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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
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; email@example.com; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; email@example.com; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: email@example.com; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.