Saturday, April 24, 2010

Arizona anti-immigrant law sparks outrage, fightback

From Worker's World

Published Apr 24, 2010 7:11 AM

April 23 — When the Arizona Senate passed a sweeping, racist anti-immigrant bill on April 19, it unleashed a firestorm of outrage from Arizona’s oppressed communities. The bill legalizes racial profiling and criminalizes all undocumented people as “trespassers.” It also contains provisions attacking day laborers, allows for the seizure of any vehicle used to transport an undocumented person, and calls for the arrest of anyone who provides assistance to an undocumented person.

Gov. Jane Brewer signed the bill into law today, April 23. It is only the first in a stream of right-wing sponsored racist bills that are working their way through the Arizona legislature.

A few days earlier, on April 15, some 800 or more Department of Homeland Security and other federal agents descended on Tucson’s oppressed communities. The feds terrorized families, stopping buses transporting children to school and setting up what amounted to a six-hour military occupation of the south side of the city.

In response to this repression, a group of nine community college students from throughout Arizona courageously chained themselves to the State Capitol building in Phoenix on April 20. The students refused to leave until Gov. Brewer vetoed the bill. The nine are calling for a national movement to employ nonviolent civil disobedience as the next phase of the Immigrant Rights Movement.

While carrying out civil disobedience, the students were arrested by Maricopa County deputies and hauled off to the jail run by the infamous anti-immigrant Country Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Now known throughout the state as the Capitol Nine, the students were released early April 21.

Leilani Clark, a Pima Community College student and member of Fight Imperialism, Stand Together (FIST), was one of the nine students arrested. She said that the struggle against Senate Bill 1070 and all of Arizona’s apartheid legislation demands a statewide and national response.

Clark encouraged everyone to take action. Speaking on behalf of the Capitol 9, Clark told Workers World, “Don’t be divided or delayed by different interpretations of how to act — just act. Walk out, protest, educate, boycott, march, sit in, carry out civil disobedience. Anything and everything. ASAP!”

In a news release published April 20, this is what the Nine said about SB 1070:

“Among other things, the bill would require law enforcement officers to investigate, detain and arrest people if there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ that a person may be undocumented. This would give police agents absolute power to racially profile on the basis of race, skin color, language, and/or accent. SB 1070 is only the latest attack that will turn Arizona into an apartheid state, where brown-skinned people are politically, legally and economically discriminated and segregated.”

Protests continue in the thousands

By the afternoon of April 20, about 100 people gathered in downtown Tucson to protest SB 1070 and to demand that the governor veto the bill. The next day, some 200 high school students walked out of class to protest the bill. There are rallies and demonstrations planned throughout the city for each of the next few days.

On April 22 thousands protested outside the Capitol in Phoenix, and other actions took place April 23 in Phoenix and Flagstaff demanding that Brewer veto the bill. Students, including many high school students, held a demonstration April 23 in Tucson, walking out of school to do it.

In their statement, the Capitol Nine explained the importance of their action: “Arizona is ground zero for apartheid legislation and it must also be ground zero for organized action. ... A people can only remain oppressed for so long before they rise from the shadows, from the margins, from oblivion. This is why today, students and community members have resorted to Nonviolent Civil Disobedience. We chain ourselves to the Arizona State Capitol because nothing else has worked. We stand for justice and reclaim democracy. Our purpose is to expose Arizona’s apartheid legislation and uphold our dignity and human rights.”

Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Former Argentina dictator jailed

Argentina's former military ruler Reynaldo Bignone has been sentenced to 25 years for human rights abuses committed almost three decades ago.

Gen Bignone, 82, ordered abductions and torture while second in command of the country's largest torture centre between 1976 and 1978.

Relatives of victims held up photos of their loved ones and cheered at the end of the trial in Buenos Aires.

Six officials from the same era were also handed jail terms.

Gen Bignone, who served as de facto president between 1982-83, was found guilty of involvement in 56 cases of murder, torture and kidnappings.

His charges were for crimes committed before becoming leader, when he was in charge of the notorious Campo de Mayo military base.

Campo de Mayo, outside Buenos Aires, is said to have been the largest in operation during the country's seven-year Dirty War, which ended in 1983.

"Justice was slow in coming but it has finally arrived," said Estela de Carlotto, head of the human rights group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

Human rights groups say some 30,000 people died or "disappeared" during the period, which saw the military target left-wing opponents.

The trial comes after amnesty laws, which had shielded perpetrators from charges, were overturned in 2005 by the country's Supreme Court.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Friday, April 16, 2010

Britain’s Liberal Democrats warn of “Greek-style” unrest

From World Socialist Web Site

16 April 2010

Britain will be hit by “serious social strife” and waves of “Greek-style unrest” in the event of a narrow Labour or Conservative victory in the General Election on May 6. That is the forecast of Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, made in an interview with the Observer newspaper on April 11.

With opinion polls predicting that neither Labour nor the Conservatives will win an outright majority, Clegg warned that a minority government formed by either party would face a crisis of legitimacy. This could result in “serious social strife” on the streets, he said, as the administration attempted to impose draconian public spending cuts in order to tackle Britain’s £160 billion-plus state deficit.

The massive debt is largely the consequence of Labour’s bailout of the banks, which has seen up to £1 trillion made available in various stimulus packages in response to the economic crisis precipitated by the crash of Lehman Brothers in 2008.

There is no doubt an element of political manoeuvring in Clegg’s comments. In the event of a hung parliament, the Liberal Democrats would play a significant role in coalition talks. Clegg has not ruled out an alliance with either party. Notwithstanding these calculations, the Liberal Democrat leader’s comments point to an acute political crisis that is building behind the scenes.

Clegg’s interview appeared as the European Union was meeting to cobble together a rescue package for Greece, in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund.

Over the last months, the Greek social democratic PASOK government’s austerity agenda has provoked strikes by hundreds of thousands of workers and mass protests. But the government’s pledge of wage cuts and job losses has failed to satisfy the international finance markets.

With state bankruptcy once again staring Athens in the face, the EU proposed a “life-line” loan of €30 billion. Set at interest rates of around 5 percent, however, the stop-gap measure will only increase Greek indebtedness, while condemning the population to yet more savage attacks.

The situation in Greece is paralleled by that in Ireland and Latvia, where even more draconian cutbacks have been imposed. Across Europe, all governments are making similar preparations.

Britain’s budget deficit is 12.5 percent of gross domestic product, the same rate as that of Greece. “If you really want a fiscal problem, look at the UK,” Mark Schofield at Citigroup told the New York Times last month. “Since the Labour government’s intense fiscal intervention in 2008 and 2009, yields on British government debt have soared to among the highest in Europe,” the Times continued. “And on a broader scale, which includes the borrowing of households and companies, the overall level of debt in Britain is the second-largest in the world, after Japan’s, at 380 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to a recent report by the consulting company McKinsey.”

While trying to play down the magnitude of the crisis facing British capitalism during the current election, Labour set out a £57 billion deficit reduction programme in its recent budget, while the Conservatives plan an additional £8 billion in savings immediately.

These measures are only the prelude to a massive assault on living standards.

Clegg poses the crucial question of how this can be pressed forward in the face of intense hostility from the broad mass of working people. He notes that Labour won office in 2005 with the support of just 22 percent of eligible voters. This means, he said, that the Conservatives could gain an “absolute majority” on just 25 percent of the eligible vote.

The Observer comments, “But in his own constituency city of Sheffield, where there are no Conservative MPs or councillors, and a high proportion of public-sector workers, he fears a ferocious backlash against potential Tory cuts.”

The danger, Clegg told the newspaper, is that, “Suddenly these people will be told by a government that has no legitimacy in their eyes that this government is going to slash and burn, having promised them something else.”

Clegg is offering the services of the Liberal Democrats as a supposed means of providing substance to any government’s claim to represent the electorate. He argues that it is “stating the obvious” to opine that a hung parliament would be good for the country.

He maintains further, according to the Observer, that, “The alternative would be to have a government that lacked support across huge parts of Britain at a time when emergency measures were needed to cut the deficit.”

There is no question that the Tory Party is largely confined to the privileged rural shires. There is currently only one Conservative MP in the whole of Scotland, and just three in Wales. In the largest 10 cities in England, excluding London, there are no Conservative representatives. Even in London, the Tories currently control just 20 of the 74 constituencies—all of them on the outskirts.

But this begs the question of Labour’s own lack of popular support. Labour’s control of major inner-city areas is today the outcome of Britain’s fundamentally undemocratic first-past-the-post electoral system. Abstention rates in the major conurbations are massive and growing, thanks to widespread disaffection with Labour.

A Labour government would have no more of a mandate to press forward its agenda than a Conservative administration. And a coalition of the Liberal Democrats with either or both of the parties does not change this one iota.

Clegg has no disagreement with the need to impose austerity measures on working people. He has called for “savage cuts” to be made in public spending, while the Liberal Democrats’ candidate for chancellor, the former chief economist for Shell Oil, Vince Cable, is calling for a “credible” and “explicit plan” for addressing “the black hole in the public finances.”

“The Tories talk tough on slashing the deficit, but have only identified miniscule actual credible cuts,” Cable complained.

The illegitimacy of the next government arises not from parliamentary arithmetic, but from the fact that the official parties are little more than sclerotic shells, through which the super-rich and big business politically advance their class interests at the expense of the broad mass of the population.

In the absence of a majority win for either the Tories or Labour, sections of the ruling elite have made clear their readiness to accept a coalition government. This would be passed off as a “government of national unity,” thereby providing a veneer of legitimacy to the austerity measures it has to impose.

Without any public discussion, contingency plans have been drawn up in the likelihood of a hung parliament. Under the proposals, the period of time given to Gordon Brown, as the incumbent prime minister, to form a government has been extended from 6 days to 18.

Even before a single vote has been cast, talks have taken place between the Treasury and other government departments with the Liberal Democrats as to their spending plans. Under the contingency measures, unelected civil servants will be able, for the first time, to “advise” the parties on forming a coalition. According to reports, the civil service has already spent months drawing up secret “doomsday” plans for cuts of 20 percent in public spending so that the new administration is prepared.

Clegg’s comments should be seen by working people as a warning. As he makes clear, the purpose of any coalition government, or of a “national government” of all the parties, would be to safeguard the political dictatorship of big business against any challenge from below.

Julie Hyland

Monday, April 12, 2010

Anti-racists to protest Tea Party April 14

Hopefully people will remember Greensboro massacre of November 3, 1979 and be prepared for violence as the Tea Baggers will most likely be armed and like their close allies, the KKK and Aryan Nation have already shown a propensity for violence at least in the form of rhetoric.

Don't bring children and be aware that this is likely to be violent. Most likely they will have lots of guns.

From Worker's World

Published Apr 11, 2010 10:37 PM

The Boston chapter of the Bail Out the People Movement will be holding a protest against Sarah Palin and the Tea Party on April 14 at 9:30 a.m. The protest will take place at the Boston Common Bandstand, where these extreme ultraright reactionaries will be holding a rally. The major theme of the BOPM protest is calling for a fightback movement against racism, sexism, anti-lesbian/gay/bi and trans bigotry and anti-immigrant bigotry. Call 617-522-6626 or e-mail for more information. Following are excerpts from BOPM’s call for the April 14 action.

On April 14 Sarah Palin and the so-called “Tea Party Express” have announced that they will hold a rally at the Boston Common Bandstand starting at 10 a.m. This is the same group of ultraright-wing, neofascist racists that have tried to exploit the current economic crisis by using the vilest racist tactics to attack Obama, unions, immigration, health care and the environment. While the demagogues — including Fox News and many others that are in control of this group — may try and hide behind populist slogans, it should be clear to all that their true goal is to further the political and economic program of Wall Street, Big Oil, the wealthy and the corporations and they will stop at nothing in order to do so. Let’s be clear — there is nothing grassroots about any of the Tea Party factions; they are all funded by the same racist, ultraright organizations such as Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity.

We cannot stand by and allow Sarah Palin and the Tea Party to gather and try to use racism to divide us without a response. History has shown that only through organizing and mobilizing a strong, anti-racist, pro-working-class counterattack against both the economic crisis and racist division will we be able to successfully defeat right-wing, neofascist organizations and their supporters once and for all

Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The West Virginia mine disaster and the collapse of the United Mine Workers

From World Socialist Web Site

9 April 2010

The deaths of at least 25 West Virginia miners in the worst mining disaster in more than a quarter century is a tragic and stark demonstration of the state of class relations in America today.

In many regards, conditions in the Appalachian coalfields resemble those of a century ago. Faced with high levels of unemployment and poverty, workers are forced to jeopardize their lives in dangerous mines.

Multimillionaire mine operators, like Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, disregard elemental safety regulations and compel miners to work 12-hour shifts in order to maximize profit. They know full well that once the news media have left and federal and state agencies have held their hearings, they will be free to continue profiting from the killing and maiming of coal miners.

As one woman from the area told the media, “We’re nothing but disposable commodities.”

Miners confront huge firms with immense resources without any organization to defend them. It has not always been so. Indeed, the site of the present mine explosion was, as late as the early 1990s, a stronghold of the United Mine Workers union and a center of militant strikes and mass resistance to the coal bosses’ demands for speedup and attacks on mine safety and workers’ health coverage.

Even at the height of the union’s membership and power, however, rank-and-file miners repeatedly came into conflict with the conservative leadership and its policies of class collaboration. The gains won through the UMW were due to the militant action of the workers.

For three solid decades, however, the UMW has repudiated the militant traditions with which the miners were associated and sought to integrate itself ever more closely with corporate management and the government. Over this period the union has betrayed one struggle after another. The result has been the collapse of the UMW, to the point where its active membership has fallen from 120,000 in 1978 to 14,000 at present.

What underlay the betrayal and disintegration of the UMW? How is it that the miners have come to their present desperate situation?

The miners, particularly in West Virginia, were historically among the most militant and class-conscious sections of the American working class. Over a century of struggle, they evinced unsurpassed courage, solidarity and readiness to sacrifice.

Throughout much of the 20th century, the social weight and strategic position of the miners was something the US corporate and political establishment could not ignore.

The UMW established its roots in southern West Virginia during the bitter Mine Wars of the 1920s and 1930s. The names of great class battles—“Bloody Mingo,” the “Battle of Blair Mountain,” the “Matewan Massacre”—give a sense of the intensity of social conflict when miners responded in kind to the violence of the coal companies, their hired gunmen and the authorities.

The miners spearheaded the drive to build the new CIO industrial unions in the 1930s, and during World War II defied Roosevelt and launched a national strike, winning substantial demands while the industry was making record profits from wartime production. Again in 1947, the miners defied the back-to-work order issued by Congress, declaring, “Let the senators dig the coal,” and won their greatest wage increase, improvements in health care, and protections against the Taft-Hartley antistrike act.

In 1974, after a series of wildcat strikes, mass protests against unsafe conditions and black lung disease, and rebellions against the UMW leadership, miners won a 54 percent wage and benefit increase over three years following a 28-day strike. This was followed by the historic 111-day walkout in 1977-78, when miners once again defied a presidential back-to-work order, this time from Democrat Jimmy Carter.

Despite the militancy and solidarity of the miners, however, their movement suffered from an ultimately fatal political flaw. It was the same weakness that undermined the entire American labor movement.

The miners never established their political independence from the Democratic Party and capitalist politics in general. Their struggles, within the framework of the United Mine Workers union, never acquired a consciously anti-capitalist character.

Throughout their history, the miners’ struggles continuously raised questions of political perspective and program. From the turn of the century onward there were demands for the nationalization of the mines, as economic downturns, mechanization and the anarchy of coal production for the capitalist market led to mass unemployment, impoverishment of mining communities and the continuous sacrifice of miners’ lives and limbs to the bosses’ drive for profit.

The need for the political organization of the working class independently of the two big business parties was repeatedly posed, as miners faced injunctions, back-to-work orders and state repression from officials of both parties who were bribed agents of the coal operators.

From the earliest days, however, the leadership of the UMW opposed any struggle against the capitalist system. In a radio address in September 1937, UMW President John L. Lewis appealed to the ruling class to recognize the unions because, he said, they would “prove the finest bulwark against the intrusion of alien doctrines of government.”

“Unionization,” Lewis said, “as opposed to communism, presupposes the relation of employment; it is based upon the wage system and it recognizes fully and unreservedly the institution of private property and the right to investment profit.”

From the outset, the hallmark of the American trade unions was anti-socialism, servility to the profit system and opposition to any independent political struggle by the working class. While trade unions throughout the world essentially shared this pro-capitalist outlook, the political backwardness of the American trade unions was the most pronounced.

In 1955, after socialists and other left-wing militants had been driven out of positions of leadership, the CIO leaders merged with the American Federation of Labor and established the AFL-CIO on the basis of the explicit defense of the profit system and US imperialist interests around the world. Over the next 25 years, as American capitalism lost its position of world economic dominance and the US ruling elite replaced its policy of relative class compromise with one of unrelenting class war, this perspective led the working class to disaster.

Like his British counterpart, Margaret Thatcher, President Reagan—who had smashed the 1981 PATCO air traffic controllers’ strike—was determined to break the back of the miners in order to achieve a permanent rollback in the conditions of the working class as a whole.

In 1985-86, with the full backing of the White House and state and local authorities, AT Massey Coal (spearheaded by Blankenship) launched a union-busting drive against the UMW, in which it revived methods of class violence not seen since the Mine Wars of the early decades of the 20th century.

The UMW, led by then-President Richard Trumka (now president of the AFL-CIO), responded by isolating the 2,600 Massey strikers and abandoning the union’s long-standing tradition of calling all miners out on a national strike. The UMW did nothing to defend militant miners who were arrested, framed up and thrown in jail, and, after leaving the strikers to languish on the picket lines for 14 months, Trumka called off the strike, opening the door to a wave of union busting and concessions throughout the coalfields. The UMW conducted a similar betrayal in the 1989-90 Pittston strike.

The objective conditions that facilitated the domination of a right-wing bureaucracy over the working class—the immense power and economic reserves of American capitalism and the global dominance of its industry—no longer exist.

As a new period of class struggle emerges out of the current crisis, miners will seek to build new organizations of struggle. This is absolutely necessary and critical. However, the bitter lessons of history must be learned—above all, that the resistance of the miners must be based on a conscious fight for the independent political mobilization of the working class against the capitalist system and all of its political representatives.

The only way to end the scourges of mine explosions, cave-ins and black lung is to take the mines out of private hands and transform them into public utilities, owned and controlled by the working people themselves. This requires the building of a mass socialist movement of the working class.

Jerry White

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Indian Maoists Kill at Least 73 Officers

New York Times

NEW DELHI — India’s campaign against the country’s Maoist insurgency suffered a major setback on Tuesday when rebel fighters ambushed a paramilitary unit on patrol in an isolated forest region, killing at least 73 officers.

The authorities described a carefully executed surprise attack in which the Maoists opened fire as the patrol entered an area seeded with booby-trap bombs. When officers fell to the ground to take cover from gunfire, they detonated the explosives.

“Something has gone very wrong,” said Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, according to the news agency Press Trust of India. “I am deeply shocked.”

He said the attack by the Maoist fighters showed the “brutality and the savagery they are capable of.”

The attack comes as the government is mobilizing security forces against the Maoists in a multistate campaign known as Operation Green Hunt. The Maoists, also known as Naxalites, have existed in India for four decades and claim to represent the interests of the rural dispossessed who have not shared in India’s economic progress. Once lightly regarded by the government, the Maoists have expanded across a large rural corridor and now exercise outright control over some isolated mountain regions. Maoist propaganda calls for overthrowing the Indian state.

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