Workers' Voice mailing list
January 16, 2017
RE: MLK Day; Trump; Syria
Detroit Workers' Voice #122, Jan. 16, 2017 contains the following articles:
The racist, lying, anti-working class demagogue Donald Trump will be the 45th president. Demonstrations against him are taking place all across the us. People are declaring that he is "not our president"; they are defending immigrants; they are opposing attacks on social programs; and more. There will be massive demonstrations in the capital on the day he takes office, and the Women's March on Washington (and across the country) the day after. In Buffalo, demonstrators have demanded that Carl Paladino, a major organizer of Trump's New York campaign, a multi-millionaire, and an exceptionally foul-mouthed racist, be thrown off the School Board. There isn't just shock at Trump's election; there are people taking to the streets, some perhaps for the first time in their life.
There is abundant reason for protest. Trump is a racist. He mocks minorities. He couldn't stand there being a black president. He wants to deport millions of poor workers. He is a sexual predator. He stands for having the police shoot more and ask questions less. His election was celebrated by the KKK and the alt-right white supremacists, and it sparked attacks on immigrants, minorities, and even women wearing hijabs.
Trump is anti-working class. While promising jobs and wages, he is really a front man for Wall Street, and his cabinet is a who's who of rich parasites. He is pushing a program of cutting taxes on the rich while eliminating every regulation that protects workers' welfare, cutting social programs from health to environmental protection, and eliminating all rights for workers. The stock market is ecstatic over Trump; they know how false all his words against the elite are.
Trump is a liar. He promised that he will not touch Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but he fronts for conservative Republicans who are watering at the mouth at the prospect of privatizing and cutting back these programs. Trump is a clown, but a clown with a whip and a taser. He will need them in order to enforce his economic and social policy.
Trump's election is a sign that a major crisis is growing in this country. The rich exploiters who run this country are sticking with their program of market fundamentalism and privatization. They are rolling in money, but bankrupt in terms of ideas. It's a time of growing inequality. Of growing insecurity. Of temporary jobs. Of cuts in pensions and benefits. And all the capitalists can do is insist on yet more of the same.
One section of pro-capitalist politicians tells us a fairytale about things being fine, jobs being back, wages going up, and free trade being wonderful. This is what Obama tells us is his supposed legacy; if the Democrats had won, he would even have tried yet again to get the discredited Trans-Pacific Partnership passed before leaving office. And another section of the ruling class sells fake racist solutions like those of Trump. He would reassure desperate people that things would be fine if only we stomp on minorities, unions, pensions, tenure rights, public housing, etc. He might interfere with international trade, but only to enslave everyone even tighter to the domestic free market and every capitalist whim.
Protest and organize! There will be no end to this situation without mass struggle against it. Already under Obama, we saw the rise of important protest movements, like Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, the anti-fracking movement, the struggle for a $15 minimum wage, auto workers opposing multi-tier wages, and opposition to Islamophobia. The anti-Trump protests are building on that. The sanctuary movement for immigrants is spreading. And the anti-Trump protests are linking up with the earlier movements.
We must not only take part in protests, but organize. There are many calls being made today to form groups or join already-existing ones. Many people who supported Bernie Sanders are now considering the need to form groups outside the Democratic Party. It is important for people to find like-minded people to attend the immediate round of protests, to discuss politics with, and to decide on what to do next. We need groups in schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.
There is talk of a third party. But today there is no one group that can unify the different movements. Instead we face a protracted period in which people discuss where the movement should go, and what type of organization is needed. There is going to be a lot of discussion whether the problem is just bad politicians, or the rule of the capitalist class. We need a profusion of groups everywhere among the people. We can't wait for a powerful third party, or there never will be one.
The fact is that the presently-existing left is in crisis. This is not simply a crisis of numbers, but of orientation and theory. The different protests will grow, but if there is eventually to be a large working-class opposition party, we can't avoid discussing orientation. For example, some groups on the left still look to making deals with the tame labor leaders who have been betraying the unions they lead, and collecting big salaries while the labor movement hits a brick wall. Or another example, the Green Party proclaims it's the third party, but it makes promises it can't keep, and concentrates on votes rather than bringing people at the base into organization. And the centerpiece of its environmental program, the carbon tax and carbon pricing, is similar what's advocated by the neoliberal World Bank and IMF. So we face a period of both intensified mass struggle and much political and theoretical debate, clarification, and realignment.
Join the demonstrations! Talk to your coworkers, friends, neighbors, family! Organize, organize, organize!
Here we are on Martin Luther King's birthday again, and black people are facing a new wave of discrimination and violence as Trump assumes the presidency. Trump incited violence against anti-racist demonstrators and the Black Lives Matter movement during his election campaign. He scapegoated immigrants, Mexican, black activists and others for the country's problems. His election victory will give him a bigger platform to attack the minorities. So the struggle against racist bigotry and oppression, and for equality and decent conditions is going to intensify.
It's not that things were fine under the Obama administration. Racism didn't end with the election of Obama. Indeed, it was under Obama that the Black Lives Matter movement arose to fight police murders of black people and others. It was under Obama that deportations reached an all-time high. And it was under Obama that black and minority workers were made to bear the brunt of the economic crisis that broke out in 2008.
But now the federal government will come down more sharply on minorities. Trump has even appointed the white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim Steven Bannon as his chief White House adviser. Police atrocities are bound to grow worse as Trump eggs them on. And racism will be celebrated as opposition to "political correctness".
Across the country there as been outrage against Trump's racism. We are seeing such things as the spread of the sanctuary movement to more cities, churches, and school. The fight against racism will be one of the key fronts of the struggle against Trump. It is a life-and-death struggle for the workers movement. If ruthless exploiters like the millionaire Trump can continue to use racism to divide the masses, the rights of all workers will be taken away.
The struggle against racism is growing in importance on a world scale as well. In Europe, for example, anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, and racist forces are seeking to lead major countries. In the Middle East, religious fundamentalists have unleashed hatred against minorities.
The struggle for the rights of black people also continues in Africa. People there still face the oppression of multinational corporations and the world financial institutions. This is true even in South Africa. The historic struggle to eliminate apartheid won victory in the early 1990s with the establishment of the ANC government. This was an immense step forward. But the struggle against the poverty and downtrodden condition of most black workers has continued. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) is the largest union in the country and one of the largest independent unions in the world. It has declared that the ANC is now an obstacle to the black masses. What happened to the ANC's Freedom Charter that anti-apartheid activists fought for? NUMSA points out that "The Freedom Charter ... has been completely abandoned in favour of rightwing and neo-liberal policies". (NUMSA Special National Congress, December 2013)
On MLK day, and in the protests against Trump's inauguration, let us rededicate ourselves to the struggle against racism and bigotry!
Black lives matter more than ever!
Aleppo has fallen, but the struggle continues. In 2011, as part of the Arab Spring, the people of Syria rose up against the Ba'ath party dictatorship, which had lasted for half a century and is now led by Bashar al-Assad. As part of this, the people in East Aleppo held out for over five years against the barrel bombs, chemical weapons, and other brutalities of the regime. For a year and a half, this meant holding out against intense bombing from the Russian Air Force. Last month, however, liberated East Aleppo fell, and the foreign fundamentalist troops from Iran and elsewhere, brought into Syria by the Assad regime, took control of it.
Aleppo fell, but the struggle against the dictatorship continues. It continues under very harsh conditions. Moreover, as a result of the fall of Aleppo, the outside powers think they can do with Syria what they like. They will seek to determine the next government in Syria by arrangements among themselves.
It's not surprising that one capitalist regime after another has opposed the Syrian people. But it used to be that the world left stood up for the struggle for democracy. The left used to be part of the struggle against dictatorship.
But today much of the left is backing the Assad regime. It has orchestrated an unprecedented campaign of lies against the Syrian uprising. It denies the atrocities, the torture, the prisons, the use of starvation as a method of war, the chemical weapon attacks. Indeed, it claims that Assad is an anti-imperialist hero standing up against an outside plot to overthrow him. Even medical personnel and the unarmed "White Helmets" who rescue people from rubble are supposedly part of this plot. Just as civil rights workers were once called "outside agitators" by Southern segregationists, so Syrian democrats are now called foreign-backed terrorists and equated with ISIS.
Workers can't be free in the US unless we also support freedom abroad. The Arab Spring was not a US plot; instead it undermined regimes which the US had worked with for years. The uprising against Assad was not a US plot; it sought to overthrow a regime which the CIA, in the program of "extraordinary rendition", used to torture people such as the Canadian Maher Arar.In Seattle, there will be a demonstration in support of the Syrian people on Jan. 16. The poster for it declares "Stand with Syria" and "Despite post-Aleppo ceasefire: Syrian regime [is] bombing Idlib, rural Idlib, rural Aleppo, Wadi Baradah, and rural Hama." For more about what's really happening, see Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab & Leila Al-Shami and the collection of articles at www.communistvoice.org/00Syria.html. <>
The article on MLK Day refers to the situation in South Africa and quotes from the Declaration of the NUMSA Special Congress of December 17-20, 2013. The full text of the declaration can be found at http://www.numsa.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/SNC-Declaration-final-copy.pdf. The passage quoted in DWV #122 is from "Point 9: On the Alliance", referring to the Tripartite Alliance of the African Naional Congress (ANC), the Congess of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and the South African Communist Party (SACP). Point 9 reads in full as follows:
The congress noted the history and current situation of the Alliance and its partners:
The Alliance is dysfunctional and captured by rightwing forces
The Alliance is dysfunctional, in crisis, paralysed and dominated by infighting and factionalism. It has been captured by rightwing forces. As a result:
The Alliance does not lead struggle
Although there are protests everywhere and every day in the country, the Alliance is not an instrument in the hands of these struggling masses, nor does it provide leadership to these struggles, which are largely leaderless struggles. The reality is that there is a political vacuum and the working class is on its own.
The Alliance is just for elections
The Alliance operates only during election periods. It is used to rubber stamp neo-liberal policies of the ANC and not as a centre of power that debates policy issues and implementation. It is our experience that the working class is being used by the leader of the Alliance -- the African National Congress -- as voting fodder.
The ANC is the only strategic centre
The ANC has resisted the reconfiguration of the Alliance into a strategic political centre where issues of policy, deployments into government and programmes are jointly decided upon by all Alliance components. Our strategy of swelling the ranks has not worked and all resolutions of COSATU congresses in relation to how the Alliance should function have not been implemented by the leaders of the Alliance.
In practice the Alliance is still in the hands of one alliance partner, the ANC. The ANC is the centre and implements government programmes and policies alone, with little or no consultation with other components of the Alliance. It has made it very clear that it has no intention of allowing this situation to change. As evidence of this, the recent alliance summit still failed to make fundamental changes to the NDP and had no significant impact in changing policies in favour of the working class and the poor.
This is a common development in post-colonial countries
The treatment of labour as a junior partner within the Alliance is not uniquely a South African phenonmenon. In many post-colonial and post-revolutionary situations, liberation and revolutionary movements have turned on labour movements that fought alongside them, suppressed them, marginsalised them, split them, robbed them of their independence or denied them any meaningful role in politics and policy-making.
There is no chance of winning back the Alliance or the SACP
There is no chance of winning back the Alliance to what it was originally formed for, which was to drive a revolutionary programme for fundamental transformation of the country, with the Freedom Charter as the minimum platform to transform the South African economy.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) leadership has become embedded in the state and is failing to work as the vanguard of the working class. The chance of winning it back onto the path of working class struggle for working class power is very remote.
The working class needs a political organisation
For the struggle for socialism, the working class needs a political organisation committed in theory and practice to socialism.
The Congress therefore resolved the following:
Call on Cosatu to break from the Alliance
Numsa calls on COSATU to break from the Alliance. The time for looking for an alternative has arrived.
Establish a new United Front
NUMSA will lead in the establishment of a new United Front that will coordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities, in a way similar to the UDF of the 1980s. The task of this front will be to fight for the implementation of the Freedom Charter and to be an organisational weapon against neoliberal policies such as the NDP. For this to happen our members and shopstewards must be active on all fronts and in all struggles against neoliberal policies, whether these policies are being implemented in the workplace or in communities.
Explore establishment of a Movement for Socialism
Side by side with the establishment of the new United Front, Numsa will explore the establishment of a Movement for Socialism as the working class needs a political organisation committed in its policies and actions to the establishment of a socialist South Africa. Numsa will conduct a thoroughgoing discussion on previous attempts to build socialism as well as current experiments to build socialism. We will commission an international study on the historical formation of working class parties, including exploring different type of parties -- from mass workers parties to vanguard parties.
We will look at countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Greece. We will examine their programmes with the aim of identifying elements of what may constitute a revolutionary programme for the working class. This entire process will lead to the union convening a Conference on Socialism.
Set a deadline for this process
This work to explore the formation of a Movement for Socialism must be ergularly reported to constitutional structures and the work must be finalised by the first NUMSA Central Committee in 2015.
Look for electoral opportunities
In addition, in all the work being done, whether on building a new united front or exploring the formation of a Movement for Socialism, we must be alert to gains that may present possibilities of either the new united front, or any other progressive coalition or party committed to socialism, standing for elections in future. The NUMSA constitutional structures must continuously assess these developments and possiblities.
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Posted on January 24, 2017