Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dr. Tiller's Blood is on Bill O'Reilly's Hands



While Bill O'Reilly did not pull the trigger he is partially responsable for the murder of Dr. Tiller.

His casual advocacy of violence towards this doctor is beyond all decency.

It is time to tell every advertiser who places ads upon his show that we will not buy their products so long as they support this terrorist advocate

Bill O'Reilly's Holy War Against George Tiller

George Tiller, the Kansas abortion doctor murdered at the church where he served as a deacon earlier today, for some time now, both with incendiary rhetoric and by dispatching producers Jesse Watters and Porter Barry to ambush him, his lawyer, and the Governor of Kansas.

O'Reilly began his jihad against Tiller back in 2005 and, according to Salon, Tiller's been mentioned on 28 separate occasions on his show. In addition to dubbing him "Tiller the Baby-Killer," O'Reilly has referred to Tiller's clinic as a "death mill" and called his work "Nazi stuff" for which he has "blood on his hands."

Continue Reading at:

http://gawker.com/5273612/bill-oreillys-holy-war-against-george-tiller

Why the Pentagon Is Probably Lying About its Supressed Sodomy and Rape Photos

By Naomi Wolf, AlterNet
Posted on May 30, 2009, Printed on May 31, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/140357/

The Telegraph of London broke the news -- because the U.S. press is in a drugged stupor - -- that the photos President Barack Obama is refusing to release of detainee abuse depict, among other sexual tortures, an American soldier raping a female detainee and a male translator raping a male prisoner.

The paper claims the photos also show anal rape of prisoners with foreign objects such as wires and lightsticks. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba calls the images "horrific" and "indecent" (but absurdly agrees that Obama should not release them -- proving once again that the definition of hypocrisy is the assertion that the truth is in poor taste).

Predictably, a few hours later, the Pentagon issues a formal denial.

It is very likely that the Pentagon lying. This is probably exactly what the photos show, because it happened. Precisely these exact sex crimes -- these exact images and these very objects - -- are familiar and well-documented to those of us who follow closely rights organizations reports of what has already been confirmed.

As I wrote last year in my piece on sex crimes against detainees, "Sex Crimes in the White House," highly perverse, systematic sexual torture and sexual humiliation was, original documents reveal, directed from the top:

  • President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice were present in meetings where sexual humiliation was discussed as policy.
  • The Defense Authorization Act of 2007 was written specifically to allow certain kinds of sexual abuse, such as forced nakedness, which is illegal and understood by domestic and international law to be a form of sexual assault.
  • Rumsfeld is in print and on the record consulting with subordinates about the policy and practice of sexual humiliation, in a collection of documents obtained by the ACLU by a Freedom of Information Act filing compiled in Jameel Jaffer's important book The Torture Administration.

The image of the female prisoner, probably Iraqi, being sexually assaulted? That image, or a similar one, has been widely seen in the Muslim world. Reports of the rape scenes described have also appeared in rights organizations summaries since 2004.

And scores of detainees who have told their stories to rights organizations have told independently confirming accounts of a highly consistent practice of sexual torture at U.S.-held prisons, including having their genitals slashed with razors, electrodes placed on genitals, and being told the U.S. military would find and rape their mothers.

Is systemic sex crimes practiced by the U.S. in a consequence of the lawlessness of "the war on terror" surprising to those of us who work on issues of sexual abuse and war? It is totally predictable: When you give soldiers anywhere in the world the power, let alone the mandate, to hold women or men helpless, without recourse to law, kidnap them as a matter of policy -- as the U.S. military kidnapped the wives of "insurgents" in order to compel them to turn themselves in -- strip them naked, and threaten them, you have a completely predictable recipe for mass sexual assault. The magisterial study of rape in war, Susan Brownmiller's Men, Women and Rape, proves that.

But what is far scarier about these images Obama refuses to release and that the Pentagon is likely to be lying about now, is that it is not the evidence of lower-level soldiers being corrupted by power -- it is proof of the fact that the most senior leadership -- Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, with Rice's collusion -- were running a global sex-crime trafficking ring with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Baghram Air Base as the holding sites.

The sexual nature of the torture also gives the lie to Cheney's and others' defense of torture as somehow functional: The sexual perversity mandated from the top reveals that it was just plain old sick sadism gratified by a very sick form of pleasure. I also pointed out in "Sex Crimes in the White House" that the escalation of the sexual abuse showed the same classic pattern shown by sex criminals everywhere -- you start with stripping the victim, keeping him or her completely in your power, and then you engage in greater and more violent excesses with more and more self-justification.

The lightsticks, for instance? We in the human rights world know about the lightsticks. Probably dozens of prisoners were sodomized with lightsticks. In the highly credible and very fully documented Physicians for Human Rights report, "Broken Bodies, Broken Lives," doctors investigated the wounds and scars of former prisoners, did analysis of the injuries, assessed the independent verification of their stories, and reported that indeed many detainees had in fact been savagely raped with lightsticks and by other objects inserted into their rectums, many sustaining internal injuries.

This same report confirms that female military or other unidentified U.S.-affiliated personnel were used to sexually abuse detainees by smearing menstrual blood on their faces, seizing their genitals violently, or rubbing them in a sexual manner against their will. In other credible accounts collected by human rights organizations, many former prisoners in U.S.-held prisons report that they had been tortured or humiliated by female agents who appeared to be dressed like prostitutes.

Indeed, early on, intelligence spokespeople boasted in the New York Times of the use of female agents to sexually abuse and humiliate prisoners: it was called in their own material "invasion of space by a female."

Today at lunch, I happen to have sat next to the lovely and brave Dale Haddon, the "face of L'Oreal," who is also a tireless advocate for women and children through UNICEF. She is heading for Congo, to help hold accountable rape and sex crimes institutionalized as acts of war. Those criminals will face trials and convictions.

In Sierra Leone, the soldiers and generals who used rape as an instrument of war have been tried and many convicted. In Bosnia, likewise. But at another lunch party, Haddon, who travels in many circles, may well be seated next to our own former leaders, violent and systemic sex criminals who are still at large.

When will we convict our very own global rapists, the ones who gave the U.S. the hellish distinction of turning us into the superpower of sex crime? Convictions must come, but first we must see the evidence.

And women especially, who understand how sexual abuse and rape can break the spirit in a uniquely anguishing way, should be raising their voices loudly.

Whom are we protecting by not releasing the photos? The victims? Hardly. It's, as feminists have been saying for decades, not their shame. The perpetrators? Their crimes are archived; if not this administration, another may well obey the law and release the images, which are evidentiary (again: that rape and sodomy were directed form the top; prosecute those at the top).

These photos go to exactly why Obama is burning what is left of the shreds of the Constitution by calling for pre-emptive detention for about 100 detainees. It ain't because they are "too dangerous," his pathetic justification. It is because their bodies are crime scenes. It is because the torture, including possibly the sexual assault, they experienced is likely to be so horrific that if they were ever to have their day in court it is others whom Obama needs who would be incriminated.

In the 19th century, when a woman had been raped, or had experienced sexual abuse in the family, the paterfamilias would say she was crazy, get her declared "too dangerous" to be free, and lock her up forever so her story would be interred with her.

That is what Obama is trying to do with pre-emptive detention for these detainees.

Well, America? Do you want to live with this?

Remember: History shows categorically that once the state can lock "them" up without a fair trial, torture, rape them or sodomize them -- well; sooner or later it will be able to do the same to your children or mine; or to you and me.

Naomi Wolf is the author of Give Me Liberty (Simon and Schuster, 2008), the sequel to the New York Times best-seller The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (Chelsea Green, 2007).

Saturday, May 30, 2009

High Court rules against working women

Published May 29, 2009 10:34 PM

On May 18, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a stunning blow to women workers, overturned lower courts’ decisions and ruled that AT&T, the seventh-largest corporation in the world, could exclude maternity leaves when calculating pension benefits.

In the case of AT&T Corporation v. Hulteen, seven of the nine justices ruled that since the plaintiffs took pregnancy leaves prior to the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the corporation was lawfully permitted to decrease their retirement funds. They claimed the law was not retroactive.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the court, and Justice Stephen Breyer said the court allowed AT&T to pay the plaintiffs “for the rest of their lives, lower pension benefits than colleagues who worked for AT&T no longer than they did.” (New York Times, May 19) They said the PDA should have ended such discrimination.

Noreen Hulteen, Linda Porter, Eleanor Collet and Elizabeth Snyder began their maternity leaves before 1976. Hulteen and Porter were ordered by AT&T executives to go home two months earlier than they’d planned, when their pregnancies became apparent.

Hulteen was hospitalized after childbirth for an unrelated medical problem and missed 240 days of work. The company paid her for only 30 days, its maximum for “personal” time off. They considered pregnancy leave “personal” time then and denied her disability leave. When Hulteen retired in 1994, AT&T excluded 210 days when determining her pension benefits.

The corporation also deducted uncredited “personal” days off for maternity leaves when it calculated Collet’s pension in 1998 and Snyder’s in 2000. AT&T claimed this was lawful, since the leaves were prior to the PDA’s passage.

In 1979 AT&T made pregnancy leaves equivalent to disability leaves, but did not make the policy retroactive prior to 1978.

The women’s movement had pushed hard for legal protection for pregnant workers and won the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978. The law forbade pregnancy-based discrimination. It required that maternity leave be treated equally with other medical and disability leaves.

In 2001, the four women sued AT&T and asserted that the PDA outlawed paying them lower pensions by deducting their pregnancy leaves. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiffs, but AT&T then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs and the Communication Workers of America, which represents most of AT&T’s workers, had filed sex- and pregnancy-based discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

New ruling legalizes discrimination

AT&T has continued to discriminate for 31 years since the PDA was enacted. Thousands of women have faced discrimination twice, first when having to take unpaid maternity leave prior to 1979, and then when being denied full retirement pensions years later.

Women’s rights activists warn of the dangerous repercussions of this decision for women workers and their families. They say it can affect thousands of women who took pregnancy leaves years ago and now face retirement.

Marcia D. Greenberger, National Women’s Law Center co-president, stressed: “By authorizing AT&T to treat women differently today based on maternity leaves they took in the 1970s, the Court is allowing the perpetuation of pregnancy discrimination in damaging and unjustifiable ways. ... This ruling erects barriers to the equal treatment of women in the workplace and gives a green light to employers to continue penalizing female employees who have borne children.” (nwlc.org)

Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said: “The [Court] ... dealt a painful and serious blow to ... working women and their families who rely on their retirement benefits. Its ruling [in this case] forces women to pay a high price today because their employers discriminated yesterday.

“The decision couldn’t come at a worse time,” said Ness. “In the current economic climate, women and their families cannot afford to see their retirement benefits kept lower by discriminatory workplace policies that should have been remedied years ago.” (civilrights.org)

In this case, the Supreme Court has again revealed its pro-corporate bias and demonstrated that it is not a neutral body. It found yet one more way to deny women equal pay and benefits.

The ruling also reveals the court’s collusion with the corporations to help them maximize profits. How much of AT&T’s $12.9 billion in profits in 2008 and first-quarter profits of $3.13 billion this year, was made by denying thousands of women equal pension funds due to pregnancy discrimination? Over the decades, how much in profits did the corporation make by denying women paid maternity leaves that they earned?

The Communication Workers union said the court’s decision means the “end to the legal challenges brought by CWA and others.” The union said that thousands of AT&T employees will “end up with lower pensions and other retirement benefits than their colleagues who did not take pregnancy-related leave,” but had equal work records.

“It is also an unfortunate ‘win’ for AT&T, whose continued pursuit of this appeal shows us once again how little regard they have for their employees.” (cwa-comtech.org)

The court’s ruling could endanger even more women’s retirement benefits, a serious threat today given the economic crisis, and exacerbate the very real impoverishment of aging women workers. Women still face wage inequality, especially those from African-American, Latina, Asian, Arab and Native communities, and lower Social Security payments and pensions.

Despite prohibitive legislation, the workplace is still rife with pregnancy discrimination, which occurs frequently during and after pregnancy when women return to work. Claims to the EEOC objecting to this practice grew 65 percent from 1992 to 2007, filed mostly by women of color and those who work in industries where women predominate in the work force, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. (infozine.com)

It is capitalism and the profit motive that underlie pregnancy-related and pension discrimination and other sexist, anti-worker practices. This should be exposed and opposed.


Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year, says Kofi Annan thinktank

Climate change is greatest humanitarian challenge facing the world as heatwaves, floods and forest fires become more severe

A family wades through flood waters to catch a relief boat, north-east of Patna, India. Photograph: Manish Swarup/AP

Climate change is already responsible for 300,000 deaths a year and is affecting 300m people, according to the first comprehensive study of the human impact of global warming.

It projects that increasingly severe heatwaves, floods, storms and forest fires will be responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths a year by 2030, making it the greatest humanitarian challenge the world faces.

Economic losses due to climate change today amount to more than $125bn a year — more than the all present world aid. The report comes from former UN secretary general Kofi Annan's thinktank, the Global Humanitarian Forum. By 2030, the report says, climate change could cost $600bn a year.

Civil unrest may also increase because of weather-related events, the report says: "Four billion people are vulnerable now and 500m are now at extreme risk. Weather-related disasters ... bring hunger, disease, poverty and lost livelihoods. They pose a threat to social and political stability".

If emissions are not brought under control, within 25 years, the report states:

• 310m more people will suffer adverse health consequences related to temperature increases

• 20m more people will fall into poverty

• 75m extra people will be displaced by climate change.

Climate change is expected to have the most severe impact on water supplies . "Shortages in future are likely to threaten food production, reduce sanitation, hinder economic development and damage ecosystems. It causes more violent swings between floods and droughts. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to become water stressed by climate change by the 2030. ".

The study says it is impossible to be certain who will be displaced by 2030, but that tens of millions of people "will be driven from their homelands by weather disasters or gradual environmental degradation. The problem is most severe in Africa, Bangladesh, Egypt, coastal zones and forest areas. ."

The study compares for the first time the number of people affected by climate change in rich and poor countries. Nearly 98% of the people seriously affected, 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters and 90% of the total economic losses are now borne by developing countries. The populations most at risk it says, are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, south Asia and the small island states of the Pacific.

But of the 12 countries considered least at risk, including Britain, all but one are industrially developed. Together they have made nearly $72bn available to adapt themselves to climate change but have pledged only $400m to help poor countries. "This is less than one state in Germany is spending on improving its flood defences," says the report.

The study comes as diplomats from 192 countries prepare to meet in Bonn next week for UN climate change talks aimed at reaching a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in December in Copenhagen. "The world is at a crossroads. We can no longer afford to ignore the human impact of climate change. This is a call to the negotiators to come to the most ambitious agreement ever negotiated or to continue to accept mass starvartion, mass sickness and mass migration on an ever growing scale," said Kofi Annan, who launched the report today in London.

Annan blamed politians for the current impasse in the negotiations and widespread ignorance in many countries. "Weak leadership, as evident today, is alarming. If leaders cannot assume responsibility they will fail humanity. Agreement is in the interests of every human being."

Barabra Stocking, head of Oxfam said: "Adaptation efforts need to be scaled up dramatically.The world's poorest are the hardest hit, but they have done the least to cause it.

Nobel peace prizewinner Wangari Maathai, said: "Climate change is life or death. It is the new global battlefield. It is being presented as if it is the problem of the developed world. But it's the developed world that has precipitated global warming."

Calculations for the report are based on data provided by the World Bank, the World Health organisation, the UN, the Potsdam Insitute For Climate Impact Research, and others, including leading insurance companies and Oxfam. However, the authors accept that the estimates are uncertain and could be higher or lower. The paper was reviewed by 10 of the world's leading experts incluing Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change, Jeffrey Sachs, of Columbia University and Margareta Wahlström, assistant UN secretary general for disaster risk reduction.


Liberal apologists for empire

Ashley Smith reviews an important book that contrasts pro-war traditions of liberalism with the revolutionary Marxist opposition to imperialism.

SINCE THE end of the Cold War, the U.S. has justified the expansion of its informal empire with humanitarian rhetoric, claiming that it was protecting victims from despotic governments, from Yugoslavia to Iraq today. Such claims are as old as imperialism itself.

What has been shocking is the host of liberals--and ex-leftists like Christopher Hitchens--who have rallied to cause of empire, swallowing hook, line and sinker U.S. claims of humanitarian motives for imperial war.

In the wake of the fall of Stalinism and disillusionment with postcolonial regimes in the Third World, many liberals and even sections of the left lost their bearings and supported U.S. imperialism--the very force many had opposed as the source of so much oppression and exploitation. Instead, they argued that the U.S. could--and should--solve humanitarian crises in the world. These pro-war liberals became, in the apt phrase of author Jean Bricmont, useful idiots for empire.

Richard Seymour's new book, The Liberal Defense of Murder, is a tour de force--a magnificent attack on pro-war liberals today and their precursors. His book provides a genealogy of liberal and reformist support for empire, from the European conquest of the world to the U.S. occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq today.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

WITH THE expansion of European imperialism at the dawn of the modern period, liberal intellectuals supplied their ruling classes with ideas, especially white supremacy in its various guises, to justify conquest and war.

Seymour exposes how leading figures of liberal thought, such as Hugo Grotius and John Stuart Mill, played this role for their respective empires. For example, Mill wrote in his famous essay "On Liberty" that "despotism is legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end."

As Seymour argues, "Liberal imperialism thus constructed the colonial subjects at best as passive victims, needful of tutelage, capable of self-government after a spell of European supremacy, and at worst as fanatics and murderers, racially degenerate peoples given to tyranny and unnatural practices, fit only for subordination."

With the rise of capitalist imperialism, however, an anti-imperialist tradition developed in opposition, spearheaded in the 19th century by Marxism. Seymour shows how revolutionary Marxists have always provided the backbone for robust opposition to empire.

Initially, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels themselves shared some of the illusions about how European conquest might play a progressive role in facilitating capitalist development, thereby make possible a working-class revolution in the colonies. However, both consistently opposed imperial conquest and exposed its brutality. Moreover, Marx and Engels championed the anti-colonial and anti-imperial movements, such as in Poland and Ireland.

Marx also showed how colonialism, especially in the case of Britain's occupation of Ireland, instilled prejudices among workers that prevented the unity of the working class and oppressed peoples against their common exploiters.

A full-blown Marxist critique of imperialism and national oppression, however, would have to wait for the Russian revolutionary Lenin in the early 20th century. Lenin elaborated a Marxist theory in support of colonized nations' right of self-determination as part of building an international working-class movement for socialism.

Seymour argues that leftists who have ended up joining liberals in support of imperialism have either abandoned Marxism, or were reformist socialists to begin with. While they may have retained some critique of society from the left of center, this did not extend to opposing imperialism. Thus, the British Fabian socialists and the Labour Party always supported the British Empire's rule over India and other colonies.

In another example, the reformist wing of Germany's Social Democratic Party, led by Eduard Bernstein, openly supported, in terms that are eerily familiar today, what he called a "humane" and "nonaggressive colonialism." Bernstein declared--with complete disregard for the facts--that, "under direct European rule, savages are without exception better off than they were before."

Seymour writes:

Liberal and socialist supporters of empire accepted the moral authority of the polities in which they were active, and identified with their interests and priorities...Consistently denying the right (and even ability) of the indigenous population to resist subjection, believing the worst about them and the best about the colonial overlords, they used their influence over "hearts and minds" to neutralize liberal and leftist criticism of imperial forms of exploitation.

Tragically, most leading socialists of the Second International had abandoned revolutionary Marxism for reformism by the eve of the First World War. Thus, instead of opposing the gigantic inter-imperial slaughter over the carve-up of the world, they backed their "fatherlands"--their own capitalist states. The exception was Lenin's Bolshevik Party in Russia, which along with a revolutionary minority in other countries, argued that workers could achieve peace only by overthrowing the main enemy--their own governments.

The Bolsheviks succeeded. The Russian Revolution of 1917 brought workers to power and took Russia out of the war. But other revolutions that erupted during that period failed, isolating Russia's workers' state. In the late 1920s, Russia suffered an internal counter-revolution at the hands of Stalin and the rising state bureaucracy. Stalinism then became an imperialist force in its own right, conquering Eastern Europe after the Second World War.

Stalin effectively controlled Communist Parties around the world, instructing them to defend Russia's conquests. And when Russia ordered the parties to curry favor with their own governments, this meant giving support their own countries' empires.

For example, the French Communist Party endorsed France's colonial rule over Algeria. In another example, the British Communist Party joined Stalin's Russia in supporting the founding of the state of Israel, and its consequent dispossession of nearly 1 million Palestinians of their land.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

AFTER THIS survey of European imperialism and its left-wing apologists, Seymour reveals how similar patterns developed with the rise of U.S. imperialism. He emphasizes that the U.S. was founded as a "herrenvolk democracy"--a white republic, built on chattel slavery and genocide against Native Americans and buttressed with racism. American liberalism and much of the reformist left provided the ideological justification for this.

Seymour recounts how the U.S. became a major imperialist power at the end of the 19th century. President Woodrow Wilson, in office from 1913 to 1921, embodied the official liberal face of empire. He declared that the U.S. must batter down barriers to its commerce even if "the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused." Unsurprisingly, Wilson was a racist who supported the Ku Klux Klan, and thought "politically undeveloped races" were incapable of self-government.

Most U.S. liberals supported the new imperialism and America's late entry into the First World War in 1917. The Socialist Party, however, opposed the war, even though elements in the party's right wing supported it. Soon afterward, the party split, with the left founding the Communist Party (CP), which resolutely opposed U.S. imperialism.

The CP's anti-imperialist politics didn't survive the Stalinist takeover of the party, however. After Nazi Germany invaded Russia in 1941, Stalin ordered the party to abandon its opposition to the Second World War. Thus, CP members, who had played leading roles in the labor movement, supported a ban on wartime strikes. The party went on to advocate the internment of Japanese Americans, expel its Japanese membership and declare "Communism to be 20th Century Americanism."

Seymour argues that without opposition from a revolutionary Marxist left of any significant size, the U.S. was able to create a base of popular support for imperialism. He contends:

What made way for the emergence of a solid hegemonic imperial constituency was the de-radicalization of the Left and its near-collapse under the bitter experience of McCarthyism and associated forms of repression.

Once again, the USSR played a central role here: the betrayal of the early democratic promise of the Russian Revolution was crushing for many; and the repeated, bewildering change in Moscow's party line were disconcerting for those who kept the faith. Socialism was therefore rendered a singularly unattractive proposition to most Americans, particularly given the relatively stability of the post-war West.

In the wake of the Second World War, Cold War liberalism, represented by Democratic Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, became hegemonic in the U.S. It promised mild tinkering with the system at home and support for anti-communist right wing dictatorships abroad.

Liberal and reformists like the Socialist Party's Norman Thomas formed an "anti-totalitarian" left in support of American imperialism against fascism and Stalinism. They invoked Hannah Arendt's work on totalitarianism to justify support of U.S. imperialism--even though Arendt, in fact, argued that imperialism itself was a source of totalitarianism. They proved Arendt correct by supporting U.S.-backed right-wing dictators and U.S. imperialism in Vietnam.

The Cold War liberal consensus soon met a challenge, however: the New Left that grew out of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. These struggles exposed racism and social inequality at home and opposed imperialism abroad.

Seymour argues that neoconservatism--exemplified most recently by the hawks who led the Bush administration--formed as a reaction against this radicalization. He shows that neocons were actually "Cold War liberals who had become terrified by the explosion of radicalism they were witnessing on campuses, in Black neighborhoods and in Third World countries."

In making this case, Seymour debunks the widespread myth that the neocons, the leading pro-imperialist intellectual current of modern times, were an outgrowth of Trotskyism. While it is true that a few ex-Trotskyists became neocons, they abandoned Marxism and Trotskyism in the process of transforming themselves into apologists for empire.

With the retreat of the social movements in the 1970s and the disillusionment with post-Mao China among New Leftists, U.S. imperialism took the opportunity to regroup and rehabilitate its project. Successive administrations found willing aides de camp among not only neoconservatives, but also the "anti-totalitarian" left and ex-Maoists intellectuals.

France, which had been the scene of a new flowering of radicalism in 1968, transformed itself into the capital of European intellectual reaction. Former Maoists like France's Bernard Kouchner or Bernard-Henri Levy (BHL) joined the so-called New Philosophers to reassert Eurocentrism against Third Worldism. They upheld the right and duty of imperial powers to defeat totalitarianism, and bring civilization to the barbarians by any means necessary.

These intellectuals transmogrified each new supposed enemy into a totalitarian--a "new Hitler" that U.S. imperialism had a duty to overthrow. Within a decade, ex-radical intellectuals around the world were fronting for imperialism. For example, BHL in France and Paul Berman in the U.S. supported the contras, the reactionary death squads that fought against the Nicaraguan Revolution.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

AFTER THE collapse of the USSR in 1991, the rout was nearly complete. Many leftists capitulated to the market and U.S. imperialism. In Britain, the ex-Marxist intellectual Fred Halliday supported the Gulf War, declaring Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to as a "contemporary variant of European fascism." Ex-leftist intellectuals of all sorts backed intervention in Yugoslavia and Kosovo to stop yet another Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic.

The Canadian-British writer Michael Ignatieff explicitly called for a new, enlightened imperialism from "the democratic free world, the Christian West," to address the crisis in the developing world, where independence, in his view, had "an age of ethnic cleansing and state failure." Seymour writes, "Thus, empire is necessary to reconstitute the 'global order of stable nation states,' necessarily led by that country that the historian Gerald Horne has justly called the 'world heavyweight champion of white supremacy.'"

Following the 9/11 attack, these left apologists for empire went into high gear. They denounced "Islamofascism" in support of U.S. imperialism's attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. As Seymour writes, "The decade of humanitarian intervention provided the ideological reflexes for justifying the war on Iraq."

In the wake of revelations about the oppressive, corrupt warlord state the U.S. installed in Afghanistan and the humanitarian catastrophe it caused in Iraq, many on the pro-war left have retreated in embarrassment.

But instead of blaming the real problem--U.S. imperialism--figures like Michael Ignatieff, in a reprise of Rudyard Kipling's "white man's burden," attacked Iraqis as incapable of self-government. And he and others continue to demonize all resistance to imperialism for being barbaric, fanatic, illiberal, and, of course, totalitarian.

The liberal and reformist intellectuals have played a vital role in justifying the new imperialism. As Seymour argues:

The liberal façade is important for the empire, because those claiming to draw on leftist traditions are not, like their militarist friends on the right, sullied by having espoused principles of inequality for decades. Liberals and socialists can claim without embarrassment to support the empire because of their profound internationalism, because of their egalitarian commitments, because they hate fascism, and because they favor gender inequality. A look at what they have helped to rationalize and humanize, and the means they have used to do so, suggests that the colonial habits of mind have not left us.

Seymour concludes that the pro-war left is really nothing new, but is a re-emergent tradition of intellectual justification of empire.

Seymour has written a brilliant intertwined history of imperialism and the collaborationist role that liberal and reformist intellectuals and parties have played over the last couple of hundred years. It is a must read to re-arm a generation of leftists.

But there is a vital history of anti-imperialism and anti-racism in the U.S.--one that Seymour does not sufficiently explore.

This dissident tradition includes the Anti-Imperialist League during the Spanish-American War of 1898, the left wing of the Socialist Party during the First World War, and the vital anti-imperialist current that developed during the mass movement against the Vietnam War in the 1960s. While Seymour refers to this tradition in his book, he focuses more on the dominant tradition of liberal and reformist collaboration with imperialism.

This dissident anti-imperialist tradition must be resurrected. It can serve as an example for a new generation of activists faced with Barack Obama, who, in a rerun of Cold War liberalism, promises to pass reforms at home, while he pursues an imperial agenda in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East and the rest of the world.

But this is a minor reservation about a pivotal book. Perhaps the most important theme of the book is the necessity for anti-imperialists--as Seymour argued at the Left Forum in New York City this spring--to take Marxism and Lenin's Bolsheviks seriously.

The Marxist tradition offers the best strategy to oppose imperialism defend the right of nations to self-determination--and put an end to imperial wars through international working class revolution.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Review: Books

Richard Seymour, The Liberal Defense of Murder [1]. Verso, 2008, 358 pages, $29.95.

‘Settlement’ exposes politician-financier corruption

Published May 28, 2009 9:24 PM

Carlyle Group, the world’s second largest private equity corporation, agreed on May 14 to pay $20 million as part of an out-of-court settlement for its role in the “pay-to-play” corruption scandal involving public pension funds. The out-of-court settlement shields all Carlyle executives from any criminal liability.

Carlyle is a private equity firm that enjoys close connections to the Bush family and a number of other prominent politicians. It is one of a handful of financial firms that have been ensnared by an investigation launched by the New York State attorney general. Begun more than two years ago, the investigation has now spread to a host of other states as it has become apparent that the trail of corruption extends far beyond the Empire State.

The unfolding investigation has exposed the process whereby private equity corporations bribe politicians with campaign contributions and direct kickbacks. Once in office, the politician steers public pension funds toward investing with the private equity corporation that backed his or her campaign.

Hank Morris, a top aide to former New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, was recently indicted for an alleged role in the scandal. Morris allegedly received at least $15 million in kickbacks from investment firms like Carlyle Group and Quadrangle Group in return for giving the firms access to the retirement funds of public employees.

Quadrangle Group was co-founded by Steven Rattner, who is currently overseeing the attack on autoworkers as head of President Barack Obama’s auto task force. Rattner was serving as a senior executive at Quadrangle during the years the company was allegedly paying kickbacks to Hank Morris and others.

As part of the settlement, Carlyle Group has agreed to sign on to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Public Pension Code of Conduct. The code will place restrictions on campaign contributions from financial firms to politicians who control public pension funds.

Cuomo said of the code, “This is a revolutionary agreement. It ends pay-to-play. It bans the selling of access. It puts the political power brokers out of business.” (Bloomberg, May 15)

If only it were that easy. While Cuomo claims victory over corporate corruption and audaciously claims to be putting “the political power brokers out of business,” the reality is that his settlement with Carlyle amounts to an ineffectual slap on the wrist. The watered-down code will do little to end the symbiotic relationship between corporations and politicians.

The settlement allows Carlyle to essentially sweep serious allegations of corruption under the rug in return for the $20 million payment. While $20 million is an almost-unimaginable fortune for the hundreds of thousands of city and state employees whose retirement funds Carlyle gained access to, for Carlyle itself, $20 million is a drop in the bucket. Carlyle is a financial behemoth with a war chest of more than $85.5 billion.

Carlyle received more than $878 million in investments from the New York State Common Retirement Fund alone. Carlyle extracted “management and incentive” fees totaling $37.5 million from the retirement fund. (ABC, May 14)

When discussing the investigation at a recent press conference, Cuomo likened some of the political players involved in the scandal to Boss Tweed, the infamously corrupt New York City politician from the mid-nineteenth century. Before proclaiming that his new code of conduct agreement will put an end to pay-to-play scandals, Cuomo should ponder the fact that the same kind of corruption that was taking place more than 150 years ago is still going on today.

Under capitalism, politicians are paid representatives of the banks and corporations. They enable the unceasing assault by the corporations and banks against the workers and oppressed. Politicians served this role in the early stages of capitalism in Boss Tweed’s day, and they serve this role in modern global capitalism.

The results of Cuomo’s investigation are yet another confirmation that a tiny minority of billionaire politicians, bankers and bosses are perpetrating a perpetual rip-off of the workers and oppressed. They are robbing us from the cradle to the grave.

The same politicians who hand out the retirement funds of public employees to private equity corporations are slashing budgets for public education and social services for children and youth. They are the same politicians who are overseeing the trillion-dollar, taxpayer-financed bailouts of the banks and corporations. And they are the same politicians and corporations that are fighting in tandem against pro-worker legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act.

For the workers and oppressed, the pension fund scandal is additional proof that faith in capitalist politicians is misplaced. The power for true and lasting change lies not in the empty rhetoric of capitalist politicians, but rather in the mass worker-led movements that are out in the streets struggling for social and economic justice.

Workers will be gathering for a People’s Summit in Detroit on June 14-17 to strategize and plan ways to strengthen the mass struggle against the corporations and banks and their political enablers. For more information visit www.bailoutpeople.org.


Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The fundamental social division is class, not race or gender

28 May 2009

The introduction of Sonia Sotomayor as President Obama’s first selection for the US Supreme Court took place at a White House media event of a completely choreographed and stereotyped character. Such ceremonies have become an essential part of how America is governed. The less the political system is capable of actually responding to the needs and aspirations of working people, the more it must put on the pretense of concern, using biography as a substitute for policy.

As always on such occasions, the nomination’s “roll-out” was an unrestrained exercise in public tear-jerking. Led by President Obama, who based his own campaign on the marketing of a compelling personal “narrative,” Sotomayor’s elevation was presented as a triumph over all manner of adversity. There were tributes to the humble origins of the future Supreme Court justice, noting her hard-working immigrant parents, her poverty-stricken childhood in a South Bronx housing project, the death of her father when she was nine years old, and even her struggle with juvenile diabetes.

No doubt, it has not been an easy personal journey for Judge Sotomayor, and there can be little doubt that she is as tough as nails. However, amidst all the tributes to Judge Sotomayor’s triumph, one cannot help but think about the conditions that confront the hundreds of thousands of South Bronx residents whom she left behind.

There is another element of Sotomayor’s nomination that deserves analysis. Media coverage of the nomination, and the bulk of the political commentary, liberal and conservative, approving and hostile, focused on the fact that she would become the first Hispanic and third woman to take a seat on the highest US court. The premise of both supporters and detractors was that Sotomayor’s gender and ethnic origins were of decisive importance in evaluating her nomination and determining her likely course on the court.

Totally obliterated in this flood of commentary is the most fundamental social category in American society: class. Sotomayor will go to the Supreme Court, not as the representative or advocate of Hispanics, women or the socially disadvantaged more generally, but as the representative of a definite social class at the top of American society—the financial aristocracy whose interests she and every other federal judge, and the entire capitalist state machine, loyally serve and defend.

Only one “mainstream” bourgeois publication focused on this critical question. That was the Wall Street Journal, whose editorial page serves as a major voice of the ultra-right—denouncing the Sotomayor nomination in strident tones—but whose news pages explored her record as a well-paid commercial litigator and federal judge, on issues of direct interest to big business, including contract law, employment and property rights.

The newspaper quoted several Wall Street lawyers describing Sotomayor as a safe choice for corporate America. “There is no reason for the business community to be concerned,” said one attorney. Barry Ostrager, a partner at Simpson Thacher LLP who defended a unit of J.P. Morgan Chase in a lawsuit over fraudulent pricing of initial public offerings, cited Sotomayor’s role in an appeals court ruling barring the class-action suit. “That ruling demonstrated that in securities litigation, she is in the judicial mainstream,” he told the Journal.

The American ruling class has gone further than any other in the world to suppress any public discussion of class. From the late 1940s on, the anti-communist witch-hunting associated with Senator Joseph McCarthy spearheaded a drive to effectively outlaw any public discussion of socialism, Marxism or the class divisions in American society.

In response to the social eruptions of the 1960s—the civil rights struggles and urban riots, the mass movement against the Vietnam War, and major struggles by the labor movement—the American bourgeoisie began to utilize identity politics to divide and confuse the mass opposition to its policies and block the emergence of the working class as an independent social force.

Black nationalism, “Chicano” nationalism, women’s liberation and gay liberation all emerged, to name only the most heavily promoted forms of identity politics. In each case, real social grievances of significant sections of the American population were divorced from their connection to the socio-economic foundation—the division of society between the relative handful of capitalist owners of the means of production, and the vast majority of the population who must sell their labor power to make a living.

The Democratic Party became the principal vehicle for peddling the politics of race and gender, recruiting a layer of black, female and Hispanic politicians who engage in populist demagogy that uses race and gender to counterfeit an orientation to the interests of the oppressed masses of American society. But Republican administrations have learned how to engage in such posturing as well.

For the past 12 years for instance, under two Democratic presidents and one Republican, the post of US Secretary of State has been occupied by, in succession, a white woman, a black man, a black woman, and a white woman. This exercise in “diversity” has not the slightest progressive significance. It has not democratized American foreign policy or made it one iota more conciliatory to the interests of the oppressed, either internationally or within the United States. Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton are all representatives, not of “blacks” or “women,” but of the most rapacious imperialist ruling class on the planet.

Barack Obama is the culmination of this process. Celebrated as the first African-American president, he has overseen the greatest handover of resources to the billionaires and Wall Street speculators in history. In the restructuring of the auto industry, with ever-escalating demands for cuts in jobs, pay and benefits for auto workers, he has set the stage for the greatest assault on the working class since the Reagan administration smashed the PATCO air traffic controllers strike in 1981 and gave the signal for a nationwide campaign of wage-cutting and union-busting. In this, Obama demonstrates that the class he serves, not the color of his skin or his social origins, is the decisive political factor.

The political development of the American working class requires, first and foremost, the direct and open discussion of the class realities of American society. No country in the world is as deeply and intractably divided along economic lines as the United States, where the top 1 percent of the population owns 40 percent of the wealth and monopolizes 20 percent of the income. Any analysis of the political issues facing working people that does not take these class divisions as the fundamental reality is an exercise in deception and political stultification.

Patrick Martin

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Protests erupt over California Prop 8 ruling

Elizabeth Schulte rounds up reports from around the country on demonstrations to protest the California Supreme Court's decision to uphold a gay marriage ban.

THE MOOD was angry and defiant at protests throughout California and across the country May 26 after the state Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage.

In Los Angeles, where some 15,000 people took to the streets, chants of "Gay, straight, Black, white--same struggle, same fight!" and "No justice, no peace--equal rights now!" rang out into the early morning hours. Protesters held a rainbow flag with the words "These Colors Don't Run, They Fight" written on it.

Thousands more turned out in other California cities--5,000 in San Francisco, 3,000 in San Diego--and across the country after the news emerged that the California Supreme Court had upheld the anti-gay referendum passed last November, even while deciding to recognized some 18,000 same-sex marriages that happened before the measure passed.

Robin Tyler and Diane Olson--two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit decided by the California high court, who were married last year after 16 years together--were at protests in Los Angeles. Tyler, a founder of the Day of Decision [2] Web site, which helped organize the protests nationwide, said in a statement:

Even though our marriage is preserved by today's decision, we take no joy in the fact that marriage equality for almost everyone else has been removed from our state. The upholding of Proposition 8 by the court is a cowardly retreat from the pro-equality stance it took last year, and makes our state a laggard behind pro-equality states like Iowa and most New England states.

California should be following in the footsteps of states like Iowa, Maine and Vermont, which recognized equal marriage rights in the last few months, while the California Supreme Court was deliberating over Prop 8. Instead, the California justices voted 6-1 to uphold last November's ballot initiative that denies same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples.

In May 2008, the same court ruled, in a 4-3 decision, that denying same-sex couples the right to marry amounted to state-sanctioned discrimination. Chief Justice Ronald George said that the court majority based its decision on a 1948 ruling that ended a California prohibition on interracial marriage--20 years before the U.S. Supreme Court did the same.

Last year, George wrote:

[I]n contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation, and, more generally, that an individual's sexual orientation--like a person's race or gender--does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.

With the decision announced yesterday, George and the other California justices dodged this fundamental question of civil rights and hid behind a narrow legal question--whether Prop 8 is an amendment or a revision to the state constitution.

Under the California constitution's equal protection clause, a majority of voters can't revoke equal rights intended for everybody--a "revision" of that clause requires two-thirds approval in the legislature and then a popular vote. But the justices ruled that Prop 8's language--defining marriage as a union "between a man and a woman"--was narrow enough to pass.

This is cold comfort to same-sex couples who are being told to accept separate-but-equal status. As the sole dissenting judge, Carlos Moreno, argued: "Granting same-sex couples all of the rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples, except the right to call their officially recognized and protected family relationship a marriage, still denies them equal treatment."

Prop 8 opponents also rightfully opposed the so-called "compromise" in the decision that sanctioned the 18,000 marriages of same-sex couples performed after the state Supreme Court overturned the previous ban and before Prop 8 passed last November. Plaintiff Diane Olson said that "half-measures accomplish nothing."

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EQUAL MARRIAGE supporters have been organizing for Day of Decision demonstrations for months. More than 100 cities had scheduled responses by May 26--protests or celebrations, depending on the Supreme Court's decision.

-- In San Francisco, shouts of "Shame on you!" rang out from about 1,000 people gathered at City Hall to hear the court's decision when it was released at 10 a.m. From there, protesters marched to the intersection of Grove and Van Ness, led by the group One Struggle One Fight (OSOF), where 150 people took part in a civil disobedience action--holding hands and sitting in a circle--with around 250 people supporting them.

OSOF activist Seth Fowler explained that the group organized civil disobedience "to peacefully and nonviolently elevate the issue of marriage rights into popular consciousness, and to push a civil rights narrative into the mainstream so that it is not seen as merely a narrow gay issue."

Another protest organizer, Ashley Simmons, said, "We chose to have a nonviolent civil disobedience because civil rights struggles come from the bottom up." Fowler added. "There is a place for legislative action, but it's more than appropriate to use civil disobedience to stand up for our rights when the system fails us."

Later in the evening, 5,000 people turned out to a rally and march organized by Equality California. The demonstrators marched from the Civic Center to Yerba Buena Gardens. When police started to arrest a woman, protesters gathered around, and another march through the streets began--as about 1,000 people headed toward the Castro. There, some 300-400 people took part in sit-in at Castro and Market.

Marchers, many of them young, were angry and focused on organizing the next step in the fight for marriage rights. "Every negative can be turned into positive," said one protester. "This can be fuel to enlarge the fire."

"This is just a stumble in the fight for equality for all," said a marcher named Danny. "We will continue to march until this battle is won."

-- In Los Angeles, several protests took place on the Day of Decision. A demonstration organized by the Latino Equality Alliance in East Los Angeles at the county clerk's office turned out 200 people, most of them young and Latino. A favorite chant was "Gay, straight, Black white, marriage was a civil right."

Lt. Dan Choi, who is being dismissed from the National Guard under the federal government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, spoke at the rally. "The time to ask for things is over," Choi said. "It's time to tell people what we want. Rosa Parks didn't ask for civil rights. Dolores Huerta didn't ask for labor rights."

Organized labor was represented at the rally, with the LA County Federation of Labor's Maria Elena Durazo featured as a speaker.

Later that evening, more than 15,000 people rallied and marched, the mood upbeat and angry. "I don't get why Obama won't come out for gay marriage," said 17-year-old Rachelle. "What's wrong with two people loving each other? The court decision is wrong. It makes me so angry. I brought my mom and little brothers and my aunt."

Rachelle's mother Norma added: "I'm here for equal rights. They can't say 18,000 being married is okay, but not overturn Prop 8."

-- In San Diego, about 3,000 people marched and rallied. Protesters were in high spirits, chanting, "Justice won't wait. Repeal prop 8!"

Demonstrators Michael and Brian said they planned to go to the county administration building tomorrow with supporters. "Hopefully, we're going to get out marriage license," they said. "If not, we're going to have a sit-in. We're not going to leave until they give it to us. Prop 8 is not the cause of the problem. We have to go deeper than Prop 8."

-- In Seattle, where opponents of equal marriage are trying to get an anti-gay marriage initiative on the state ballot, some 1,500 people rallied downtown on the evening of May 26. Outrage over the California court's decision was clear from the handmade signs: "Separate is never equal" and "What's next, Prop 9? Separate drinking fountains for str8's and gays?"

Chris, a Highline Community College student, said, "I'm out here today because I hate being a second-class citizen, and I want to be part of a movement for LGBT equality."

The protest was organized by Join the Impact, Equal Rights Washington, Pride at Work, Stonewall Democrats and Queer Ally Coalition (QAC). Afterward, 500 people joined an impromptu march to a park in the LGBT Capital Hill neighborhood for a meeting called by QAC discuss the next steps in the fight for full liberation.

-- On the other side of the country, in New York City, as many as 5,000 people answered California's Supreme Court ruling with an angry and spirited march that started at Stonewall Inn, the site of a 1969 riot that helped spark the gay liberation struggle of the 1970s.

Most people had heard about today's protest only hours before, or joined in along the march route, but they wanted to send a message to Californians that this is New York's fight, too. With a gay marriage bill passed in the New York State Assembly, but awaiting approval in the Senate, the urgency to demonstration could be felt in the streets.

The lesson many took from the ruling today was the need to take the fight national and build a movement to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal. "If we want change, we must ask for it," said protester Ed Davis. "We must fight for it. We can't just wait to be saved."

The New York march ended in Union Square, where one organizer summed up the mood: "This [ruling] didn't scare me. This galvanized me." Corey, another march organizer, spoke about the lessons of the civil rights movement: "Civil rights never won with a piecemeal, state-by-state approach. We need to fight for a federal law."

-- New York City was hardly the only place where solidarity with the fight in California ran deep.

In Chicago, 1,200 people turned out to march in the rain. In Atlanta, 125 came out. Tom, who came all the way from Greensboro, N.C., said, "It's exciting to see that a decision made all the way in California could bring so many out to the streets to stand up for justice for all." Some 100 protested in Northampton, Mass., 100 in Providence, R.I., 40 in Rochester, N.Y., 80 in Champaign, Ill., and 30 in New Haven, Conn.--the list goes on and on.

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MANY EQUAL marriage activists in California are looking to further their own ballot measure as a next step. The California secretary of state has given the group Yes on Equality until August 17 to collect some 700,000 signatures needed to qualify an initiative repealing Prop 8 for the 2010 ballot. Another measure would strike the word "marriage" from all state laws.

Equal marriage forces have a wide range of views on what kind of measures are needed, and whether we need more, or less, time to prepare. Some activists say that 2010 is "too soon," and some fear a contentious referendum fight would hurt the Democratic Party's chances in the elections.

But there has been a sea change in opinion nationwide since the wafer-thin 52 percent win on Prop 8 in November. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released last month reported nearly half (49 percent) of all Americans said they were in favor legal marriage for same-sex couples, an increase of 13 percentage points since June 2006.

It would be a crime to fritter away the momentum created by a wave of states recognizing equal marriage.

And equal marriage activist can't worry about "hurting" Democrats at the polls. Our demands will only be taken seriously if we put them first, and build a struggle that is independent of any political party.

We must also take this fight to the federal level and demand that Barack Obama repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and undo the discrimination the last Democratic president helped put in place.

Sam Bernstein, Jeff Boyette, Blair Ellis, Rick Greenblatt, Robin Horne, Cindy Kaffen, Lauren Masters, John Osmand, Leia Petty and Arturo Sernas contributed to this article.

Madrid court outlaws anti-capitalist party

Published May 25, 2009 11:00 AM

By outlawing a new political party from an upcoming June 7 ballot, ruling circles in the Spanish regime are exposing their links to the 36-year-long fascist reign of Francisco Franco. Their latest anti-democratic step involved fraudulent charges to prevent the newly formed International Initiative—Solidarity among the Peoples (II-SP) organization from competing in elections to the European Parliament.

Spain’s Supreme Court on May 16 by an 11-5 majority supported a lower court decision to ban the II-SP. The new party is appealing to the Constitutional Court to reverse this, while waging an international petition campaign to gain support. A final May 21 decision is likely to maintain the ban, unless a massive struggle arises to reverse it.

The courts are imposing the ban in the midst of the economic crisis that exploded in 2008 and hit Spain much harder than most other developed capitalist countries. The “housing bubble” burst with a fury in Spain, stopping almost all new construction projects. Official unemployment climbed to more than 17 percent in April. Young people can’t find permanent jobs.

To underline an anti-capitalist solution to this crisis, some leftist parties, both on a federal level and in the regions that consist of oppressed nations within the Spanish state, joined together this spring to form the II-SP. They offered a relatively broad but clearly anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist alternative.

The II-SP competes not only with rightist bourgeois parties like José María Aznar’s People’s Party, but also with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s governing Socialist Workers Party (PSOE). It considers Zapatero pro-capitalist, despite his “socialist” label. It competes even with the United Left (IU) movement—the traditional Spanish left close to the Spanish Communist Party—that revolutionaries consider to be trapped inside the capitalist parliamentary system.

Historically, the Spanish state has included at least four peoples or nationalities. The people of Galicia in the northwest, of Catalonia in the east, and of the Basque Country in the northeast have been under the heel of the Castilian ruling class. Repression was especially brutal during the Franco period against local customs and any languages other than Castilian Spanish.

Today it also includes immigrants from Africa and Latin America, who face racial discrimination.

In carrying out the struggle for Basque self-determination, Basque freedom fighters set up an organization in 1959 known as ETA, an acronym for the Basque words meaning Basque Homeland and Freedom. ETA evolved into a guerrilla group that carried out armed actions against the Spanish state, both during the fascist period and afterwards.

The Spanish ruling class took the same approach toward ETA as the British rulers did toward the Irish Republican Army and the U.S. toward Puerto Rican patriots: repression. They hunted down ETA members and also jailed thousands of Basques involved in political struggles.

This repression extended to pro-independence political organizations in the Basque Country. The “Law of the Parties” of 2002 outlawed Batasuna, the political party that shared the same political program as the guerrilla group ETA. After Batasuna was made illegal, the AVN (Basque Nationalist Action) was set up to politically represent Basque self-determination. The courts then outlawed AVN.

Thus in today’s Spanish state, Basques who are for independence or autonomy have no legal political party, while former fascist youth like Aznar can run the government.

II-SP supports self-determination

The II-SP supports self-determination for Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country. The leading figure on the II-SP ticket, world-famous playwright and historical anti-fascist elder Alfonso Sastre, also led the AVN ticket in a recent election before the AVN was banned. Number two on the II-SP slate, Doris Benegas from the Castilian Left, and number five, Ángeles Maestro of the Red Current, are leaders who have politically supported Basque self-determination. They participated in meetings supporting Basque political prisoners and honoring Basque martyrs.

As Maestro told the media, none of these candidates belongs to ETA, nor does the II-SP advocate armed struggle, nor are the candidates of Basque nationality. Yet the Spanish regime and courts have applied the “Law of Parties” to outlaw the II-SP from the election.

The state’s argument—if you can believe it—is that Basques who support Batasuna and who see Sastre heading the list might consider II-SP an indirect representative of Batasuna’s program. Pro-independence Basques might feel inspired by voting for II-SP and encouraged to continue the struggle and thus, the court reasoned, it must ban II-SP.

Continuing to fight for its place on the ballot, II-SP asks for support inside and outside Spain on a petition to defend “democracy and the presumption of innocence.” Already Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Pérez Esquivel of Argentina has written to Zapatero urging him to “intervene” to “avoid anti-democratic actions” by the courts against II-SP.

Inside the Spanish state, other federal parties on the ballot like the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE) and the Anti-capitalist Initiative (IA) have demanded that the ban on II-SP be lifted. The Basque Left denied it was manipulating II-SP and expressed solidarity with II-SP’s right to be on the ballot.

There are reports the IU is split on this question. So far the IU leadership has said only that it will support the decision of the courts in this matter.

Slanders from the rightist parties, the regime and the media against the militants of II-SP may prevent the election of the II-SP candidates, but even this hostile publicity has exposed many millions of people to this party’s existence and potentially its program at the beginning of an intense class struggle in the Spanish state.

E-mail: jcat@workers.org


Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spain: Unemployment could soar to one-in-four next year

By Marcus Morgan
26 May 2009

In a series of recent gloomy economic forecasts by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the Spanish Central Bank and government institutions, the Spanish unemployment rate could soar to a staggering 20 percent and possibly to one in four workers in 2010.

“The momentum is clearly there for something well above 20 percent, it’s odds on really. My own forecast is that it gets to something around about 23 percent,” said senior European economist Dominic Bryant of BNP Paribas.

Bryant continued, “Spain and Ireland together have accounted for 75 percent of the Eurozone’s unemployment increase in the 12 months to February, even though they make up only 14 percent of gross domestic product.”

The ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) government has been forced to concede its mistake in predicting that unemployment would peak at 4 million. “The data are bad, and worse than expected,” admitted new Finance Minister Elena Salgado.

Earlier this year Bank of Spain Governor Miguel Ángel Fernández Ordóñez warned that, “The Spanish economy is immersed in a period of deep contraction, where the unemployment rate, unless measures are taken, will rise to a very worrying level.”

The Secretary of State Octavion Granado conceded on national television that, “It is a terrible figure” adding, “We are in the epicenter of the crisis. We are in the eye of the perfect storm.” Granado, parroting the same rhetoric as other European political leaders, made the hollow claim that 2009 would be the worst year, after which the economy will show signs of recovery. What these latest reports clearly show, however, is that these assurances are little more than either deceit or wishful thinking.

In the past year alone, two million people have lost their jobs, taking the total unemployed to just over four million. The Spanish unemployment rate currently stands at over 17 percent. That is double the European Union average. The recent member states of Eastern Europe trail not far behind. The average across the 27 EU countries now stands at over 8 percent, though the real figure is undoubtedly much higher.

More than 800,000 people joined the dole queues in the major cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Cádiz in the first quarter of this year, the biggest such increase since the country’s National Statistics Institute started recording unemployment figures in 1976.

New data shows that the economy contracted in the first quarter of this year by its fastest rate in at least 40 years. The Bank of Spain is predicting that the public deficit will run at over 8 percent this year, which is well in excess of the Eurozone limit of 3 percent.

A new survey released by the European Central Bank last week paints a similar picture, suggesting EU economies will contract by twice as much in 2009 as previously predicted. The growth in GDP is now predicted to slow by over 3 percent this year. Again, the ECB highlights Spain as a particular problem.

According to a Eurostat report released this month, foreign investment from the EU 27 countries fell by 28 percent in 2008, whilst inflows of capital into the region decreased by 57 percent. Capital flows between EU states also contracted by 42 percent compared to 2007.

Summing up the general malaise, the economic institute Esade commented that, “All the economic analyses show Spain as the European country which has been hardest hit by the crisis and will take the longest time to recover.”

With almost a third of the workforce on short-term contracts and with many jobs in low-wage and low-skilled sectors, it has been relatively easy for companies to shed jobs in response to the crisis. It also means that many of those remaining in work are in a very precarious condition. The social effect has been devastating, and this situation can only get worse in the coming period.

The charity Caritas, which provides support for those who are excluded from the flimsy welfare services, has already seen demand for help leap 75 percent in 2008. Soup kitchens across the country are suddenly inundated with the new poor.

Spain’s period of moderate growth over the last 14 years was in many ways reminiscent of the Eastern European states. In both cases it was dubbed by many an “economic miracle.” These economies have been thrown into reverse gear with the global contraction of finance capital that started last year.

Spain was especially vulnerable to the current global crisis because it was based above all on the growth of a colossal housing and construction bubble and a fledgling speculative finance industry, with a smaller manufacturing sector (especially cars) geared to attracting foreign capital to relatively low-wage labour.

All of these processes that drove the growth in the Spanish economy are in the process of disintegration. The collapse of the building and housing construction industry accounts for the largest slice of the current jobless rate with the Spanish housing market falling for 12 consecutive months. Building quickly came to a standstill at the end of last year after the banks stopped lending. Now the problem is compounded by companies defaulting on their payments to the banks.

The press is full of stories about the collapse. Typical is the example of a housing development near Madrid, labelled the “Manhattan of La Mancha,” which was meant to house 40,000 but is now like a “cross between a ghost town and an abandoned building site.” Across the country a million newly built properties remain unsold.

But other areas of the economy are far from immune. The important tourism, automotive and service industries are shedding jobs almost as quickly. Despite assurances from the government and financial institutions that Spain was protected from the international financial crisis by responsible lending practices and aversion to toxic assets, the relatively small fund management and private banking sectors are also in steep decline.

In the face of the collapse, the IMF has issued an ominous warning to the Spanish working class. They must “improve productivity and lower costs.” In other words, the burden of the crisis is to be foisted on to the backs of workers by further attacks on wages and public spending.

Some of the most vulnerable to the class attacks now being prepared are the large immigrant population. Spain has attracted four million immigrants in the past decade, mostly from impoverished North African and Latin American countries. Police in Madrid have been given weekly quotas to deport “sin papeles” (without papers) immigrants.

The sudden onset of the crisis has revealed sharp political divisions within Spain’s ruling elite how best to implement policies to protect its interests and privileges. Finance Minister Pedro Solbes was sacked by Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero in April over plans to toughen controls on immigrant labour, slash public spending by one billion euros and implement a 70 billion euro fiscal stimulus programme.

Solbes strongly disagreed with the prime minister’s assurance that the economy would begin to recover by 2010, saying that the crisis would be far deeper and more protracted. His call for more drastic cuts in public expenditure was echoed by his close ally Economy Secretary David Vegara, who resigned just a few days later.

Solbes wanted to remove labour protection laws that prevent mass firings of full-time workers, but this was rejected after trade union leaders warned that such a frontal assault would lead to revolt and strikes.

Zapatero was similarly concerned about such an open class offensive so early in the recession and favours continued reliance on the unions to keep labour disputes under control, at least for the time being.

What has become increasingly clear is that the crisis that is engulfing the Spanish economy—as in the rest of Europe—cannot be solved in the interests of the ruling elite without an unprecedented destruction of industry, jobs and wage levels.

Irish child abuse: The Ryan Report cover-up

By Steve James
26 May 2009

For all the details of sadistic physical, sexual, emotional abuse, neglect and brutalisation of children in Ireland’s industrial school system, the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (CICA) is a cover up. Nine years of hearings, the probing of hundreds of childhood hells, have resulted in a huge report—five volumes and 3,000 pages—which will not lead to the prosecution of those individually or collectively guilty of crimes against thousands of children.

Neither has political responsibility been attributed. The report by Judge Sean Ryan continues to obscure the role of the Catholic Church, which is an essential element of the Irish state, and successive governments in operating a cruel workhouse system through which at least 170,000 children passed through in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

Even the publication of the report was characterised by official arrogance, contempt and indifference to former inmates who braved hearings and interviews, including cross examination by representatives of the religious orders in whose schools they were incarcerated and brutalised. Paddy Doyle, wheelchair bound, attempted to attend publication of the report last week in the Conrad Hotel, Dublin and was confronted by locked doors, PR and security men. When other victims of abuse managed to force their way into the hearing, police were called.

Co-ordinator of the campaign group Survivors of Child Abuse, John Kelly, told the press from the steps of the hotel, “There is nothing by way of justice in any means significant in this report, nothing...We were encouraged by this commission and by the former Taoiseach to open our wounds. We did this and they’ve been left gaping open.”

The Irish state has consistently refused to take any real action against the perpetrators. This is not only because it is complicit, by its silence, in the abuses. More fundamentally, it was dependent upon the Catholic Church to force submission onto numerous poor children exploited as cheap labour in its industrial school system.

The report was only commissioned in 1999 following decades in which the appalling conditions in the industrial religious schools were common knowledge. From as early as 1961 news broadcasts, films, plays and countless personal experiences led to numerous complaints being filed against schools. Yet only in 1999 did then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern commission the CICA inquiry under Judge Mary Laffoy. Laffoy published interim reports and reportedly won respect from the survivor groups, but found her investigations hampered by the Department of Education and the Church. Laffoy resigned in 2003 and Judge Sean Ryan was appointed.

In 2004, Ryan struck a deal to ensure continued participation from the religious orders, agreeing not to name those accused of abuse. The hundreds of religious brothers, nuns and lay persons accused of abuse have been given pseudonyms in the CICA report. Only those previously convicted of child abuse are named. Another deal in 2002 limited the financial liability of the orders to compensation claims to a maximum of €128 million.

The CICA report nevertheless does make clear the horrifying crimes of the child-care system. Dealing mainly with the period between 1930 and 1970, the commission interviewed 1,090 former residents of 216 schools, reformatories and day schools—90 percent of whom said they had been physically abused and over 500 sexually abused.

Compiling other information from the Department of Education, the Vatican and the schools themselves, the commission concluded that some 800 individuals were identified as having physically or sexually abused children in their care.

Nothing more clearly condemns the political system that emerged from the partition of Ireland, the accommodation reached between the Irish bourgeoisie, the Catholic Church, and the former imperialist master in Britain, than the protracted existence of a children’s gulag intended to provide cheap pliant, unskilled, largely agricultural, Catholic labour. Ireland maintained the industrial school system, run by various Catholic, orders until the 1970s.

Journalist Bruce Arnold wrote in the Irish Independent, “The report contains nothing about the steady flow of reform in the British system of childcare, begun by Winston Churchill when he was Home Secretary and continued throughout the grim period in which Tomas Derrig was our Minister for Education. From 1932, Derrig placed an iron fist on top of the smouldering drum of industrial school illegality and did nothing at all. Irregularly, cases came up in the court, the press and in the Dail. They cried out for investigation. Derrig always refused. Investigation was generally refused by other ministers. Nothing is said of this in the report.”

Arnold also noted that the report contains no serious assessment of the role of the District Courts, from which children were committed to the schools. The young people forced into the system—some 1.2 percent of the childhood population between 1936 and 1970—were from the poorest backgrounds. At any time between 5,000 and 6,000 were held in around 50 or so boarding institutions.

Children would be referred by the courts for begging, having no visible means of subsistence, no obvious guardian, being in the charge of parents who were in prison, or had criminal or otherwise dubious reputations. Others were referred for petty offences including non-attendance at school. Young girls who had been raped were sent to reformatories.

Most of the industrial schools held around 250 children. The largest, Artane near Dublin, held around 800. They were universally characterised by violence, fear, neglect, hunger, poor clothing, cold and miserable conditions, bullying, poor education, emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

The greatest numbers of industrial schools were run by the Christian Brothers, which opened its first school in Dublin in 1870 and expanded operations to the UK, Australia, Canada, Gibraltar, India and the United States and still operates in 26 countries.

The Christian Brothers recruited young, often badly educated men from the age of 14 onwards, who took permanent vows of chastity and silence from the age of 25. They were entirely untrained, learning only by the primitive and brutal practice of their elders. The report notes, “The Christian Brothers became a powerful and dominant organisation in the State and were responsible for providing primary and post primary education to the majority of Catholic boys in the country.”

Industrial Schools were funded on a per-capita basis, encouraging the orders to cram in as many children as possible. The section on Artane notes reasons for committal between 1940 and 1969: 1,374 children were committed for “improper guardianship”, 1,045 for bad school attendance, 720 for destitution, 227 for being homeless, 220 for larceny, 90 for other crimes.

These children were plunged into a medieval environment, with the report compiling a vast litany of atrocities. A few examples are enough.

A letter from the head of the school warns Brother Beaufort, “You are passionate in your dealings with the boys. In fact at times you show so little control of your temper that you are in danger of inflicting serious bodily harm on the boys by your manner of correcting them.”

One victim was picked up and thrown around a class by Brother Beaufort, knocked unconscious, and was only saved by the intervention of another Brother. The child suffered lacerations, broken teeth, eye and neck injuries.

All the staff carried leather straps which were freely used on children. A Brother Oliver repeatedly beat children with particular violence. One victim reported, “I was running trying to get away from him. He hit me, it didn’t matter where, legs, back, head, anywhere...”

Oliver forced one 12-year-old child to lick excrement from his shoes.

Instruments of punishment included rubber from a pram wheel, hurley sticks, hurley balls, fists, finger nails and fan belts. One child’s hand was held in boiling water. Boys were repeated pulled around by the hair, punched, strapped for crimes such as being left handed, being slow, tearing a blanket, having worn out shoes.

Another inmate commented, “You don’t seem to understand, the place was built on terror, regular beatings were just accepted. What you’re hearing about is the bad ones, but we accepted as normal run of the mill from the minute you got up, that some time in that day you would get beaten.”

Sexual abuse was rife. Artane’s staff hosted a number of Brothers who had repeatedly been warned for “embracing and fondling” boys. Two such paedophiles went on to be hung for child murder in Canada. Others accused of rape, beat or bribed their victims into silence. Accused Brothers were invariably excused, lightly admonished or, typically, moved to other institutions where they were free to continue abusing children for decades.

The children provided cheap labour for running the institutions. A 1957 report by the Department of Education complained, “These lads really make the running of Artane possible yet in all the apartments devoted to the farm and the trades there is not a single toilet or wash-basin for these boys. They come into their meals in a shocking condition, hands, faces and clothes are covered with the grime of the trades, boots, stockings and portions of the trousers often soaking from working in the cowhouse or the manure pit.”

St Vincent’s Industrial School, Goldenbridge featured in two broadcasts, “Dear Daughter” and “States of Fear”, which undermined the official silence on the schools. Run by the Sisters of Mercy, young girls were held in conditions of neglect and near starvation, subject to repeated beatings. One victim summed up the lasting impact of their experience. Their comments could apply to the entire system.

“The screaming of children, the screaming of children will stay with me for the rest of my life about Goldenbridge. I still hear it, I still haven’t recovered from that. Children crying and screaming, it was just endless, it never never stopped for years in that place.”

The report is available from here: http://www.childabusecommission.com/rpt/