The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 771 — March 27 - April 10, 2006

GM fires new shot in class war

Mar 27, 2006

General Motors, the world’s largest industrial corporation, has proposed an extraordinary buyout program for every hourly worker at GM and at its spin-off, Delphi.

GM’s stated goal is to shrink its workforce by 30,000 workers over the next few years, and to shrink Delphi’s workforce by up to 18,000. The buyout program comes while Delphi is in court, pleading bankruptcy.

Different offers are made to workers at different levels of seniority. But almost every offer boils down to this: give up a good job at GM, in exchange for a small amount of money and a risky future.

GM wants to pay off this generation of workers to go quietly, so that the auto industry can then install other workers at cut-rate wages.

GM’s proposals force workers to take all the risks about their futures – their jobs, their retirements. GM remains free to do what it wants – to take all the advantages! Take the advantage to break years of “ironclad” promises to retirees, as they did last year. Hire a completely new generation of workers at $12 an hour and few if any benefits – extending the “two tier” structure now in effect at Delphi and other places.

GM’s program represents the whole industry’s intention to dismantle, gut and destroy the job rights and the living standards that auto workers once fought for and won.

Wages and benefits that were won so decisively in auto, by generations of struggle, also extended into wider sections of the working class. Today, so many of those sections have been attacked, so many gains rolled back and taken away that now the corporations, their banks and investors have decided it is time to attack the last bastion.

The bosses want to stop paying for the series of protections won by workers starting in the l930s and expanded up through the l970s. Periodic waves of struggle by the working class, including the near insurrections by urban black populations, all pushed the big corporations to give up what was necessary to calm those struggles.

Pensions, vacations, holidays, healthcare, Social Security, unemployment insurance were won from the bosses in knock-down, drag-out war against the companies and the government that backed them. It was a class fight, not limited to one plant, or one company, or even one industry, but widespread across society, until the bosses opened their fat wallets.

Today, the companies think those days are over and done. They have taken so much from so many workers, they think the working class is softened up. They think we are “shocked and awed” and without leadership. With GM in the lead, the bosses are trying to get away with buying off the last ranks.

But it is not so settled as they may think. The trickery of the bosses, their phony “bankruptcies,” their broken promises, their deceptive offers are more and more clear to parts of the working class. And workers still hold the same power they have always held, and used: the power over production.

The bosses’ profits are completely in the hands of the workers, every hour, every day. No production, no profit. It has always been the fastest way to cut the bosses down to size.

When workers move to use their collective power to choke off production decisively, it will be time for the bosses to make other plans. Open those fat wallets up again. Give us what we need to live – all workers, without exception. Class war. The bosses lose. Pay up.

Pages 2-3

“Heckuva” gift, Barbie!

Mar 27, 2006

Barbara Bush sure has a funny way of giving to charity.

She recently announced her donation to the Bush-Clinton Houston Hurricane Relief Fund. But she attached some requirements: The money had to go to the Houston public schools. And it had to be used to buy computer software – from a company owned by her son, Neil!

Certainly for Barbara Bush, charity begins and ends at home!

A slimy attack on the Iraqi people

Mar 27, 2006

Speaking on March 18, Senator Dianne Feinstein gave the Democratic Party response to Bush’s speaking tour on Iraq.

What did this California liberal Democrat, who pretends to disagree with Bush over Iraq, have to say?

She dared to lecture the Iraqis that they “must take control of more of Iraq by the end of this year.” As if the Iraqis had willingly given up control of their country!

Feinstein said, “In no uncertain terms, the President must inform the Iraqi people that they must get their political house in order” – as if it’s the fault of the “Iraqi people” that their “political house” is in such a mess! She added, “They must get a government and key ministries up and running. They must quickly secure their streets by ramping up the deployment of an effective police force.” As if it were the Iraqis who had destroyed the government and left the infrastructure of the country in a shambles!

“And,” Feinstein added, “they must reconcile differences between the Sunnis and the Shia.” Completely glossing over the fact that, before the U.S. invasion, for all its problems and the oppression by Saddam Hussein, Iraq was practically a model of a secular society in a region ruled by reactionary fundamentalists. Sunnis and Shiites lived next door to each other and even inter-married. As if it were not the U.S. who plunged this Iraqi society into reactionary, religious sectarian violence?!

Feinstein dares lecture the Iraqi people about what they need to do to properly run their country, after she and a majority of Democrats supported a war that has destroyed their country?!

Disgusting hypocrite! She’s no different from Bush – attacking the Iraqi people while pretending to stand up for ending a war that she willingly sent their country into.

Listen to Feinstein’s conclusion: “Iraqis must know that we will exit on our own terms, not theirs.”

Big and bad Dianne wants to dictate terms to the Iraqi people now! She – and the whole American state – wants to show how tough they are – just when they’re desperate to get out of the mess that they’ve made.

The U.S. should get out of Iraq immediately – and don’t even talk about whose terms. Just get out.

Granholm joins the attack on abortion

Mar 27, 2006

Governor Jennifer Granholm, the Democrat from Michigan, says she will sign a bill into law requiring doctors to tell pregnant women they can view an ultrasound of their fetus before having an abortion.

This law has nothing to do with informing women about ultrasounds. Everybody knows what they are. It’s one more way for the state to insinuate its way into the doctor’s office, to harass and intimidate women seeking abortions and discourage doctors from providing abortion services. It makes women act as policemen against themselves. Laws like this have been the mechanism by which access to abortion has been nibbled away at, by hook or by crook, until it has become practically unavailable in many areas of the country.

Unlike the open reactionaries in the South Dakota legislature who voted to ban abortion outright, closet reactionaries like Granholm find ways to restrict access to abortion little by little, while parading themselves around as champions of women’s rights.

If the politicians are so anxious to pass requirements helping women, where’s the law saying all pregnant women must be provided with medical care? Why not say any woman who has a child must be given money to raise that child? How about a law saying every woman who wants it must be given access to abortion?

Politicians just can’t figure how to stop huge electric rate hike!

Mar 27, 2006

BGE (Baltimore Gas and Electric Company) recently announced it would increase its electric rates 72% on July 1. The average residential customer would have to pay about $750 more per year.

BGE claims this huge increase is necessary because it hasn't been able to raise its electric rates for the past six years. And it says it has to pay much higher prices for electricity on the open market now, because damage caused by Hurricane Katrina drove up prices for the natural gas used to produce some of its electricity.

Lies! BGE is not buying its electricity on the “open market.” It’s buying it – at a very low price – from its parent company Constellation Energy, which was created a few years ago when BGE split in two. Its highly profitable power plants were given to Constellation, while BGE kept control over the distribution of gas and electricity. Most of this electricity is generated in the low-cost coal and nuclear power plants that Constellation got from BGE. Very little of it is generated using oil or natural gas. Even though BGE's rates have been frozen while natural gas prices have been soaring, both BGE and Constellation have been making handsome profits.

BGE, the Maryland Public Service Commission and all the top state officials say huge electric rate increases are part of deregulating the public utility industry. They say the best they can do is stretch out the rate increase over a couple of years and allow BGE to charge everyone interest on the part of the rate increase that is delayed, in addition to the rate increase itself!

What a scam they are trying to run – trying to force through enormously higher prices for gas and electricity. Remember the same type of scam run in California a few years ago? Enron and other energy companies held the entire population of California hostage to demands for huge price increases.

What BGE is doing is criminal. If it can’t provide enough electricity at cheap prices, let the state seize the assets of both companies – power plants, electric grids, gas pipelines and other equipment. Run it in the interest of the population!

The owners of BGE/Constellation have fattened themselves for decades at the expense of everyone who has had to scratch year after year to pay their gas and electric bills. Time to turn the tables!

Second autopsy shows suffocation real cause in boot camp murder

Mar 27, 2006

A coroner from a different part of Florida performed a second autopsy in the boot camp death of Martin Lee Anderson. The autopsy showed that the original finding that Anderson died from internal bleeding resulting from the sickle cell trait was utter nonsense. The official results haven’t been released yet, but another medical examiner hired by the family, who observed the latest autopsy, said Anderson died from lack of oxygen, probably from when guards held the black teen on the ground, forcing him to inhale ammonia. All of this, and the beating it was a part of, can easily be seen on the video tape that eventually became public.

If the family had not insisted on a second autopsy – which the relatives of many victims don’t know how to do – Anderson’s murder would have stayed hidden.

So what action is being taken as a result of the findings? Is the coroner who made the first ruling being brought up on charges for participating in a cover-up? Are the camp guards being charged with murder? Officials in the Florida county say they are still “investigating.”

That’s what they claimed the first time when they “investigated” to figure out how to cover up a brutal murder of a 14-year-old by vicious guards. Put everyone involved in this brutal murder and coverup on trial!

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

Mar 27, 2006

In the Delphi-UAW dispute, a labor “expert” was quoted by the media. Gary Chaison, professor of labor relations at Clark University, said about the workers, “They almost see their job as a property right.”

Yes! Just like the bosses see their wealth as their property right!

Delphi shareholder says it’s a lie

Mar 27, 2006

In the refined legal language of bankers, Appaloosa Management L.P. has called Delphi’s bankruptcy a pack of lies.

Appaloosa holds 9.3% of Delphi stock. It is suing to have a say in the Delphi bankruptcy settlement, saying that Delphi used wrong and misleading data to make its bankruptcy case.

Delphi workers may not have Appaloosa’s slick lawyers, but the workers know just as well: Delphi’s bankruptcy is phony, phony, phony.

Pages 4-5

Job ad from hell

Mar 27, 2006

Do you want to earn $3,000 per WEEK, with full medical coverage, a retirement plan, and lots of paid holidays? The only requirements are that you speak Arabic and American English, you don’t even have to be a U.S. citizen, and be willing, as the ad puts it, “to travel worldwide and live in harsh environments.”

And die there.

U.S. military hunts down deserters from 40 years ago

Mar 27, 2006

Allen Abney, a 56-year-old Canadian citizen, was arrested on March 9 for deserting from the U.S. Marines 38 years ago. Abney, who lives in Canada, had entered the U.S. hundreds of times since his desertion. But this time, he was detained and sent to Camp Pendleton, California, for a week before being released.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. The U.S. military has been opening AWOL files that had long been closed. In the last 18 months, the Marine Corps has looked for, found and arrested 34 of some 160 remaining Marine deserters from the Viet Nam war. One of them, a 65-year-old man, was held for five months, four of them in solitary confinement.

The desertion rate was high during Viet Nam – 33,000 went AWOL in 1971 alone. The reason so few still remain at large today is because two presidents, Ford and Carter, pardoned Viet Nam deserters in the 1970s. Those remaining are basically the people who didn’t bother to turn themselves in to be officially pardoned.

It wouldn’t have taken a brain surgeon to find me at any time,” said 55-year-old Ernest McQueen, one of the arrested deserters. “It must be to send a message to the young guys in Iraq not to desert. Why else would they suddenly be chasing down old men?”

It wouldn’t take a brain surgeon either to see why the military would want to send this “Don’t desert or else ...” message to the troops now! The U.S. military has acknowledged nearly 9,400 desertions since fall 2003, not counting the much larger number of reservists and National Guard troops who have not reported to duty. In the latest polls an increasingly large majority of both the troops in Iraq and the population in the U.S. want out.

Wake up and smell the fundamentalism!

Mar 27, 2006

A man who converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago was arrested in Afghanistan. According to the fundamentalist Sharia law, he was told he had to convert back to Islam – or be put to death.

On Sunday, March 26, the Afghan high court dismissed the case on various technicalities.

Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State, would not confirm the matter but said the U.S. had to respect Afghan sovereignty. “But America has stood solidly for religious freedom,” she said on “Meet the Press.”

Freedom in U.S.-backed Afghanistan?

Women throughout Afghanistan are forced to wear the all-concealing burqa. Countless girls and women are barred from entering schools or universities. Women continue to be beaten, raped or killed for “breaking Sharia law.”

On the scale of Bush country values, the life of one Christian convert weighs more than the lives of all the women in Afghanistan! Of course, that’s true for him here in the U.S. too!

The struggle against job insecurity is the order of the day

Mar 27, 2006

The French government announced it would eliminate various job protections. In France, up until now, workers who passed their probation period could not legally be fired without cause. This affects all workers in the country, no matter what company they work for and whether or not there is a union.

The various job security laws have been chipped away at for some time, but the current government decided to make a major change. It made an open attack on young workers, those under age 26. With the new law, a young worker can be fired any time for two years for no reason at all. This provoked a response of big protests among first university and high school students and then workers throughout France.

The following editorial appeared in the March 24 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the paper of the revolutionary group of that name active in France.

The March 18 demonstrations brought together university students, high school students (including those from the so-called “tough” neighborhoods), workers and parents. Their success shows that more and more workers and future workers want a quick end to the government’s plans to make their situation more precarious.

The CPE (a job contract for youth employed for the first time) may have been the detonator to this expression of anger, but it was not the only cause. Many of the demonstrators also called for the end of the CNE (New Hire Contract – for workplaces under 20 workers), which contains a two-year trial period during which time the employer can lay off a worker of any age without having to give a reason.

These two measures follow in the pattern of previous contracts, which have allowed the bosses to hire temporary workers for set periods of time. These contracts, already used for the past few years, mean that job insecurity has spread to more and more of the work force.

The bosses and the government dare to say these measures are necessary because of the poor state of the economy. It’s a lie! For the owners and for the stockholders, the economy is doing very well: the large companies have announced record profits, and they have distributed record dividends. But these profits are produced off the backs of the workers. Wages are held down, working and living conditions are deteriorating, job insecurity and mass unemployment are introduced – all a result of the bosses’ drive for profits over the last 30 years and of governments that served them.

It is urgent to put an immediate end to this backward movement.

The college and high school students who are in struggle have firmly stated their intention to carry out more demonstrations in the coming days.

But it is the working class, without whom nothing functions, that has the real social force capable of imposing a change in policy. The union federations, along with the student organizations, have decided to organize a “day of action on Tuesday, March 28 with work stoppages, strikes and demonstrations,” to continue the demonstrations of March 18. Even a very successful day of demonstrating will not be enough to impose a change in policy. But it could allow people who are hesitant to regain confidence in the force workers possess, and in their capacity to respond strongly and to react against the unending offensive being carried out against the working class by the government and the bosses.

The leaders of the union federations are more concerned to force the bosses and the government to negotiate with them than they are with engaging a determined battle to get rid of all these measures eliminating job security. The size and determination of the student demonstrations led the union federation leaders to openly demand the government withdraw the CPE. In the same way, a massive participation by workers on March 28th is the best way to prevent these union leaders from leaving the protests at a single day’s actions with nothing to follow it.

Laurence Parisot, the president of the bosses’ association MEDEF, had the nerve recently to praise the lack of job security, saying that, “in life, everything is uncertain.” Well, it is time to demonstrate to her and those like her that profits extorted from the workers by playing on the fear of layoffs can also be “uncertain”; that workers are not going to accept that the bosses accumulate riches while the majority of the population becomes poorer.

German public sector workers on strike

Mar 27, 2006

The German public service workers’ strike against the increase of the work week from 38 to 40 hours has gone on for more than seven weeks. Yet the strike continues – the longest public sector strike in 80 years. It continues despite the willingness of the union to compromise, because the different German state governments refuse to back down from their attacks.

In Hamburg, after three weeks on strike, the union agreed to different work hours for each worker, depending on income, family situation and age. The average is about 39 hours. The union declared the contract was ratified although only 42% voted in favor. Their rules are so undemocratic that a contract can only be rejected if three quarters of the union members say NO!

In the majority of German states and cities, the governments still refuse to bargain. Not only do they want to lengthen the work week, but they also want to eliminate the very principle of a unified agreement for public sector employees. For example, even though a “reform” that went into effect last year changed government employee wages to make them dependent on individual “performance,” as well as on seniority, the German state governments refused the reform, because it would have set one standard for all state governments.

State political leaders, whose powers have recently been reinforced by a “reform” of federalism, want to be able to do whatever they want. They want different collective bargaining agreements in the different states and an increase of inequality between richer states and poorer ones. They want to divide the workers, who will face differing working conditions and increasingly differentiated pay. In Lower Saxony more than a quarter of state workers already put in 40 hours a week.

But the authorities also want to make a show of force. Hartmut Möllring, minister of finance for the state of Lower Saxony, thinks the concessions he wants to impose will act as a “pilot” for the economy in the future. And the bosses’ associations see this strike as an occasion to inflict a defeat not only on the state workers’ union but also on all the unions. They would like to continue dismantling bargaining agreements in every sector that still offer workers some protection.

In this sense, the fight going on concerns all workers, not just those in the public sector. This is particularly the case for the miners, who face a new wave of layoffs. The metal workers’ collective bargaining agreement is also expiring. It is possible miners will strike for wage increases after March 29, the day the official period of “social peace” expires in the metal industry.

The public sector union claims it can continue the movement for another year, thanks to its big strike fund. But it has announced a change in strategy. It will no longer plan unlimited strikes, but rather “limited and flexible” actions. But limited actions mean the unions have fewer ways to make the bosses and their politicians retreat. To make them back off, what’s needed is to extend the strikes to other categories of workers; to show the bosses and their governments that the anger that exists in the working class can explode and go beyond what these governments can control.

The cost of war and those who profit from it

Mar 27, 2006

Three years after the U.S. intervention in Iraq, with more and more people against the war in the U.S., Bush has begun a series of speeches to justify it. “I remain an optimist because, slowly but surely, our strategy gives results.... The decision to overthrow Saddam was good,” he declared in his March 18 radio broadcast. He dared to add: “Sometimes it seems difficult to understand why we can say there’s progress.”

Bush represents the greatest cynicism imperialism could show. He dares to speak of progress, when the occupation has caused the death of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the bloody chaos into which Iraq is sinking. When Bush sent U.S. troops into Iraq on March 20, 2003, he explained that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Today even Bush admits those weapons didn’t exist. Next, Bush claimed that Iraq was a threat to the security of the U.S. Finally, Bush argued that the U.S. army intervened for the good of the Iraqi people, removing Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and installing democracy. This final justification wasn’t very original, since imperialism’s barbarous acts are usually carried out in the name of democracy and civilization.

Today, Bush advances other arguments equally hypocritical, attempting to justify the maintenance of the U.S. army in Iraq these past three years. He says the goal is to prevent a bloodbath provoked by religious conflicts. The struggle between Shiite and Sunni factions contesting for power already means daily bombings, leaving dead and wounded among the population. Rather than preventing a bloodbath, the occupation directly causes it.

The true reason for the intervention, the maintenance of U.S. imperialism in Iraq, has nothing to do with any concern about the fate of the Iraqi population. It wasn’t true three years ago. It isn’t true today. On the contrary.

Imperialism’s real reasons are Iraq’s immense oil reserves, the second largest in the world, mostly untapped. Through this war, the U.S. administration has aided U.S. oil companies to seize these resources.

The “reconstruction” of Iraq is a term made up for the U.S. public. There never was a question of reconstructing Iraqi infrastructure such as hospitals or schools to serve its population. In fact, the situation in Iraq has offered profitable opportunities to U.S. corporations. In April 2003, a month after the invasion, the contract for work there was estimated to be worth at least 100 billion dollars. Then Bechtel, the largest U.S. infrastructure company, got a contract for 680 million dollars. Haliburton, the biggest installer of oil equipment in the world – headed by Dick Cheney before he became Vice President – got a contract for extinguishing oil well fires and fixing oil wells. This contract was worth two billion dollars at the end of 2003. Haliburton also profits from building prisons in Guantanamo. Its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown and Root, is one of the main providers of “private armies” to protect companies in Iraq.

Today, the U.S. is operating 106 military bases in Iraq. In May 2005, the U.S. decided to build four massive bases in the north, east, south, and west of the country. Congress authorized 236 million dollars for permanent facilities.

Chaos in Iraq may raise some immediate problems for certain capitalist companies. It’s very difficult to extract oil – in fact it’s impossible – when bomb attacks are frequent. Yet a number of companies make considerable profits, in particular from the sale of weapons, and the construction of military and other facilities, paid for by the U.S. government. The Iraqi population continues to pay the price in blood, and U.S. soldiers continue to die, in order that the profits of a handful of capitalist robbers led and protected by Bush can flourish.

Pages 6-7

Gordon Parks:
American artist, 1912-2006

Mar 27, 2006

Gordon Parks, photographer, musician, poet, writer, artist of America during his long life, died March 7.

Parks was born in 1912 in Fort Scott, Kansas in some of the worst years of Jim Crow. His farmer father and mother had 15 children. His mother died by the time he was 15. In the Depression years, he left Kansas, traveling widely to find work. While working as a waiter on a train, Parks saw a magazine with documentary photographs taken for the Farm Security Administration. This incident sparked his interest in photography.

Parks credits a variety of people who gave him a helping hand when poverty, lack of education and above all, racism would normally have prevented his achieving his ambitions. Out of the struggles during the Great Depression came a project that enlisted artists: working for the Farm Security Administration, they painted and photographed the country as it truly was. What Parks called “an unusual white man” working for the FSA in totally segregated Washington, D.C. gave Parks his first job as a photographer in 1942. The next year certain politicians succeeded in dismantling the FSA. As Parks put it, “Its picture files, crammed with America’s poor and dispossessed, practically amount to the government’s indictment of itself.”

Parks was then sent to photograph black fighter pilots training to enter the war in Europe. Just as the squadron was assigned to the front, Parks was pulled off the job. The racists in Washington didn’t want to give too much publicity in their segregated army to what black fighter pilots were accomplishing.

Still in the 1940s, Parks talked himself into a job for Life, the most widely read magazine to cover American society. In those early years, he created a photo essay on gangs in Harlem. He also was assigned to do high fashion in Paris, finally achieving a salaried position he held for 20 years, the first black photographer on Life’s staff.

When the magazine assigned him to live in Paris in the 1950s, he took his wife and children. Like other black artists, like writer Richard Wright, he enjoyed living in the freer and less racist atmosphere in France. He was even inspired to try musical composition, writing a piano concerto published and performed in 1952.

While on the staff of Life, Parks photographed everyone from fashion models, to movie stars and kings and generals. But his most famous photograph is the one called “American Gothic,” taken when he first went to work at the FSA in 1942. The woman in the photo holding a mop and broom in front of the American flag is Ella Watson, a black cleaning woman in the building.

In fact, the poor and desperate in both American society and all over the world held his attention and interest much more than did his photography of the rich or famous. It was not only that he had his own experiences of racism in the segregated Kansas, Chicago and Washington, D.C. of those times. He later said, “Those special problems spawned by poverty and crime touched me more, and I dug into them with more enthusiasm.”

His restless energy led him in new paths after he left Life magazine in 1968. He had written a memoir of the difficulties of a young black man. It was made into a film in 1969 called The Learning Tree, one of many with which Parks was associated. Parks later wrote about directing the film, “A lot of people of all colors were anxious about the breakthrough, and I was anxious to make the most of it. The wait had been far too long. Just remembering that no black had been given a chance to direct a motion picture in Hollywood since it was established kept me going.”

He also photographed a great deal of the turbulence of the civil rights years, continued his writing and his film-making. After King’s assassination, Life sent him to Atlanta. Parks wrote: “... Black people are demanding answers, and America must demonstrate the integrity of its conscience before we realize the worth of any answer. We have grown to doubt your promises, and the hopeful songs of our fathers....” Parks would later write the music for a 1989 ballet about Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.

“When the doors of promise open, the trick is to quickly walk through them. Things inside me are still sprouting upward; still working overtime. Racism is still around, but I’m not about to let it destroy me....” Parks wrote those words to introduce a show of his photographs that traveled across the U.S. throughout 1997 and 1998. “These images and words are a gathering of individuals, events, places, conflicts and dilemmas that confronted me as I shifted from course to course in pursuit of survival. Some, star colored, others, painted with rage, fall like rain in my memory. They all simmer down to what I remember, forgot, and what at last I know.”

Parks said to a reporter interviewing him, “I supposed a lot of it depended on my determination not to let discrimination stop me.” It didn’t.

"Kansas Land"

Mar 27, 2006

Gordon Parks, the poet, wrote:

I would miss this Kansas land.

Wide prairie filled with green and


the flowering apple,

Tall elms beside glinting streams ...

Silver September rain, orange-red-

brown Octobers

and white Decembers with hungry


of hams and pork butts curing in the


Yes, all this I would miss "

along with the fear, hatred and


We blacks had suffered upon this

beautiful land.

Page 8

Oppose the wedges and divisions inside the working class

Mar 27, 2006

In several cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Charlotte and Phoenix, there were very large demonstrations protesting a virulent and racist anti-immigrant bill that passed the House of Representatives last December. In Los Angeles, where several hundred students also staged walkouts in half a dozen high schools the day before, estimates put the number of demonstrators as high as a half a million people.

The bill that provoked such an outpouring would make it a felony for millions of undocumented immigrants to be in this country. Those who aided them would also be considered “felons.”

Fanning the flames of patriotism and intolerance, politicians are trying to divert the rest of the working class from focusing on the extremely unpopular war in Iraq, and the continued attack on education and other vital social programs and the lack of jobs. It is the oldest trick in the book.

As a supposed answer to this outright attack, Senator Edward Kennedy, the liberal Democrat, and John McCain, a conservative Republican, have stepped forward and offered what they say is a more “moderate” and “reasonable” kind of immigration “reform” that includes a “guest worker” program.

Several big churches and unions, with large numbers of immigrants, including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Hotel, Restaurant and Garment workers (HERE-UNITE), that supported the immigrant rights marches, have come out in support of the kind of “guest worker” program outlined by the Kennedy-McCain bill. They justify this by saying that it offers a first step for undocumented immigrants to gain more legal rights.

This is complete nonsense. Under the terms of the “guest worker” programs, the bosses could still threaten deportation any time an immigrant worker dared stand up even a little bit for his or her rights.

In other words, the proposal to have “guest worker” program is nothing but another attack against immigrant workers’ rights – just in another, disguised form.

The bosses want “guest workers” to fill the lowest tier of the working class, which is forced to take any job, no matter how miserable, at any wage, no matter how low. The bosses intend to use those “guest” workers as a battering ram against the rest of the working class in order to further drive down the wages, benefits and working conditions of all workers.

When anyone is forced to work for a low wage, everyone’s wages are at risk.

It’s in every worker’s interest to oppose all these attacks and to support full legal rights for anyone who works in this country. All workers should do this not just out of a sense of democratic solidarity – but out of the recognition of the interests that all workers have in common.

Criminalize the bosses, not other workers!

Mar 27, 2006

The proposal to turn immigrants without papers into criminals is the answer of right wing politicians to their falling numbers in the polls. Hoping to resurrect a reactionary base in the population by pushing patriotism, they also hope to win over workers concerned about the loss of jobs, and especially the loss of good-paying jobs.

If these politicians hope to gain a hearing by making such proposals, it’s because there has been such a drastic loss of good paying jobs with benefits over the last few decades.

Company after company has found ways to dump better paid workers, replacing them with low-paid workers. The Big 3 auto companies, for example, have spun off their parts plants into a multitude of companies, many of them very small, and many located in rural areas of Indiana, Ohio or out-state Michigan, where there are few jobs, and where the young workers still left can be forced to take a $6.50 an hour job – just because there’s nothing else.

Other companies have pushed to open plants in the rural South, even while shutting down plants in the traditional industrial areas of the Mid-West or Pennsylvania.

And still others have turned to setting up sweat shops in the middle of big cities, bringing in immigrants without papers to staff them. In many different sectors – including construction, meat packing, small factories, hotels, restaurants and janitorial services – the bosses simply expelled those workers who had been paid better wages. Using whatever pretext to do so, they dumped union contracts, and the workers along with them. Taking advantage of the extreme poverty and misery in underdeveloped countries like Mexico and other Latin American countries, the bosses have been using the acute desperation of workers fleeing these countries to bring down wages here – wages not only of native-born American workers, but also of the previous generation of immigrants.

Even while the actual employment of black workers – and in many cases white workers also – went down, the employment of immigrants went up. Studies recently reported on by the New York Times point up this situation in the real employment figures for males between the ages of 20 and 30. This is the prime time for someone to enter the work force and install himself and his family in society. Only 50% of black males in this age group with a high-school diploma have a regular, full-time job. Among white males the rate of real employment is 79% and among Hispanic males, thepercentage of those employed is 81%. For males without a high-school diploma, the gap is much worse, with only 28% of black males with a job, 66% of whites, and the same 81% of Hispanics. Historically and still today, the most oppressed part of the working class, black workers, continue to be the first to be squeezed out of jobs and neighborhoods.

Such a situation is used by the bosses to create divisions in the working class. And these divisions have already produced increased tensions between immigrants and the exploited and oppressed inside the working class, including ethnic-based violence.

Vile reactionary politicians hope to play on this horrible situation for their own personal gain.

No part of the working class has an interest to let itself be pulled along.

Immigrant workers aren’t “taking the jobs,” the bosses are. And they are doing it in a multitude of ways. So long as workers don’t fight to keep their jobs when they have them, so long as they don’t fight to stop the speed-up, the outsourcing, the two-tier wages – just that long the bosses are free to do whatever they want, including setting one part of the working class against another.

If workers who are today losing jobs (or failing to find them) turn against recent immigrants, they will only worsen the situation, making it easier for the bosses to attack everyone.

Either we stand together, or we fall separately.

And damn these racist politicians to hell!

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