SEATTLE, WA, October 14 — The six-week strike by 27,000 Machinists against Boeing looks as intractable as ever after talks between the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and the company broke down, just a day after they resumed. There is tremendous anger among the rank and file who are holding the line in a very solid strike. Financial problems are weighing heavily on many as the worldwide capitalist financial meltdown forces the realization of how serious this struggle has become.
It’s reaching a point among some workers where discussion of revolution becomes much more logical. This was revealed in how workers answer the union hacks’ red-baiting. When the misleaders see CHALLENGE and PLP leaflets being handed out, they say, “we don’t want that crap here,” to which a worker retorted right in front of the sellouts, “I read that paper, give one here!” Discussion of revolution follows. The hacks end up being isolated.
The latest deal-breaker involved outsourcing jobs of workers who deliver parts to the assembly line. Mobilizing the might of a united working class is the only way to break through this logjam.
The union agreed to allow suppliers to enter Boeing plants and deliver their parts to receiving areas beside the assembly line, work now performed by IAM members. The union insists, however, that those jobs — inventorying, tracking and dispersing these parts — remain in the IAM, now and in the future.
The company discussed protecting current IAM members in these categories from layoffs during the three-year life of the contract, but refused to guarantee these 2,000 positions would remain as union jobs over the long haul.
“Once we work out this ‘job security’ stuff, all the rest will fall into place,” said international aerospace coordinator and head negotiator Mark Blondin. But don’t hold your breath; his definition of job security and any real-world security are miles apart.
These latest negotiations began as Boeing CEO James McNerney outlined his vision of corporate fascism in the now infamous “Monday memo” issued last week. Citing the “ongoing turmoil in the financial markets,” this three-page internal letter mirrors the U.S ruling class’ plan to re-industrialize through racist super-exploitation in the subcontractor factories. When he talks about “flexibility to run their business in the face of intense global competition,” he means using these racist attacks on subcontractor workers as leverage to attack employees in the traditional union plants as well.
He “see[s] tremendous pressure coming from ” competitors like Airbus and emerging aerospace powers like Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and, in particular, China. He then attacked our “track record of repeated [strikes],” vowing to “change this dynamic.”
“U.S. auto companies, for one, fatally wounded themselves by promising unsustainable wage and benefit levels…and job guarantees,” he continues. Explaining why the company cut off negotiations, Boeing spokesman, Tim Healy, put it even more bluntly. “No company can guarantee jobs,” he admitted. In other words, a decent life under capitalism is unsustainable. A system that can’t sustain a decent life doesn’t deserve to continue.
McNerney failed to mention that his buddy on the Boeing Board, Edward Liddy, just got an additional $35 billion from the Feds, on top of $85 billion in the last two weeks, to rescue the insurance giant AIG from its speculative excesses. Nothing the strikers are asking for even approaches this sum. The joke on the picket lines is that we should change our name to AIG. Then the bosses would throw money at us, instead of trying to starve us into submission.
The pro-capitalist union leaders’ answer to McNerney’s memo was pathetic. They scurried to Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Scott Carson to reaffirm their support of the company’s global subcontracting regime. They pleaded for a few “ancillary [related] jobs at local factories” to remain in the IAM. Even throwing our class brothers and sisters in the subcontractors to the wolves doesn’t seem enough to keep these class collaborators in business.
In stark contrast to the company’s fascism and the union’s capitulation, stands Progressive Labor Party-led organizing and literature. On average, more than a thousand strikers have read CHALLENGE every issue throughout this strike. We’ve distributed thousands of additional Party leaflets advocating mobilizing the united might of the working class. The latest called for anti-racist, international unity with subcontractor workers, mass picket lines and production for need under communism as the only real-world answer to the bosses’ divide-and-conquer strategy. “Workers’ power is our only security,” it declared.
A relatively smaller group of strikers who regularly read CHALLENGE have met every week throughout the strike to put these ideas into practice. Some sell the paper as well; more should! We have scheduled dinners during and after the strike (whenever that is) aimed at asking strikers and supporters throughout the city to buy subscriptions to CHALLENGE, and join PLP.
The mass sales and distribution of communist literature — and the mostly positive response of strikers — have inspired our friends at these meetings to have a more bold approach to organizing their fellow strikers around anti-racist unity (not to mention, giving the sellouts fits!).
One reader wrote a “thank you” note to L.A. subcontractor workers who have supported our strike. Building on the Party’s success distributing CHALLENGE, he organized a small group of strikers to “hit” the strike-check distribution centers to publicly get signatures on it. The hacks backed off as friends and strangers alike signed.
It inspired us all to see our friends — who had never done anything like this before — develop convincing arguments to win their fellow strikers to this modest show of anti-racist working-class unity. Eventually we hope to personally present this “thank you” to subcontractor workers.
Last week, these CHALLENGE readers collectively prepared an answer to McNerney’s vision of corporate fascism — which really proved the validity of PLP’s politics — to be posted on the internet. This week we are discussing how to expand our modest attempts at class solidarity to industrial factories nation-wide. The situation calls for mass picketing, which could really up the ante. There is talk of going to other local unions and student groups, not only for support resolutions but for other workers and students to join the picket lines, as well as to force the union to organize such mass action.
Modest as these efforts are, they represent the only way forward. The company and the union misleaders are thinking about the long haul, not just the life of this three-year contract. So, too, do those of us more dedicated to the revolutionary potential of our class, with the communist vision of eliminating this profit system.
U.S. capitalists are finding it extraordinarily difficult to organize their way out of the worsening global economic crisis they created. The most powerful sections of the ruling class are beginning to assert themselves by either taking over smaller, failing banks and companies or eliminating them. This will enable the top financiers to control the entire banking system and enforce their long-term strategy of fascism at home and war abroad to protect their oil empire. All the out-of-control profiteers seeking short-term gains are now being disciplined, to follow the top guns or fall by the wayside.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Paulson’s original bailout bill couldn’t make it through a rebellious Congress and the remake failed to inspire investors and contributed to Wall Street’s worst week since 1933. “Some $8.4 trillion has been lost from US stock markets in the past year.” (Times of London, 10/12/08)
Another failed cure was Paulson’s decision to let Lehman Brothers go under. Rather than cleanse the investment banking system, the move worsened the situation. Wall Street investment giants Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch have all had to find new ways to exist.
Even a massive bailout from Washington may not save General Motors as an independent company, it having launched merger talks with Ford and Chrysler. Tens of thousands of auto jobs are at risk, on top of the 750,000 jobs lost overall this year.
But economic chaos and destruction represent only one side of the coin. While the bosses appear to be losing control, the biggest U.S. capitalists, those with major stakes in U.S. imperialism, are in fact tightening their economic and political grip. Billionaire George Soros — who bankrolls anti-Russian regimes in Eastern Europe and urges anti-China “intervention” in Tibet and Darfur — helped steer a big shift in the bailout policy.
The New York Times reported (10/12): “Two weeks after persuading Congress to let it spend $700 billion to buy distressed securities tied to mortgages, the Bush administration has put that idea aside in favor of a new approach that would have the government inject capital directly into the nation’s banks — in effect, partially nationalizing the industry.”
On Oct. 1st, Soros had written in London’s Financial Times, “Instead of just purchasing troubled assets the bulk of the funds ought to be used to recapitalize the banking system.” Nationalizing the banks helps imperialists like Soros & Co. control capital and channel it to their own, increasingly military, needs to maintain U.S. rulers’ super-power status. That the Soros position prevailed over both Bush and the Congress reveals the true nature of state power. As Lenin said ninety years ago, politicians are ruled by finance capital.
Financier Warren Buffett, Forbes Magazine’s “Richest Man on the Planet,” is another master of U.S. capitalism’s rapidly evolving new universe. Buffett, an ally of the Rockefeller-led Eastern Establishment, has a big say in who survives the current carnage. He just threw multi-billion-dollar lifelines to two of U.S. imperialism’s flagships, worldwide deal-maker Goldman Sachs and arms maker General Electric.
Known for having a long-term outlook, Buffett recently invested heavily in U.S. railroads. Though not very lucrative at present, Buffett’s railroads will prove indispensible in mobilizing for global war and are beginning large-scale infrastructure rebuilding. Without an efficient rail system, it becomes very difficult to move large number of troops, supplies and weapons coast to coast.
Buffett is also the largest single owner of Wells Fargo, which bested Citigroup in its attempt to seize Wachovia, saddled with toxic subprime mortgages.
Wall Street darling Bloomberg’s bid for a currently illegal third term as New York mayor serves the same imperialist capital-concentrating purpose. On October 2, thirty ruling class big shots published an Open Letter in the NY Times urging lawmakers to “extend term limits [to three terms] in order to give New Yorkers the opportunity for whomever [sic] they think can do the best job during these tough economic times, including our current mayor.”
The signers included ultra-imperialists like David Rockefeller and his war criminal henchman Henry Kissinger. Others were J.P. Morgan Chase chief James Dimon, Goldman boss Lloyd Blankfein, and financier Wilbur Ross. The latter is bent on safeguarding U.S. industries like coal, steel, and textiles, all crucial to the manufacture of weapons, tanks, warplanes, troop uniforms and gear, and all the other ingredients of modern warfare.
Stopgap measures like bailouts, buy-ups, and partial nationalization can only bring a mix of successes and setbacks to U.S. rulers. Their imperialist wing, however, eyes the Big Bailout, top-to-bottom militarization for global war with rivals like Russia and China. Liberal Robert Reich, Clinton’s Labor Secretary, let that cat out of the bag in an October 9 NY Times column.
Encouraging broad federal spending to counter the current crisis, Reich said, “the government will probably have to run deficits to keep the economy going anywhere near capacity, a lesson the nation learned when mobilization for World War II finally lifted us out of the Great Depression.” That’s when the mass unemployment of the 1930’s — 17 million jobless in a 50-million workforce — was “solved” by drafting 14 million into the military.
Candidate Obama vows to put millions to work —in low-wage jobs— in New Deal-style programs to rebuild strategic infrastructure. His call to reinvigorate the nation economically serves the rulers’ war agenda even better than McCain’s openly militarist appeal.
The rulers well know that most U.S. workers and GIs in World War II did not back the McCain-like, patriotic, right-wing “America First” line. Opposed to Hitler’s fascism, they bought into “The American Way of Life,” Roosevelt’s promise of state-sponsored post-war prosperity. This built the illusion that “reformed” capitalism can guarantee a decent life and tie workers to the profit system. Obama hopes to revive that illusion.
Neither economic crisis nor voting can eliminate the class dictatorship finance capitalists blatantly flaunt every day. Only communist revolution can because it abolishes profits, bosses and their wage slavery system and puts the workers in control of state power, guaranteeing our class — which produces all value — will share the fruits of our labors.
The profit system’s crisis, with its wholesale attack on workers’ wages, pensions, housing and healthcare, its racist super-exploitation of black and Latino workers, opens up limitless opportunities for communists to expose the anti-working-class nature of capitalism.
However, no matter how low capitalism sinks, it will not topple itself as long as the bosses hold their ace-in-the-hole — state power. That’s why the revolutionary communist PLP must be built and win workers to bury capitalism in the garbage heap of history.
MORELOS, Mexico, Oct. 10 — For several days over 2,000 Army troops and state and federal cops, using tanks and helicopters, viciously attacked teachers, parents (many of them indigenous) and other supporters blocking a national highway. Some 24,000 teachers in this state have been striking for two months against a government “reform” called Alliance for Quality Education that aims to privatize schools and intensify attacks on working conditions teachers have won through many decades of struggles.
The teachers are not only fighting the repressive arm of the bosses’ state but also the “mother of all union sellouts,” Elba Esther Gordillo. She is “President for life” of the SNTE (National Teachers’ Union), a Senator and firm supporter of the government of Felipe Calderón.
The militant teachers and supporters have also repudiated all the bosses’ parties, burning electoral propaganda of the PAN, the ruling Party, the PRI (which ruled Mexico for 60 years) and the so-called pro-people PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution).
The teachers and their supporters fought against the military-cop attack even after being forced off the highway, battling the cops and troops from side streets. The rulers sent more reinforcements. Helicopters launched tear gas against protesters. Homes were raided and numerous arrests made, with many injured.
It was another major class battle workers and their allies waged against the capitalist dictatorship ruling Mexico. In the last several years, similar struggles occurred during the massive strike and popular uprising led by teachers in Oaxaca and by striking miners who repelled a massive attack by cops and troops.
During this battle, teachers and supporters marched from three different places and rallied at a major square to oppose the assault. Contingents of teachers from Oaxaca, Mexico City, Michoacán and Guerrero joined the demonstration.
On Oct. 8, in Mexico City thousands of teachers from 17 different regions marched to the Secretary of Education headquarters opposing the educational “reform” and denouncing the violent attack against teachers in Morelos. The marchers stopped at the Interior Ministry, ripped down fences surrounding the building and fought federal cops. They then set up a permanent “plantón” (picket line) at the Secretary of Education.
Some PLP teachers and friends from Oaxaca have gone to Morelos to support fellow teachers there, bringing our communist literature to them. Marches have been held in Oaxaca to support the struggle in Morelos. A national teachers’ strike is now pending and should become a general strike of the entire working class.
These militant actions take place amid the global capitalist economic earthquake which is hitting Mexico very hard since it is tied to the U.S. economy. The recent drop in oil prices and the decreased funds sent to Mexico from immigrants in the U.S. — who have lost their jobs because of the U.S. recession — have worsened the economic crisis here. Even the fortune of Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest capitalists, has been cut in half because of losses in the local and international stock market.
Only the drug cartel business is prospering here, producing a violent war for the control of the drug profits involving different sections of the ruling class and their corrupt politicians and cops.
PLP teachers, workers and students must redouble our efforts to bring our revolutionary communist politics to the masses of workers and their allies who are experiencing the violent dictatorship of the bourgeois “democratic” state over the working class. DESAFIO must become a key ideological tool in this important task of turning the anger of workers and their allies into a mass revolutionary storm to destroy capitalism.
Teachers, students and workers in the U.S. should stand in solidarity with Mexico’s striking teachers, raising support in their unions and mass organizations
BRONX, NY — Chants of “No Contract, No Cookies!’ and “Stella, Stella, Stella, we are Stella!” rang out from 135 members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTWGM) Local 50. These workers have been on strike since August 13 in reaction to the drastic, concessionary demands of their bosses. Brynwood Partners, the new owners of Stella D’Oro, are demanding the elimination of holidays, vacation and sick pay, requiring large healthcare premiums and calling for wage reductions in each year of the new contract.
Members of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY (PSC) in the Bronx were well received when we joined the picket lines and offered our support. The president of BCTWGM Local 50 addressed a packed chapter meeting of PSC members. She reported that the strikers were 100% solid on the line and that they were committed to continue the fight, despite scabs in the plant and threatening letters from management. We passed the hat and made plans to support the bakers.
A week later, the citywide Delegate Assembly of PSC discussed and passed a resolution in support of the bakers. A delegate pointed out that while the Stella strike was different than the Boeing strike where tens of thousands were out, the struggles contained similar elements. One of the issues at Boeing is the loss of jobs due to the contracting out of work to non-union shops where mostly immigrant workers are paid a fraction of the pay unionized workers receive. At Stella, the Brynwood managers sent letters to workers telling them to quit their union and return to work at poverty wages. In both cases the owners are trying to drastically decrease wages.
While most PSC activists are sympathetic to the Stella strikers, there is disagreement as to how much of an effort our union can and should make to support the strike. Many feel overwhelmed by the financial crisis and upcoming budget cuts and feel that we should focus on our own problems.
PLP has always said that when workers fight their bosses we must support them vigorously, no matter how big or small the struggle. Helping these workers is not simply “charity.” The bosses use racism to prevent other workers from joining these mostly black and Latin workers in their fight, allowing for their super-exploitation. We must fight this by creating multi-racial unity in this and every fight against the bosses.
Only by uniting with other members of the working class can we build the fight for workers to fight back to end exploitation and the capitalist system. Workers and students from around the New York area should join the Stella workers on the line. Bring your friends and signs of support. Donate money and canned goods. Let us build solidarity and fight to win! J
BRONX, NY, October 9 –– Bronx, NY, October 9 –– “This is a great article,” said a Stella D’Oro striker (Local 50, Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union) as he and others read the CHALLENGE article supporting their strike.
“Scabs. That’s who they have working in there. There is only one supervisor in there now who knows anything about the job. All the workers who know how to make cookies, including the guy who runs the computer, are out here with us,” another striker told PLP members and friends when we joined them on the picket line today. The scabs not only don’t know how to make cookies, but more importantly, they don’t realize that they are helping their own enemies. They simply see this as a chance to earn a few dollars. They don’t understand that the Stella D’Oro strike can give all workers an example of how we can unite to fight back against our bosses.
One striker explained, “they [Stella D’Oro and other bosses] just want to bust the unions and stop people from fighting back. The cops have harassed us off and on. At times they have tried to shut down our picket line.” They removed the shelter used to protect the strikers from the weather and ordered the removal of all chairs from their strike site.
“But we are still here,” added another. Counting on fear, the bosses had expected strikers to run scared, give up and accept their fascist contract which cuts sick days, vacation days and wages (see October 15 CHALLENGE for more details). Instead, after nearly two months the strikers are still united, angry and determined to keep fighting.
PLP’ers asked some strikers to come to the October 15 UFT (United Federation of Teachers) Delegate Assembly where we will try to raise strike support. We also invited strikers to speak at the October 18 PLP forum on the elections.
All workers have a lot to learn from the Stella D’Oro strikers, including how they are sticking together, black, white, Latino, Asian, native-born and immigrant to fight back. This anti-racist unity terrifies the bosses who depend on racism to divide workers. All of us must carry this fight to the point of uniting the entire working class to get rid of all the bosses and their capitalist system and build a system run by the working class for the working class.
CHICAGO, IL October 9 – Cook County health care workers are in open rebellion against the SEIU union leadership. Class hatred has been brewing since SEIU defended County President Todd Stroger and his racist hatchet man Dr. Simon, as they closed half the health clinics that served more than one million uninsured workers in 2007. It cost us over 2,000 jobs and 100,000 fewer patient visits. This was a blatantly racist attack as 82% of our patients, and most of the workers, are black, Latin and Asian.
Now “safety-net” hospitals, like Michael Reese are closing. And with the current Wall Street meltdown, things are going to get a lot worse. Workers are under attack from the racist profit system that is expanding its trillion-dollar oil war in Iraq-Afghanistan–Pakistan, carrying out racist terror immigration raids, eliminating the second shift at the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant next month and having made one-out-of-every-four CTA bus drivers unable to support their families on new part-time schedules.
Just as politicians and preachers try to misdirect rebellions against police terror, and the IAM union leaders try to control the 5-week strike of 27,000 Boeing workers, misleaders are channeling this rebellion into a campaign to replace SEIU with the Caregivers Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU), led by the California Nurses’ Association (CNA). The struggle between the two unions has been growing around the country and has led to hundreds of SEIU members crashing a banquet at the Labor Notes conference in Detroit last spring. One SEIU member died of a heart attack in the melee.
In part, this is AFL-CIO President John Sweeney’s revenge after his protégé Andy Stern led SEIU and a dozen other unions out of the labor federation two years ago. They smell weakness at Cook County and are spending lots of money to defeat SEIU, including nightly catered dinners for the workers at a nearby hotel.
Petitions have been filed with the Illinois Labor Board (ILB) for elections in all four bargaining units. In response, County bosses are trying to buy SEIU some votes by finally paying the upgrade we “won” in the last contract, almost four years ago. It’s unlikely the $14 “upgrade” will put down the rebellion.
While the mutiny of workers at Stroger Hospital and other County facilities is good, trading one set of pro-capitalist union leaders for another will only lead to disappointment, especially in the midst of widening war and deepening economic crises. The real lasting victory will be increasing the readership of CHALLENGE and recruiting new members to PLP who will help build a revolution to replace this exploitative system.
No matter who wins the White House, the racist rulers will need trillions more to expand their oil wars and rescue Wall Street. A struggle against racist unemployment guided by communist politics, that unites County, CTA and Ford workers with immigrant workers and unemployed youth can build the revolutionary communist PLP and open the door to revolution!
About 35 people, mostly high school students, came to a dinner-forum about the election, the economic crisis and the Boeing strike. After a clear presentation showing that Obama and McCain were both financed by big bankers and both support wider war, there was a very lively discussion. A student who went to support Boeing workers told about the militancy of the strikers and their openness to CHALLENGE. He invited the rest to help distribute it at factories and demonstrate in support of Boeing strikers.
The discussion emphasized how, while both McCain and Obama are capitalist politicians, Obama appeals to our friends who are angry about racism and attacks on education, health care and jobs. U.S. imperialism is in crisis. Preparations are being made for wider war. The bosses need to win young people to fight in this war, and an important goal of Obama’s candidacy is winning young people to support this system.
A comrade mentioned the new Spike Lee movie, “Miracle at St. Anna” as an example of this. In an interview in the 9/25/08 Los Angeles Times, Lee says, “It [the election of Obama as the first African American president] is going to happen,(and) I think that that is a sign of the greatness of this country” and uses a scene from the movie to make his point. Bishop [a black soldier in the movie] asks, ‘Why are we here? This is not our war.’ And Stamps [another black soldier] answers, ‘I am doing this for the future. I am doing this for my children.’” Both the movie and the Obama campaign are all about trying to win youth and workers to see the coming inter-imperialist war for profits as “our war.”
Many students at the forum pledged to expose the election as the bosses’ campaign to sucker young people into fighting against their class brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Many also pledged to help support the Boeing strike. They also took extra CHALLENGES, and asked when the next meeting was. The only war which is, in reality, “OUR WAR” is the revolutionary war which will put the working class in power and enable us to build a communist society. And we’re not waiting for a miracle — we’re taking steps now to make this a reality.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM, October 6 — The financial meltdown of world capitalism is prompting workers to fight back, refusing to pay for the bosses’ crisis. Today’s general strike here was “a warning to the government and the bosses.” Workers paid no heed to rulers’ pleas “not to aggravate” the shaky economic situation. Instead, workers here set an example for workers internationally by taking the offensive.
Workers are demanding no wage-cuts, a higher minimum wage, equal benefits for young workers, government action to reduce the cost of trips between home and the workplace, higher welfare benefits, and lower taxes on workers and higher taxes on the rich and the corporations.
The strike shut the country’s major factories, such as Audi (auto) and Sonaca (aeronautics) in the Brussels area and the Charleroi steel mills. Work stoppages and workers’ on-the-job mass assemblies hit banks and superstores. Teachers struck nation-wide, as did postal workers and workers in national and local governments. Some cities (like Sambreville) decided to close “in a show of solidarity” rather than be shut by municipal workers.
Antwerp and Bruges, in Flemish-speaking regions, ground to a halt, as did Charleroi and Liège in French-speaking areas. The subway, trams and buses in Brussels — Belgium’s capital and the seat of the major European Union institutions — were all at a standstill. Practically no trains were running, disrupting both domestic traffic and travel to Amsterdam, Cologne and Paris.
On June 6, 100,000 workers had demonstrated in Brussels demanding the government take emergency measures to defend their purchasing power. Since then only prices have risen: food up 7.9%; electricity up 20%; natural gas up 50%; and heating oil up 59%.
The Belgian bosses’ answer to that demonstration was a new round of downsizing, repeated attacks on such public services as education, transport and health care, an attempt to impose a wage freeze and to make any improvement in welfare benefits dependent on a reduction in the corporate tax rate.
However, the power of the workers is being derailed by the leadership of the three major unions, the socialist FGTB, the Christian CSC, and the liberal CGSLB, which only want to influence the government’s proposed budget, scheduled for October 14.
In this period of global crisis and endless wars, the bosses — even if they give workers some crumbs — will try to take them away as soon as possible. The best victory workers can gain from these struggles is to turn them into schools for communism, forging the revolutionary leadership needed to fight for real workers’ power: communism.
GREENVILLE, S.C., October 7 — The Gestapo-like immigration police (Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE) has struck terror again, raiding the Columbia Farms poultry plant today and arresting 330 immigrant workers. Some 450 ICE agents started the raid at the 9:00 AM shift-change, breaking up families and leaving children without their parents.
They burst in like Nazi storm troopers, terrorizing workers. Similar to previous mass raids in a Laurel, Miss. electronics plant and an Iowa meat-processing plant, the agents blocked the gates to prevent workers from escaping. They then separated workers, giving blue wristbands to U.S. citizens and immigrants with resident cards, enabling them to leave.
Today we see the biggest anti-immigrant attacks “since the dragnet-style sweeps of the 1950s known as ‘Operation Wetback.’ On any given day, more than 30,000 ‘illegal’ immigrants are crowded into jail cells awaiting deportation. Annual deportations now exceed a quarter million, the highest level in U.S. history… This year there have been nearly 5,000 arrests, 10 times the level of just five years ago.” (Edward Alden, NY Post, 10/12). The claimed aim of the raids is to catch people guilty of I.D. thefts and those working without “proper documents.” But as Alden says, “the raids are conducted in headline-grabbing fashion designed to incite fear among other undocumented workers.”
The real aim is to terrorize immigrant and all workers to work for less and under rotten conditions, in order to produce super-profits for the bosses. So this is basically a terror attack against the entire working class. The same methods ICE is using today will be directed against any workers fighting for their jobs or for decent conditions, particularly in this age of economic meltdown.
The rulers are already preparing for any major fight-back against their economic crisis. The 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team is returning from Iraq to be used as “an on-call federal response force for…emergencies.” (Army Times, 9/8)
Workers who support such raids, thinking they “will preserve jobs for Americans,” are not only fooling themselves but betraying their interests and those of the entire working class.
Over 10,000 public health workers will meet in San Diego for this year’s American Public Health Association (APHA) convention. The theme is “Health Care Without Borders.” The meeting occurs amid a global capitalist crisis and a growing trend towards fascism and world war.
APHA leaders will try to convince us to work quietly in our clinics and labs and not challenge the vicious out-of-control capitalist system. Last fall, the reality of anti-immigrant racism was dramatized when wildfires in the San Diego area burned undocumented immigrant workers to death as they made their way from the Mexican border, hiding from racist immigration agents in a wooded area.
APHA’s theory differs sharply from its practice. Its Governing Council has adopted resolutions against the Afghanistan and Iraq wars but every year military recruiters and billion-dollar defense contractors have lavish exhibits at the meeting. Attempts to exclude them were squashed by Executive Director Dr. Georges Benjamin, the former Director of Emergency Medicine at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
After 9/11, APHA leaders tried to tighten federal control over public health, coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security. Benjamin’s Washington-based APHA staff has consistently supported federal efforts to bring the public health workforce into line with the “national security” agenda but rank-and-file workers and students resisted.
This year, despite the pro-immigrant theme and the meeting’s location adjacent to Mexico, no anti-racist action is planned. Meanwhile U.S. government anti-immigrant racism gives the green light to gutter racists like the Minutemen, APHA could fight this. Imagine 10,000 public health workers picketing the racist border fence in San Diego!
The convention meets just days before the presidential election. Most public health workers deplore the terrible toll racism takes on the health of black, Latino and immigrant workers. The vast majority of APHA members support Obama for president. They view an election of a black president as striking a blow against racism. But just as selection of Dr. Benjamin, a prominent black health figure as APHA’s Executive Director did not stop racist cutbacks and hospital closings nation-wide, electing Obama will not lessen the systemic racist attacks against exploited and uninsured workers. He promises to expand the Iraq war into Pakistan and carry out the bankers’ orders to resolve the financial crisis.
A better world for the people and communities we serve will require more than a different defender of capitalism. It requires a different SYSTEM, communism, led by the international working class that produces everything.
On Obama’s Chicago South Side, 13 health clinics were closed in 2007, affecting more than one million uninsured workers in Cook County. More than 80% of County patients are black and Latino. In Washington, D.C., the White House is surrounded by a racist AIDS epidemic that rivals any super-exploited country. Either we will serve the people or the bankers. It will soon become clearer who Obama serves. It must become clearer who we serve as well.