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The War at Home
W hile the world focuses on U.S. moves against Iraq, it is necessary to take a closer look at the government’s agenda at home to get a more comprehensive view of the current crisis. This agenda is not just a Republican one, large parts of it were integral to former President Clinton’s administration, but one of a broad reversal of the gains won and granted as part of the struggles and conflicts following World War II. Commonly referred to as neo-liberalism, this process has run up against increasing resistance and, consequently, its implementation has become more forceful and at times more nuanced .
What is remarkable about this agenda is that, at its root, it differs little from most of the governments now opposed to U.S. policy on Iraq. French solidarity has not stopped Chirac from employing a racist assault on immigrants and refugees to France. Schroeder’s consensus does not extend to the German working class where he is presiding over deep attacks on welfare and security. Putin has exercised war as the first and only option in Russia’s campaign against Chechen self-determination.
Any review of the domestic policies of Bush show that civil rights and liberties have been and will continue to be eroded in the United States under the auspices of the War on Terrorism. Recourse to the law has been denied to Arab, South Asian, and Muslim men and women, hundreds of whom have disappeared into the dark hole of Federal detention. Habeas Corpus has ceased to exist as a principle.
The myriad of new laws allowing for government snooping has been taken up by corporate America with some companies now requiring new employees to undergo “security checks” whose purpose knows no objectivity, but is entirely the prerogative of the employer.
The massive tax cuts given to businesses and wealthy individuals go beyond the “trickle down” economic notions of Reagan and Thatcher too, as one writer put it, a “mist down” economy where the poor must fend for themselves and the working class must pay for their own and increasingly meager social protections.
Enron did not pay one dime in income taxes between 1996-99 (the height, we remind readers, of the roaring 1990s under Clinton). Now instead of creative bookkeeping to protect their money from the public coffers and spurious social spending the rich have the law on their side—no taxes on inheritance or profits made from stock dividends.
Anti-union language has been written into nearly all the new legislation concerning the restructuring of Federal Government departments since September 11. When taking federal control over airline security they denied any collective bargaining protection to the government’s new employees. The government also stipulated that employees be American citizens, firing hundreds of perfectly legal workers mainly from Latin America. The Administration’s huge bailout to the airline industry was based on the airlines squeezing givebacks out of the various unions representing tens of thousands of workers.
When the Longshore workers were locked out on the West Coast, Homeland Security head Tom Ridge equated the workers with terrorists and threatened to use Federal troops to run the docks. Bush invoked the reactionary Taft Hartley act (last used by Jimmy Carter against the coal miners in the late 1970s) to force the dock-workers to accept government arbitration and therefore the parameters of an imposed settlement.
Arthur Scargill, the British mineworkers leader, said during the great Miners Strike of the 1980s that he wished the Labour Party were as loyal to its class as Thatcher and the Conservative Party were to theirs. The same can be said today of nearly all the leadership of U.S. unions who have in many cases collaborated with the government in the dismantling of their rights. In the name of national security they have virtually implemented a no-strike pledge as their part in the War on Terrorism. Whatever opposition they do voice is well within the confines of Democratic Party politics and therefore inadequate and ineffective.
There are, however, welcome signs that the anti-war movement has become big enough that the political space needed for the union bureaucracy to break from the government on some of these issues is opening. Still the labor movement faces an uphill battle, weighed down by its own bureaucracy and confronting a ruling class far more combative than they.
Long before September 11, Bush and his people had been eying the oil beneath the Alaskan wilderness in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge as their own. Stating the need to break the U.S. from “dependence” on foreign oil, the government seeks to open one of the last unspoiled ecosystems in the world to the trucks, pipelines, and drilling of the petro-chemical companies.
The Kyoto Accords, laughingly inadequate to begin with, are to be replaced by self-regulation and a “spirit of community” on the part of the polluters. Managing of the national forests is to be given to the logging companies while Bush has stated that the best way to avoid the Western forest fires last summer is to cut down the forests. A full-scale regression of environmental laws is in the cards as the capitalists see the laws of unregulated “free markets” as the greatest guaranteer of en- vironmental sustainability. Mean- while the ecological crisis facing humanity grows more urgent.
Affirmative action is another in a long list of gains made by the intense struggles of the post-war period falling under the axe of Compassionate Conservatives. White people have had a constant and unrestricted “affirmative action” since their arrival on these shores, slaves in tow. Does anybody think that Bush got into Yale and Harvard because of his disciplined studies and hard work? He is a poster child for the “race based” policies he says he opposes. The only reasons for his position (unless one believes, as he does, that his prayers were literally answered by God) are his money and his name; both of which are the exclusive property of the white elite.
George Bush scolds his friend Trent Lott in public all the while pushing forward racist judges to fill vacant federal benches. What has kept many Black Americans so whetted to the dead-end Democrats is the racist image of the Republican Party, which the Republicans seem eager to earn.
Soon abortion rights may well be in Bush’s sites, but, even before then, the plight of poor women in this country has been made even more difficult. Clinton presided over the destruction of the welfare system in this country, forcing many women into low paying jobs while their children are left to fend for themselves because there is no money or services for child care. Schools and community services have been forced to cut their budgets.
As always, the reduction of benefits corresponds with a rise in the idealization of the church and family shifting the burden for care from the government to the private sector. Gay and lesbian rights and visibility threaten to be drowned in a new parochialism.
Everywhere the attacks continue, but there are increasing and encouraging signs that the post-September 11 consensus is breaking down. The “full spectrum dominance” of foreign policy, again begun by Clinton in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse, is directly related to the domestic agenda inflicted on the working class, poor, immigrants, women, gays and lesbians, the environment, and dissent at home. When those groups in the U.S. see their natural allies as those attacked by this government overseas, then U.S. imperialism will face a truly striking challenge. The hundreds of thousands of Americans who have joined recent international days of protest give hope. We revolutionaries seek to make those connections and hasten that day.
Matt Siegfried is a trade unionist (UFCW 876) and anti-war activist in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He writes for the Irish journal Fourthwrite
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CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
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GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
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ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
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