Workers' Voice mailing list
April 30, 2017
RE: May Day 2017
On a few of the struggles taking place around the world as May Day arrives:
(From Seattle Workers' Voice #4, April 28, 2017, in support of the 18th annual May Day March for Workers and Immigrant Rights in Seattle, starting at 11 am, Judkins Park, May 1)
Billionaire Donald Trump's agenda is one of mass impoverishment, adding tens of millions to the rolls of those not covered by Obamacare, tearing up regulations on the polluters, militarism and wars while giving the rich more corporate tax cuts and other handouts. Mass resistance to this pillage was inevitable. Trump & Co. have therefore worked to cripple it by inciting the working people against each other. Immigrants in particular have been singled out for attack, with no Nazi-style lie too big for Trump to tell:
Trump slandered Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists, when in fact undocumented immigrants have a lower crime rate than the native-born people;
He implied that all Muslim immigrants were terrorists and jihadis, when in fact most mass killings in this country are carried out by white males, and, further, since 9/11, zero fatal attacks were carried out by immigrants from the seven Muslim-majority countries Trump put in his ban;
"They’re taking our jobs,” said Trump, when in fact it is the capitalist system of production that creates unemployment, and immigration often results in no job or wage losses in the areas immigrants arrive in (e.g., see http://www.epi.org/publication/bp255/);
"They’re taking our money," said Trump, when in fact undocumented immigrants pay some $12 billion yearly to social security that they can never collect, and pay taxes of all kinds.
Trump has used such outrageous incitements to stir a reactionary movement that physically attacks immigrants, and to justify reactionary executive orders and legislation. All are aimed at keeping undocumented immigrants "in their place" as super-exploitable wage slaves, as well as blame them unfairly for the ills of American capitalism. The workers and other progressive people must reject all of this. But the Democratic Party leaders do not. Obama deported record numbers of people. The bipartisan immigration reform packages he supported always included hiring more Border Patrol cops and constructing more fences or walls at the border with Mexico. They contained fines, fees, and sometimes 20 years of legal red tape before one could get citizenship. They contained bracero-like programs to serve agribusiness, "English proficiency" requirements and other reactionary features. And when Trump said the words “immigration reform” in his February 2017 speech to Congress they applauded, while knowing any bill Trump supported would be even worse. This shows why an independent class movement against both Wall Street parties must be built.
Everyone can play a role in building this movement. We can refute Trump's lies in our workplaces and schools. We can support the sanctuary movement, including individuals helping our undocumented comrades as best we can. We can join immigrants' protests as well as raise the issue of immigrant rights in other progressive movements. And everywhere we can promote the just, working-class demand: full rights for all immigrants now!
The capitalist bloodsuckers now represented by Trump want to grind down all the working people so as to increase their wealth. But mass actions have already helped stymie Trump from implementing several of his plans. And if we can rally the working class to fight the key component of his demagoguery--anti-immigrant hysteria--then this will go a long way toward unifying all the working people for a counteroffensive that shatters Trump's entire right-wing agenda.
Seattle Communist Study Group, April 28, 2017
Over a thousand Palestinian prisoners have been on hunger strike in Israel since Monday, April 17. It is reportedly the largest hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners yet, and it comes as the fiftieth anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank approaches. The prisoners are protesting horrible conditions in Israeli jails, where medical neglect, solitary confinement, blocking of family visits, collective punishment, unjust sentences, and torture are commonplace. They charge Israel with carrying out a system of "judicial apartheid", in which Israelis may abuse Palestinians with impunity, while Palestinians may even be imprisoned without charge under "administrative detention", as 500 currently are. The prisoners have received support throughout the West Bank, with clashes with Israeli soldiers occurring in the West Bank and a one-day general strike on April 27 in Ramallah.
Millions of Brazilian workers went out on a one-day general strike on Friday, April 28. It is their first general strike since 1966, when workers opposed the program of privatization and labor reforms of former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. This time they were denouncing the austerity program of President Michel Temer, which calls for a market fundamentalist program of cutting pensions and social benefits and striking down labor protections. Temer's administration is totally corrupt, with almost a third of his ministers being investigated for graft.
Last year then-president Dilma Rousseff's popularity fell to single digits, as her administration proved unable to deal with the Brazilin economic crisis. This gave the Brazilian congress the opportunity to impeach her, thus promoting the rightist vice-president Temer to the office of the presidency. His policies have proved even worse, as he seeks to impose a strict austerity upon the working people. So now his popularity has fallen just as low. The Workers Party had held the presidency of Brazil from 2003, when Lula da Silva took office, until the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016. A number of reforms had been carried out, but Brazilian imperialism had continued to flourish, and the Workers Party had dominated Congress with the same sort of corruption as previous Brazilian governments. Brazilian activists are faced not only with the fight against Temer, but with the need to analyze what went wrong with the Workers Party.
Students at the University of Puerto Rico have been carrying out a series of strikes, the latest having begun on April 6, against a giant budget cut of 450 million dollars to the university system. One cut after another is also being made in social benefits and public employment, while taxes and fees go up. A general strike has been called for May 1 this year, called by unions and social organizations, so the students will be joined by workers.
Austerity has been going for years in Puerto Rico; the economic misery is such that, in the last decade, ten percent of the population of the island has left. This is reminiscent of what happened to certain East European countries subjected to economic "shock treatment". But, now there is the possibility of Puerto Rico defaulting on its $72 billion dollars of debt, the situation is getting worse. The American bourgeoisie, through the politicians in Washington and the financiers, is insisting the every last dollar be wrung out of Puerto Rico and that the people should have no say in this.
Last year, under President Obama, an unelected Fiscal Control Board was foisted on Puerto Rico; like "emergency financial managers" elsewhere, it has the power to impose the most stringent punishment on the island, no matter what the elected officials say. One of its members, Carlos Garcia, used to be President of Banco Santander Puerto Rico, one of the main private banks involved in the loans, and was later President and CEO of the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico. Afterwards he was Chairman of the Puerto Rico Fiscal Restructuring and Stabilization Board, and then Chairman of the Puerto Rico Public Private Partnership Authority. So this is a Board which itself bears responsibility for these loans, but its members won't face austerity, but will instead be paid handsomely for squeezing the Puerto Rican people further. Meanwhile the legality of many of these loans has been challenged, but this will be ignored. Legal or not, every penny of interest is to be extracted from the Puerto Rican people -- unless the mass struggle says otherwise.
Marches for Science took place throughout the US this year on Earth Day, April 22, in opposition to the climate denialism and science denialism of the Trump administration. The Trump administration has moved to cut the funds for public scientific work, to endanger the existing archives of knowledge, and to make it harder for the people to gain access to scientific knowledge. This led to demonstrations of thousands of outraged people in cities across the country, with the participation of many scientists.
Demonstrations took place outside the US as well. They expressed solidarity with the struggle in the US, but were no doubt also concerned with what was happening in their own countries as well. For example, Stephen Harper, one-time Prime Minister of Canada, had preceded Trump in science denialism and cutbacks to scientific work and archives, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an extremist Hindu fundamentalist.
A "nonpartisan" spirit was advocated by a number of organizers, but in fact the marches were directed against the agenda of the Trump administration. The days when science in general was supported by the government, no matter what the political atmosphere, are gone. And, as time goes on, the question of science for the corporations or science for the people will come to the fore. True, we need a very different type of partisanship than was predominant before, but we are not entering a time of peace, but a time of struggle.
The next weekend saw the People's Climate March on April 29. The main march in Washington DC was accompanied by marches throughout the country. Being a "March for Climate, Jobs, and Justice", the declared aims of the march were a bit more pointed than that of the March for Science. The heart of the demonstrations was recognition of the need to do something about the environmental issue, both global warming and the environmental poisoning of the land and the people. But a conscious division between pro-corporate environmentalism ("Big Green" in Naomi Klein's phrase) and militant environmentalism is still a matter of the future.
-- Joseph Green
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