was totally disgusting, and the federal government really needs to apologize to every one of those people." (PBS's full interview with van Heerden can be read at:
The Transit Authority bosses are demanding a string of give-backs: that new hires pay health premiums and work an additional seven years to qualify for pensions; force workers to work "out of title" (including lumping conductors and motormen together) meaning more work with less jobs, heavier work-loads and more dangerous conditions, both for riders and workers; removal of station token clerks, again dangerous for riders, especially at night; and expanding computer-operated one-person trains (already instituted on several subway lines), eliminating conductors.
The subway and bus workers are predominantly black and Latino, and have suffered over 15,000 disciplines in one year, falling heaviest on the minority and women workers in the lowest-paid jobs.
The Toussaint misleaders (originally elected on a "militant" reform platform) are in abject surrender mode. Barely talking "strike," they're not even pretending to prepare for one. Local 100 President Toussaint backed Hilary Clinton in the last election, the same Clinton who supported use of the Taylor Law to break any possible strike in 1999. He not only uses union funds to hire Israeli "counter-terrorist" agents to "train" transit workers to act as cops, but also backs an alliance with the police "union," the same cops who would bust heads in any strike.
Meanwhile, yesterday rank-and-filers marched out of a number of facilities across the city, chanting, "No contract, no work!"
The bosses who wield state power under capitalism -- through anti-strike laws, court injunctions and police attacks -- and their "elected" politicians who back the bosses every time, must be seen as a class enemy by workers, who cannot rely on some "neutral" government for justice. Rank-and-file transit workers must unite with all other workers, most of whom use the subways and buses to get to work, to fight to shut down the rulers' city. In the course of such a struggle, with communist leadership, they can come to the realization that getting rid of the profit system is the only solution to this constant assault on our class.
The strike -- with just 31% of the workers participating -- shut down two-thirds of high-speed train traffic, three-fourths of regional train traffic and two-thirds of Paris metropolitan traffic. Only international service was near normal. This was enough to force the right-wing Chirac/de Villepin government to agree, "in writing," not to privatize the rail system, a principal political demand of the workers. They also won a $140 bonus, a .3% wage "hike" effective Jan. 1st (which may lead to more raises later), the replacement of 700 retiring workers and 200 new hires, and no closing of any lines.
But the strike came at a crucial moment. The government was reeling after three weeks of the greatest rebellion in 40 years. If the workers had demanded that the strike continue until the bosses agreed to give these 900 jobs they won to the rebelling black, Asian and North African youth, think of what that anti-racist demand would have meant to the unity and strength of the working class in challenging the government.
The national rail company hires mostly "French nationals." In 2002, only 800 of the 180,000 rail workers were citizens of non-European Union countries. It's a safe bet that few of the "French nationals" are children of Arab, African or Asian immigrants. If the rail workers were to fight for a big increase in the hiring of these youth, the workers' overall strength would rise sharply.
But the workers themselves are divided into seven competing unions. Three of them (comprising one-fourth of the workers) refused to strike and proclaimed the action a "flop." Another union, representing one-third of the engineers, mobilized along narrow craft lines. And two of the main unions -- the CGT, strongly influenced by the French "Communist" Party, and Sud-Rail, where the Trostkyites are strong -- were busy trying to pose as more "leftist" than the other while the government tried to play them against each other. And these union "leaders" had done little to impress the need for solidarity among the 70,000 new workers hired since 1997, another cause of the low number of strikers.
Meanwhile, the increasing use of ticket inspectors as virtual cops has separated them from the engineers. Twenty years ago, inspectors welcomed and helped passengers as much as checking tickets. Today, with the emphasis on profitability, making sure everybody pays is their main job. Many local suburban factories have closed, making it more vital for people living in the suburban projects (many of immigrant origin) to take the train. Meanwhile, growing unemployment and poverty has forced more people to ride "illegally." So now the inspectors are grouped into "shock teams," board suburban trains and systematically check everyone's tickets, being quick to call the cops when there's a "problem." They've become fertile ground for the racist propaganda of LePen's fascist anti-immigrant National Front. The inspectors' cop role divides them from the engineers who remain more faithful to traditional union values.
Because the government, having been shaken by the recent rebellion, was in a weak position, it tried to talk tough early on to try to bluff the workers. Transport minister Dominique Perben threatened to impose guaranteed service throughout the country in a contract clause, while the governing UMP party launched a petition drive to impose minimum service by law. Both would have forced a certain level of service during a strike, which, in effect, means workers scabbing on their own strike.
But the danger of the walkout spreading to other industries and turning into a long strike forced the government to back down, ordering management to back-track on dividing the train company by activity, universally seen as the first step to privatizing the most profitable sections. It moved quickly to offer enough concessions to settle, given that the workers were themselves divided, with 70% still working. Notably, the iDTGV service, which sells cut-price rail tickets, is to be reintegrated in the company. This acts as a brake on privatization, preventing management from spinning off this service separately to private ownership.
However, a serious threat to the workers looms in the European Union's (EU) intention to open rail service to competition next year. Other EU private companies will aim at underselling particular rail services in France. If no one uses particular French-owned lines, the national company will shut them, effectively privatizing those sectors. And given the probability other EU rail companies will use lower-paid immigrant labor, it would set up the racist/nationalist cry that they're "stealing French jobs." All the more reason for all EU workers to fight for anti-racist, anti-nationalist unity, to prevent whatever concessions they may win from their "own" ruling classes from being undercut by the EU overall.
In 1995, a strike by 70% of the rail workers set off a wave of labor unrest that ultimately toppled the right-wing government of Prime Minister Alain Juppé. But now France finds itself with still another capitalist right-wing government. While a stronger and more wide-spread strike might have toppled this one, it would only be followed by still another capitalist ruling group. Toppling whatever section of a ruling-class dominated government holds power, only to be replaced by another one, won't cut it for the working class.
The workers and youth have been politically disarmed by the opportunism and racism of the old "C"P, "Socialist" Party, and the Trotskyites. As usual, social benefits no longer hold as the EU rulers must increasingly attack their workers to compete with other imperialist rivals in this era of endless imperialist wars. Workers and their allies need to break with all these forces to turn their struggles into schools for communism. In recent weeks, we've also seen mass strikes elsewhere in the EU -- two general strikes in Belgium and one in Italy. Again, these workers and youth need revolutionary communist leadership to turn their actions into a fight for a society without any racism, exploitation or warmakers: communism.
The Kaibiles are among the most feared death-squad groups in Latin America. During the 1980's, with Reagan-Bush-CIA support, they led huge massacres. In September, Mexican authorities arrested seven Kaibiles; four were still active in the Guatemalan army. The seven were planning to join the Zetas, soldiers expelled from Mexico's special forces unit, who've now become goons for the drug cartels.
According to annual State Department reports, since 1999 Guatemala (which borders Mexico) has become the preferred route for shipping cocaine to the U.S. According to DEA officials, 75% of all cocaine reaching the U.S. goes through Guatemala. The Guatemalan army is the main drug cartel.
Recently, the State Department revoked the U.S. visas of retired generals Manuel A. Callejas and Francisco O Menaldo, both former commanders of Guatemalan intelligence. The State Department said the army is totally run by drug dealers. (Texas Observer, 11/17, reprinted at http://www.ipsnews.net/print.asp?idnews=31128).
According to U.S. intelligence reports, the retired generals are also among the founders of an elite, shadowy club within Guatemala's intelligence command, "La Cofradía" or "the brotherhood." The reports credit the "club" with defeating Guatemala's guerrillas, using "engineering" tactics that a U.N. Truth Commission found included "acts of genocide" for driving out or massacring the populations of no less than 440 Mayan villages.
Of course, Guatemala is not the only country whose military is involved in drugs. The Colombian army is famous for this. Last year, "Don" Quirino, the top drug dealer in the Dominican Republic, was arrested and later sent to the U.S. for trial after a truckload of drugs belonging to him was seized, along with the driver and other guards (all officers in the local police and Army). Quirino himself was given an officer's ranking in the National Police despite never having served in it.
This is another side effect of Blowback (when U.S. policies and action come back to haunt them), the results of many CIA operations. Osama bin Laden and the opium trade in Afghanistan are the best known examples of blowbacks (OBL was a known CIA operative). In 1954, the CIA organized a bloody right-wing coup in Guatemala, overthrowing Jacono Arbenz, a reformist-nationalist President who tried to nationalize United Fruit plantations there. Since then, 200,000 of Guatemala's workers and peasants have been killed by CIA-trained generals and politicians. During the dirty war of the 1980's, when the Reagan-Bush gang supported death squads throughout Central America, the Guatemalan army practiced "draining the sea to kill the fish" -- attacking civilians suspected of supporting guerrillas instead of attacking the armed combatants themselves.
The right-wing Guatemalan Republican Front (FRG) was founded by Ret. Gen. Efrain Ríos Montt, whose 1982 coup d'etat gave him the Guatemalan Presidency just as La Cofradía was emerging. Also a born-again Christian, Montt oversaw the worst massacres. Today he's linked to the U.S. Republican Party. The current vice-chairman of Congress's Western Hemisphere subcommittee is Illinois Republican Jerry Weller III, who recently married Montt's daughter. Weller's father-in-law groomed Guatemala's last president, FRG member Alfonso Portillo, who fled the country in 2004 to escape arrest for alleged money laundering (State Department report).
Along with drug-trafficking, Guatemala is one of the region's most crime-ridden countries. The powerful maras (gangs) are protected by the military and the cops. Their murdering of women is also among the region's highest, almost similar to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
The Guatemala guerrillas of the 1980's must also bear some responsibility for the situation. They basically betrayed the struggle of the masses, making a deal with the government and the U.S. embassy to become part of the country's corrupt political structure.
Again, under capitalism, drugs, crime and racist -sexist mass murder go hand in hand.
Most years, upwards of 12,000 people attend the annual meeting, including several PLP'ers from different cities. We participate in the political debates and discussions in various sections and caucuses. The vast majority of APHA members oppose the war. PLP has been a leading force in every anti-war initiative over the past several years, helping to pass anti-war resolutions in the 300-member Governing Council in 2001, 2002 and 2003 with strong majorities (one exceeded 80%).
Many who oppose the war feel powerless to change U.S. foreign policy and prefer to simply run their clinics (or what's left of them) or teach public health students with a "progressive" slant. They think APHA helps them do their good work.
Our goal is to get to know good people and, by fighting for our communist analysis in struggles over political issues, help them see their communist potential and the futility of trying to reform capitalism.
But APHA members, including some in our movement have ideas at odds with communist consciousness. Communists say imperialism makes war inevitable. Yet many people believe that launching a war is based on the president's personality or fluctuations in the economy. We believe liberal and conservative politicians are just two sides of the same capitalist coin. Other APHA members see them as different as night and day.
The ruling class, either directly or ideologically, controls the bureaucrats that lead the labor unions, professional associations like APHA and other mass "progressive" organizations, to win workers and others to carry out their imperialist plans. The pro-war side of APHA emerges when the leaders are called on to implement anti-war policies. APHA depends on the dues and convention fees of tens of thousands of federal employees, such as health workers from the CDC (Center for Disease Control), and would find itself in a serious financial crisis if the government cut off dues reimbursement and travel support for federal employees.
In February, the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) section discussed a proposal to exclude military recruiters from the annual meeting, and consulted the section's 3,000 members via a mass e-mail. When the section Chairperson sent the e-mail to APHA headquarters for distribution, she was told it would not be distributed because, "it could be an embarrassment" to APHA.
This heavy-handed response shocked some members. But after 20 MCH leaders endorsed the proposal, it was debated in the executive board, which passed a compromise motion: APHA would sponsor a booth "somewhere in the exhibit hall" where our anti-war position could be publicized and the $1,500 rental fee would be waived.
Many anti-war members were excited and volunteered to staff the booth, but their celebration was premature. Instead, the Executive Director situated the booth across the hall from the military booths, entitling it "APHA -- Working for Peace," and decided it would not be staffed by those opposing the war, but by hired staff.
For the dozens of members who've participated in this struggle, the process has been educational. We live under a capitalist class dictatorship that is using APHA to bring health professionals into line with the imperialist agenda. Six weeks after September 11, former Surgeon General David Satcher told thousands of members at the 2001meeting, "You represent the front lines in the war against terrorism." But promised public health funds for "the front lines" never materialized and the government's motive for invading Afghanistan and Iraq has been revealed to be control of oil supplies.
Add the racist horror of hurricane Katrina and the stage is set for very productive and sharp discussions with a wide circle of APHA members (originally this year's meeting was scheduled for New Orleans in November). We'll find more potential communists in those discussions. Most APHA members hate racism and are appalled by the slaughter in Iraq. Unfolding events can provide new incentives to abandon numerous long-held beliefs and embrace revolution as a realistic option. The way we wage the battle over ideas will determine where things go from here.
The PL'er has been working in the school for a year and a half, pursuing pro-student activities and has earned much respect among his fellow teachers. Many know his radical views and that he works hard for the students. Initially he organized an after-school club for students to write creatively and fully express themselves.
The respect he's earned was tested in the recent struggle between the rank-and-file teachers and the union's sellout to Mayor Bloomberg's contract. The teachers saw the UFT's strike "threat" as an empty one and therefore were unwilling to sacrifice and walk out over its narrow goals. Sensing this, the UFT leadership dispatched their dominant UNITY caucus misleaders into the schools to explain why we should blindly follow a strike call which doesn't fight for the best interests of all teachers and students.
At our school, one of the misleaders attacked rank-and-file teachers, saying we were "destroying the union." His sexist behavior emerged in a vehement attack on a young female teacher who asked him a question, contrasted with his civil answer to a similar question from a late-arriving male teacher. Angry over this, the PL'er -- following a few more questions -- asked the hack if this strike would be about class size, building unity with other unions and creating militancy. The hack replied that it was about getting a new contract since Bloomberg kept violating the old one. This provoked the simple question of what would keep the Mayor from violating the new contract if the precedent of violating the old one was already set. This deflated the hack. The PL'er later discussed the hack's blatantly sexist behavior with other teachers.
This challenge to this union sellout earned the PL'er even more respect from rank-and-filers. He continued to concentrate on his students, building CHALLENGE readership among them, while also discussing the contract and the recent Bronx high school walkout. His conversations about the war helped bring some students and teachers to the September 24th Washington anti-war protest. All these militant activities enabled him to build a strong base of support for the next union chapter meeting.
The chapter leader, nearing retirement, has a vested interest in the cost-of-living increase (which would increase her pension) and which the bosses' media has paraded as a "raise." The school delegate is a vocal parrot of the UFT leadership's UNITY caucus.
The chapter leader began by saying her vote at the Delegate Assembly (DA) would mirror the teachers' desires. A "yes" vote would recommend the contract to the rank and file; a "no" vote would reject it outright, spinning the truth by saying that "yes" was "a vote for democracy."
The PL'er said that the rank and file, not the union leadership, are the union, . This influenced many teachers to change their votes from "yes" to "no." This turning of the tide angered the delegate, who said that he "believed in democracy." A veteran teacher then asked him if he would vote the way the teachers wanted. He hypocritically replied that he would vote his "conscience" and "not against democracy." He then ran out of his own union meeting as several teachers shouted they wanted to impeach him!
One teacher proposed they all march on the DA meeting. He got this idea from literature the PL'er had left in the teacher center. Many teachers were open to the idea. A teacher close to PL advanced our idea of a rank-and-file revolt against -- and picketing -- the union leadership. Six teachers along with many from other schools picketed the DA in direct opposition to the union leadership, chanting slogans in their own class interest.
Many teachers signed a petition to impeach our delegate. It was then sent to the union. On December 8th, the UFT leader is coming to the school to discuss this situation. The PL'er and his base are preparing to meet this traitorous misleader.
A study group has been formed with the PL'er's base at school. Several students have attended, CHALLENGE distribution is rising, and a fellow teacher wants to learn more about the Party and may join soon. The determined spreading of communist ideas has helped the Party's influence grow at the school, enabling the workers to advance their own class interests, and proving that many workers really like our politics.
All this has demonstrated the importance of participating in union meetings to advance communist politics. The struggle is long-term. But this is the road to turn our schools into schools for communism.
In April 2001, at the third Summit of the Americas, Bush confidently announced the FTAA would be law by 2005. The 33 hemispheric presidents signed it, including Hugo Chavez, however reluctantly. How things have changed! At this last November Summit Meeting in Argentina, Bush couldn't even get the FTAA on the agenda, much less get it signed. What has wrought such drastic change?
Sharpening Inter-imperialist Rivalry Fuels Latin America Rulers' Nationalism
The U.S. first organized the Summit of the Americas, comprising all the hemisphere's residents, in 1957 and then again in 1967, to counter rising Soviet influence in the region. In 1994, after the Soviet collapse, Clinton proposed hosting another Summit to create the FTAA to stop and reverse European and Japanese imperialist inroads in the region.
Although traditionally subservient to the U.S., dissent has been developing within Summit ranks. The FTAA defeat at its last meeting and its polarization into two blocs, one with 28 presidents supporting the U.S. and five -- Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela -- opposing, is a culmination of this process. Diverging economic and geopolitics interests, fueled by inter-imperialist rivalry, are the root cause.
The first four opposing countries comprise MERCOSUR (Venezuela is processing its admission). MERCOSUR was developed by these countries' rulers to counter U.S. influence in the south cone and to gain better bargaining power with any and all imperialists. For this, they must develop and/or expand their domestic industrial bases, while promising to deliver sufficient improvements to workers to guarantee some social stability -- difficult because 50% of their populations live in abject poverty.
Fledgling industries need protection and social-oriented programs need a "democratic-socialist" agenda, not the open markets and neoliberal programs Washington advocates. Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have elected presidents who support a fast-disappearing European capitalist mode: more social spending and regulation of the private sector. Chavez has chosen this model, basing it on cooperatives and participation of all sectors of society in managing local affairs. He calls it "Socialism of the 21st century." But Europe's rulers themselves have launched an assault on this mode, slashing jobs and benefits for the working class. Capitalism cannot satisfy maximum profits and simultaneously provide social justice for workers.
Unfortunately, many honest workers and their allies believe these programs are a real alternative to capitalism. If Brazil's rulers want to become an all-around power center, they must create an internal market. But with 95% of the country's wealth in the hands of 5% of the population, it won't happen. Venezuela and the other MERCOSUR countries are in similar contradictory situations. Any redistribution of wealth can only temporarily defuse social tensions, which is why centuries ago the rising capitalist class invented nationalism to win the working class to willingly fight and die for them. Since then, the world's bosses have also honed it into a powerful anti-communist weapon to divert the working class from revolutionary communism, the only viable alternative to capitalism and imperialism.
Therefore, the more "anti-imperialist" regional bosses become, the more ardent the nationalism they profess. Chavez, for example, is building a 300,000-strong army -- purchasing weapons from Russia, Spain and China --to defend Venezuela's "sovereignty" against U.S. aggression. But nationalist bosses are never really "sovereign." They're always beholden to one imperialist or another. MERCOSUR bosses and Chavez are no exception.
The FTAA aims to prevent this by boosting U.S. exports to squash the growth of their domestic industries and destroy MERCOSUR and other regional trading blocs. Unlike U.S. and European imperialists, China has presently no major contradictions (such as agricultural subsidies) with MERCOSUR. Thus, China can promise to help these bosses achieve their geopolitical ambitions.
Therefore it's no surprise that as China becomes a bigger player in the region, these nationalist bosses become more openly defiant of U.S. imperialism. China's trade with Latin America -- after inching upward from $200 million in 1975 to 2.8 billion in 1988 -- has exploded. From 1993 to 2003, China-Latin America trade skyrocketed by 600% to $26.8 billion. From January to November 2004, it increased almost another 40% to $36.4 billion. In 2005, trade and investments are well over $50 billion.
When China's President Hu visited Latin America in November 2004, he pledged to invest $100 billion over the next decade, rivaling the U.S. cash infusion during Kennedy's vaunted Alliance for Progress, which pumped $20 billion into the region in the 1960's (about $120 billion in today's dollars).
The growth of Chinese and other imperialists' influence threatens U.S. hegemony.
In 1823, the U.S. Monroe Doctrine proclaimed its "ownership" of Latin America, threatening war against any power daring to encroach upon it. The Doctrine, now nearly 200 years old, won't die without a fight. Trading blocs and trading wars will lead to shooting wars. The battlefields of World War III will decide which imperialist will exert its hegemony over Latin America and the world.
It doesn't matter which capitalists do the trading, run the factories or even administer the whole system. The revolution in the Soviet Union and China tried to do that through socialism -- which bacame state capitalism run by the working class and its communist parties -- didn't lead to communism but reverted to open capitalism/imperialism. Only communism -- which will eliminate money, wages, the market and wars for profits -- can meet the needs of the international working class. The growth of a mass PLP throughout the Americas will guarantee this fight.
There were two major differences between the Soviet Air Force in World War II and those of the capitalist nations. First, the communist-led Soviet Union (SU) was the only participant in the war that didn't bomb civilian targets, knowing that the main victims of such bombing would be working-class men, women and children. The U.S. and Britain, like the Nazis who bombed London, destroyed the entire cities of Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, among others.
Second, during World War II the SU was the first nation to let women fly combat planes. When the Nazis invaded in June 1941, nearly one-third of trained pilots in the SU were women. Indeed, by the time of the invasion, Soviet women had "claimed more women's aviation records than any other nation." Women who were already civilian flyers came to be trained as combat pilots, mechanics, navigators and ground crews. However, many male instructors, still steeped in bourgeois ideology, were less than enthusiastic about women flyers. Women, with the help of the Communist Party (CPSU), had to fight for their equality as pilots.
After Marina Raskova set a world record for flying non-stop from Moscow to the Soviet Far East, the Party allowed her to form all-female combat regiments in October 1941. During the war women accounted for more than 12% of the Soviet fighter aviation strength. Women's regiments flew more than 30,000 combat sorties.
They flew mainly the Pe-2 trainer, low in fuel consumption and able to land virtually anywhere. It had an open cockpit, a crew of two, and six to eight bombs, with the rear navigator often armed with a machine gun. Made of wood and fabric and traveling only 60 mph, the plane was a fire hazard in combat. It was a difficult plane for women to fly, especially "small women who were slim and hungry. The control stick was heavy to move, and our arms and legs were so short we had three folded pillows behind our backs. The navigators helped us by pushing on our backs as we pushed on the stick to get the tail up for takeoff."
The women carried no parachutes until 1944, because if they couldn't land safely back behind their own lines, they preferred to burn with the plane rather than suffer brutal Nazi torture.
The women sometimes flew 18 sorties a night. To avoid German searchlights they approached from a high elevation, throttled back the engine to idle, flew over the target soundlessly and dropped the bombs almost before the enemy was aware of their presence. They often flew in pairs, one noisily as a distraction. They flew in a continuous stream, bombing every few minutes. They returned to refuel, rearm, and immediately take off again. The Germans came to call them the "Night Witches" for their uncanny accuracy and persistence.
Once going 100 days without a rest, "we slept two to four hours each day throughout the four years of the war...Sometimes I even forgot whether I was flying toward the target or back from the target. At those times we had to peer under the wings to see if the bombs were attached in order to know whether we were going or returning!"
Some women even led male squadrons. "They [the men] trust you -- not because you are a woman but because you are a skillful and trained pilot."
"It was very difficult to be the leader of a squadron....The Germans always fired at the lead plane, because if the leader could be shot down, the formation would disperse and leave without a commander."
(Future columns will focus on women's struggle for equality as pilots and unity among the men and women pilots.)
These workshops were often very emotional. People poured out their grief, anger and frustration against the bosses' bloody war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. It became very clear that PTSD directly affects families and friends as well as soldiers.
As many of us have long suspected, the military brass and their masters in government and business are not providing the care and support these soldiers and their families need. An article in USA Today (10-18-05) said, "More than 1 in 4 U.S. troops have come home from the Iraq war with health problems that require medical or mental health treatment..." Thousands of seriously wounded are put on medical hold due to staffing shortages. Yet these greedy and ungrateful bosses want to slash the budget even more! They're now "pre-screening" soldiers, hoping to prove they had mental health problems before deployment so they can later be denied care for PTSD!
Some of the workshop participants said that when their soldiers actually got up the courage to seek help (the military tells them they're not "real men," or are "half soldiers" if they do), all they get is a video game and drugs that are supposed to help them forget the war.
When I spoke, I acknowledged their grief, and agreed with their anger. I encouraged them to join MFSO, because it's a good, broad-based organization that provides support, information and many levels of participation for military families. However, I also said that the best hope for ending this war lies with the soldiers themselves. Conferences, demonstrations, petitions, referendums, even work stoppages and strikes are all good ways to protest the war. But when the soldiers themselves organize, resist and rebel, that's when "the fat lady sings!"
I gave a few examples of soldier rebellions throughout history and talked about the line the military pushes...that you "signed a contract to do a job and you have no choice but to obey orders," etc.
This is a very controversial subject, and the discussion took a whole new direction after that. It carried over to the next two plenary sessions and the final workshops. The whole conference seemed to open up to more militant and revolutionary ideas. It was very encouraging to see so many young people interested in these ideas. I noticed many carrying a CHALLENGE.
It was a successful day. Each of my workshops had 20-30 people; at least 75% were either in the military (six or seven had recently served in Iraq), were veterans, or had a close relative or friend active in the military. Very promising!
Throughout the day-long event, the students demonstrated their working-class solidarity, linking the war machine, tuition hikes, the growth of recruiters on campuses, increased attacks on workers (wage cuts and mass layoffs) -- amid monolithic oil profits -- and the re-emergence of a strong anti-immigrant, nationalist movement. They boldly challenged those at the conference who repeated the empty, popular anti-war rhetoric of the need for a "peace movement," as opposed to a militant anti-imperialist movement.
The conference tone, thanks largely to these students, took on an anti-imperialist character. It moved towards organizing students and educators to see there's no common interest between the working class, sent to fight oil wars, and the ruling class whose only concern is their profits. This point of unity was the single most important development to emerge from the conference.
A fighting student
As a PLP member I described how racism/nationalism is used to build for war and fascism and how the former are inextricably linked. We noted how those two ideologies are used to justify the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of our class brothers and sisters worldwide. The discussion also included a healthy debate on white skin privilege. Everyone in the workshop received CHALLENGE and our PL leaflet. One workshop I attended included veterans, and also discussed revolution.
For me, the weekend's best part saw three members of my campus group attend the conference despite it being a 6-hour drive. They returned inspired, having learned a lot, and spent much time with our Party and comrades.
They had nothing but really positive things to say about the whole experience. Topping it all was a conversation at Sunday breakfast with older comrades. We discussed the need for revolution and how capitalism stops at nothing to co-opt and misguide the younger generation's anger against capitalism into something futile.
Overall, these three friends were moved by our politics and presence. These events make me very optimistic for the growth of our Party. Hard work is ahead of us but we'll get there!
A Northern California comrade
Those who came from my campus were re-energized, both politically and personally. Many left the conference with a stronger political understanding of the root causes of the war in Iraq, and now better understand the need to organize and fight against the source of these endless profit wars - imperialism and capitalism. Some even realized the limits of counter-recruitment, seeing that kicking recruiters off campus (which they've been working for) wasn't enough.
Soldiers are crucial to defeating imperialism and stopping its endless cycle of profit wars. We need to reach out to them and win them to active anti-imperialist organizing. Some friends have begun to re-think their counter-recruitment strategies. Others have showed new energy in committing themselves to organizing local actions for the next semester.
Some close friends have shown more openness to communist ideas and to PL. All these small advances provide great opportunity for building PLP on campus and winning students, workers and soldiers to fight for a communist future.
I've had my own experiences with Murtha. I'm a member of Johnstown's Citizens for Social Responsibility which has protested the imperialist debacle in Iraq at Murtha's local office, (on one occasion placing a body bag there).
But Murtha is not opposed to imperialist war or the capitalist system which breeds it. He was a Marine officer during the U.S. imperialist war in Vietnam and is a very strong supporter of the military. Murtha is a devoted anti-communist and supported, and pushed for, the first Gulf War. He also supported all of Reagan's military actions. Murtha backed El Salvador's death-squad regime that massacred Salvadoran workers.
On Nov. 22, I attended a press conference in Johnstown featuring Murtha. He said the public turned against the war before he vocalized his call for troop withdrawal. Murtha explained that success in Iraq required a huge mobilization of more troops. He had made the claim in May 2004. Now he said the U.S. war effort had begun with under-trained, poorly-equipped troops, citing a lack of body armor. (Incidentally, supporters of the fascist Lyndon LaRouche were outside distributing literature claiming Murtha was right on target.)
Murtha also mentioned that enlistment is dwindling and equipment is deteriorating, saying, "The future of the army is going down the drain." [Ed. Note: Murtha is championing a quick-strike force in the region to move into Iraq "when necessary."]
Murtha's call for withdrawal reflects his fears that the U.S. imperialist military may be incapable of effectively fighting future wars. He also recognizes the fact that Bush's popularity has been going down the tubes, endangering popular support for future wars.
The first custodian I spoke to said he would copy it at school for me. I told him I didn't want him to get in trouble, but he insisted. I took his copies and began distributing them. Soon I met people who already had one. The custodian had made extra copies and had passed them out himself.
Tensions were mounting at the schools as people had to decide what to do. Some SEIU members announced they wouldn't honor their own picket line. A teacher who's a former Black Panther came to me for advice. I told him he shouldn't follow these scabs, that they're wrong and that his years of struggle against the system should teach him right from wrong. I said he should honor the strike. Two people saw CHALLENGE for the first time.
When I criticized the head of the Labor Council for showing up at our meeting and then disappearing, a co-teacher asked what PLP would do to support us. I called up a PL'er and asked him to organize friends to leaflet a nearby school, which would have happened if the SEIU leadership hadn't settled with a sellout contract.
With wages frozen for three previous years, the leadership settled for a two-year contract: a 2% raise at the end of this school year and 2% a year later; and health coverage up to 75% without a cap (which did cover some new members for the first time). But the cost of living has risen at least 2% a year for the past three years and is still increasing now, so the settlement is actually a wage-cut in purchasing power.
The crisis has passed, but the problems remain.
An SF teacher
The Minutemen claim they're not racist, but one of them wore a White Power shirt during their "filming." If it walks like a pig and smells like a pig...it's a pig!
An NGO working with the laborers to create a day-labor center tells them to "turn their backs on the Minutemen; ignore them and hope they'll go away." But there have already been documented reports of violence against day laborers in nearby Maryland. In one instance, someone posing as an employer called a worker over to his truck, and then a group of men jumped him (just like on Long Island). We cannot ignore the racist Minutemen. We must fight against them and show they're not welcome in Herndon, New Jersey, Arizona or any other place for that matter.
We were open with the workers. As the two of us were separating the DESAFIOS from the CHALLENGES, the workers became curious, then surrounded us, and even before we could hand them out, the workers ASKED us for copies. Over 40 of the 75 workers took papers! The second day we re-introduced ourselves and said we were communists, that we were anti-racists and that PL had experience in fighting the Minutemen. We were received with open arms and many more took the paper.
It will take many more visits, time and effort to build ties with these workers as well as to organize against the racist Minutemen. Many of us should learn Spanish and find out where these struggles are occurring near us. The workers themselves must lead this struggle. We must struggle politically with them. One of my best personal political moments came when a worker told me: "We feel good that you are here with us." That's how all workers should feel about us communists!
In my letter, I should have added that the gross incompetence the ruling class showed in its preparation for, and reaction to, the awful hurricane is not something they want to have to answer for -- especially because the devastation, largely in the black and other poorer areas, was preventable. I criticize myself for using imprecise language, and do so especially because in other letters, and in discussions with people in PL, I have stated that clear language is all-important in getting PLP's line and arguments across. Thanks again.
(Since I wrote the above, however, I've been repeatedly hearing news shows and analyses about how the "new" New Orleans will be aimed at the elite. Black and white workers -- who were murdered by the federal government as surely as if Bush had hijacked a plane and crashed it into the neglected levees that destroyed the city -- are and will be ignored and driven into other depressed areas. That's what capitalism has to say to us all.)
Freezing in the tundra, North Country Red
Incidentally, the front-page articles on the rebellion in France and the anti-KKK march in Texas in this same issue were particularly good.
NYC H.S. Teacher
PLP's growth among transit workers (Local 689, Amalgamated Transit Union) contributed to the success of these events, with many workers donating money, buying raffle tickets and speaking eloquently on the program.
The TFFR brought together students from a Baltimore high school and Howard University; workers from government offices, transit, and utilities; health professionals; and community members engaged in fighting police brutality.
TFFR began as a response to Thanksgiving -- the food is great, but the politics of European colonialism and genocide against Native Americans associated with this holiday are lousy. So we kept the food and changed the politics, celebrating the many facets of the anti-racist struggle in an international, multi-racial dinner with speeches, music, poetry and spoken word.
This 20th anniversary dinner concluded with a spirited singing of the Internationale. The many fists raised in the air expressed their enthusiasm for continuing the struggle against racism worldwide.
One of the most cited reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein was his deployment of chemical weapons...(GW, 12/1)
In the first three decades of communist rule China eradicated some diseases and dramatically increased life expectancy, employing state-funded hospitals and "barefoot doctors" -- practitioners with basic training who ran rural clinics. But in the 1980s....Doctors and hospitals became responsible for living off their profit....
That decision is now widely viewed as a disaster . Pharmacies have become profit centres for Chinese hospitals, the source of up to 90% of revenue, encouraging doctors to overprescribe drugs....
...The free Aids treatment programme is being used to create profits....
"The reform process has made hospitals into clubs for the rich," said Zhang Ke, an Aids specialist at Beijing Youan hospital. "If the hospital is focused on making money, why would they tell anyone about these free drugs? There's a basic conflict of interest." (Washington Post in GW, 12/1)
The times Book Review published nearly 8,000 words reviewing five books on Iraq without the word "oil" ever appearing. What a remarkable symptom of...denial about what has been done in...Iraq. (NYT, 11/20)
In 1961, he published "Reconstruction After the Civil War," a seminal work that challenged the common portrait of the era as one in which wild and ignorant former slaves, led by corrupt Northerners, rode roughshod over the defeated white South. "I would insist," he writes " that most freedmen were desperate for an education and extremely eager to participate in the ongoing development of their communities." Indeed, Franklin dared his opponents to find "anywhere at any time a more serious and responsible group of people so recently in bondage." There were no serious takers.
At Chicago, and later at Duke University, Franklin trained a legion of graduate students to merge the study of African-American society and culture into the larger fabric of American history. As a public intellectual, widely quoted in the media, he spoke out against what he saw as the federal government's retreat from civil rights....
Franklin uses "Mirror to America" to vent his considerable anger....At one point he claims that the "Negro seat" on the Supreme Court once held by his idol, Thurgood Marshall, has been "bleached white" by the appointment of Clarence Thomas, a man he thoroughly despises....
Franklin has studied his nation for nearly three-quarters of a century. His scholarship tells us that people must be judged by their willingness to remove the obstacles and disadvantages that oppress society's most vulnerable members. His conscience reminds us of how much remains to be done. (NYT, 11/27)
Slowly, stealthily, globalization is taking a toll throughout the American middle and working classes, shutting down factories, decimating unions, even threatening the Southeast's cotton farmers, who fear competition from cheap fiber grown in Africa and South America. The crosswinds of free trade have achieved hurricane force, battering factories and offices, rendering them unsteady spheres where a worker with 10 years of good performance reviews can walk in any morning to find he's out of work.
Add to that health insurance costs, which have left millions of parents stranded in a scary place where they ignore a child's hacking cough unless it persists for weeks and put off their own checkups indefinitely. Even families with medical insurance have discovered that a major illness can lead to bankruptcy....
As lackeys of the big-business, wealthy-investor class (or charter members of it), congressional Republicans have done everything in their power to make the lives of working folks worse....kicking them in the shins. Congressional Democrats helped supply the steel-toed boots. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/13)