Week In Review January 23

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Jan 232017

  by Bill Onasch

‘We’re Not Going Away!’

I didn’t know such a science existed until I saw this headline in the New York TimesCrowd Scientists Say Women’s March in Washington Had 3 Times as Many People as Trump’s Inauguration. They estimate around a half-million. That’s not the biggest ever march in Washington but it certainly is an impressive feat for an action organized in about two months while facing many political and logistical challenges.

But as I read numerous news accounts, supplemented by reports from our readers around North America, it became clear the DC demo was just the tip of an iceberg menacing the Titanic Ship of State steered by the big hands of the 45th President.

Massive crowds march past Grand Central Station on 42nd Street.

By Sunday afternoon, Ann Montague and Michael Schreiber had posted an excellent piece on the Socialist Action site–The Biggest Protest in U.S. History: Women’s Marches Draw 4 Million. The astonishing numbers are based on a tally of 668 demonstrations on all continents, including both low and high estimates. The event I attended in Kansas City was reported as 10,000 by the local NBC affiliate.

For most it was their first non-electoral political act and the speeches and signs were as diverse as the marchers. The initiative taken by the women’s movement was a first mass response to what Samantha Bee might call a Full Frontal assault on the whole spectrum of their social, economic and environmental values. It often begins with an anti-Trump sentiment but that will quickly prove to be insufficient.

To continue the nautical disaster metaphor, we need to not only replace the pernicious, incompetent captain but also the unseaworthy present Ship of State. As we work to save those down below in steerage we urgently need to plan a new ship and assemble the skilled workers to build it. Hopefully, some day we will be able to identify January 21 as the beginning of this rescue. Another headline in the Times attributed this sentiment to the protests—We’re Not Going Away!

Whose America First?

Oxfam released a blockbuster report about wealth inequality as the World Economic Forum gathered in the posh mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland. While shocking to most, for the WEF—a mix of top capitalists and those who nurture them—the study’s findings were an embarrassment of riches for those not easily embarrassed.

Just eight men have accumulated as much wealth as that held by the poorest fifty percent of humanity. You won’t find the 45th President, or the Koch brothers, or the liberal sugar-daddy George Soros, in the elite Eight. Compared to the Mega-Rich their paltry billions are chump change.

Six of the eight are in the USA: Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft; Warren Buffett, whose diversified portfolio includes a railroad and furniture stores; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post; Mark Zuckerberg, founder of FaceBook; Larry Ellison, CEO of the tech giant Oracle; and Michael Bloomberg, owner of a stable of financial information and services companies.

Armancio Ortega, founder of the Zara fashion clothing line based in the Spanish state and Carlos Slim, owner of Telmex, a giant telephone and Internet provider for Mexico and much of Latin America as well as the conglomerate Grupo Carso, round out the eight. Slim is the sole representative of a “developing country.”

An armed officer is snow camouflage stands guard on a snow-covered roof by the big Davos sign

The mood in the heavily guarded Swiss compound was aptly described in a New York Times headline–Davos Elite Fret About Inequality Over Vintage Wine and Canapés. The International Monetary Fund, founded by the United Nations in 1945 under the guidance of liberal economist John Maynard Keynes to promote growth in the former colonial countries, pledged to do more.

But the track record of the IMF, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic and Cooperative Development, has produced just the opposite of what Keynes had envisioned. Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics recently revealed in The Guardian that in 2012—the most recent year for which such statistics are available—the countries of the prosperous OECD pumped 1.3 trillion dollars in to what used to be called Third World nations. But that same year those poor countries sent 3.3 trillion back to the rich. This was no windfall—it is typical of the post-World War II period and has likely become even worse since 2012.

So was this Reverse Robin Hood expropriation good news for the working class of the richest country? Can we expect to share in the rewards of making America not just great again but greater than ever as the richest President in history has promised?

Hardly. In the December 19 2016 WIR I commented on new research on American income inequality cited in the New York Times that found,

Even with all the setbacks from recessions, burst bubbles and vanishing industries, the United States has still pumped out breathtaking riches over the last three and half decades. The real economy more than doubled in size….Yet for half of all Americans, their share of the total economic pie has shrunk significantly….the approximately 117 million adults stuck on the lower half of the income ladder has been completely shut off from economic growth since the 1970s.”

Wealth, debt and savings stats for most workers are no better.

Guided by a crypto-fascist dba “alt-right” senior strategic adviser now ensconced a few steps away from the Oval Office, and a televangelist preaching the Prosperity Gospel as his spiritual adviser, Trump tapped in to enough discontent among workers in targeted states to win an upset Electoral College victory while finishing a not so close second in the popular vote. There is some evidence of buyer’s remorse as Trump begins what is normally a “honeymoon” period for a new President with the worst ever approval rating in the history of polling.

In his inaugural address—if not the inaugural balls—Trump tried to continue to dance with those purported responsible for getting him on the big stage. There were numerous references to workers who will be liberated from the tyranny of Washington. But that was background for the introduction of a new theme—America First.

Those who crafted the speech for a leader more comfortable with a limit of 144 characters are certainly aware of the historical significance of this slogan. America First was the rallying cry of a vocal movement of admirers of Hitler during the Great Depression. They gained credibility from such prominent figures as Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh. There were not yet televangelists but a Catholic priest, Father Charles Coughlin, used a national weekly radio show to spew racism, anti-semitism, and xenophobia from a pro-Nazi perspective.

The proper challenge to the American Firsters redux is not America bashing but the question of whose America? James P Cannon, a Kansas City lad who played a prominent role in the labor and socialist movements of the last century, dealt with this question in a 1948 speech entitled The Two Americas. He told a national radio hook-up,

One is the America of the imperialists—of the little clique of capitalists, landlords, and militarists who are threatening and terrifying the world. This is the America the people of the world hate and fear.

There is the other America—the America of the workers and farmers and the ‘little people.’ They constitute the great majority of the people. They do the work of the country. They revere its old democratic traditions—its old record of friendship for the people of other lands, in their struggles against kings and despots—its generous asylum once freely granted to the oppressed.

This is the America which must and will solve the world crisis—by taking power out of the hands of the little clique of exploiters and parasites, and establishing a government of workers and farmers.”

The new American Firsters want to liberate us from what remains of the Social Safety Net, the hard won partial victories of the civil rights, women’s rights, human rights movements—and free us from unions too. And they use newly discovered “alternative facts” to obliterate the very mention of a climate crisis. We should fight these tooth and nail.

But the official American opposition, like those fretting in Davos, want to return to stagnation of living standards, “sensible” austerity, endless wars of intervention, and only token gestures as our planet gets dangerously hotter. After eight years in power those policies contributed to the discontent here at home and misery throughout the world. Their differences with the American First gang are tactical, not principled and fundamental.

It’s time to recognize what divides Our America from Theirs is class. We need to become self-reliant. Instead of the meaningless demand of accountability from our masters we should be preparing to replace them with a government of the working class majority in this country, in solidarity with our class siblings throughout the world.

We Can Fight City Hall

Kansas City Labor Party Advocates has stayed visible through solidarity support for the Verizon strike, Standing Rock, and at the Women’s March last Saturday.

Above all, we have been present at virtually every action by low wage workers fighting for 15 Dollars and a Union. Last week the Missouri Supreme Court ordered the Kansas City City Council to place a measure for a City Minimum Wage that would progress in stages to 15 dollars an hour on the ballot in April. Last year the Council illegally blocked the measure relying on a bogus legal opinion by the City Attorney.

At last Thursday’s Council meeting a procedural maneuver by a minority succeeded in at least delaying compliance with the order from the highest court in the state, vaguely suggesting they might allow the Minimum Wage to be voted on in August. Lawyers for the workers are seeking a new court order to override the scofflaws and mandate the April vote.

Whether in April, as all fair-minded workers hope, or delayed until August, the KCLPA interim board believes we should actively support this campaign. That will be the main agenda point for an LPA meeting:

Sunday, January 29, 1-2:30PM

Tony Saper’s Home, 2113 Erie, North Kansas City

We also want to have at least an initial discussion about affiliating with the Labor Network for Sustainability to bring climate issues in to our unions.

Readers in the KC region are invited to attend this meeting to plan the next goals in our long term effort to revive the movement for a labor party. Feel free to write, or call me at 816-753-1672, with any questions or suggestions.

That’s all for this week.

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Week In Review November 22

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Nov 222016

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

Our Alternative to AltRight, AltHistory, AltScience

A cartoon in the Kansas City Star suggested that along with a ten foot wall on the southern border to keep Mexicans out a similar wall should be built on the northern border to keep Americans in. It’s the sort of grim humor attributed to soldiers waiting to go in to battle.

A lot of Americans—likely the majority—are mad, unsettled, or depressed about the prospects of a Trump administration. Their concerns run the full gamut of social, economic and political issues. Their angst is shared by the rest of the world.

It’s always hard to prioritize topics for these weekly missives. The class war will soon escalate on many fronts—an imminent threat of resuming mass deportations; a fast track to reversing Roe v Wade; further degradation of already failing health care; erasing the modest recent gains in labor law reform; and uncertainty about the direction of ongoing wars of intervention.

But one issue remains overarching. The mood at the UN climate gathering in Marrakesh that concluded last week would have been gloomy even without the shocking result in the U.S. election. The New York Times reported,

As negotiators meet in Morocco to hammer out details of the landmark global climate change accord reached in Paris almost a year ago, the independent International Energy Agency warned that the nearly 200-nation deal was too weak to meet its avowed temperature target.”

Even that forecast by scientists was based on the assumption that the meager commitments of the Obama administration would be kept. But a Guardian article reminded us,

Trump, who is the first self-declared climate change denier to lead one of the world’s top emitters, has dismissed global warming as ‘very expensive … bullshit’ and claimed the concept ‘was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.’”

Given the fact that China long ago overtook the USA as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, Trump’s conspiracy althistory defies not only science but common sense logic. The Chinese ruling class clearly has no self-interest in creating a phony crisis in which they are portrayed as one of the main culprits.

It is true, however, that much of China’s mammoth pollution of all sorts serves U.S. corporations who offshore not only jobs that could be done in this country but environmental and climate damage as well. The capitalist elite dba Chinese Communist Party cannot hide the downright unhealthy impact of fossil fuels on daily life both urban and rural. They have in fact also become a leading developer of altenergy, especially solar.

Of course, most bosses have been denouncing “job-killing junk science” since the 1970s battles that won passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air, OSHA and MSHA acts. They certainly have their stooges in Congress, state capitals, and the courts still sniping and haggling. The climate wrecking class has even found some suckers in the union bureaucracy to do their dirty work such as at Standing Rock. They didn’t expect that they would also get Trump and most are probably clueless about the ultimate intentions of this new “populist”–who has chosen a proto-fascist to be in charge of his policy strategy–denouncing Globalization as well as promising deregulation.

Those earlier landmark reforms were won during the Nixon administration. The incongruity of these achievements may not be apparent to most of our readers who are too young to have personal recollections of the only President forced to resign in disgrace—after first securing a Get Out of Jail Free Card from his successor.

I lived through that tumultuous period and participated in some of the mass movements of that time. This is not the place for a lengthy review of those momentous events but trust me—Nixon holds his own in comparison with Trump as a foul mouthed bigot in presumed privacy, and as ruthless in undermining democracy at home as he was pursuing war crimes abroad.

You needn’t remind me that today’s situation bears little resemblance to the 70s—of that I am painfully aware. The point I wish to make is that even with a reactionary crook in the White House the pressure of mass movements in the streets won some game-changing reforms as well as contributing to eventually ending a terrible unjust war.

And I will make a further counter-intuiative suggestion that rebuilding mass movements may be easier under Trump. An energetic antiwar movement under Bush II lost its way with the election of a “Peace President.” Civil rights leaders measured their words about the first Black President. The mainstream environmental groups never faltered in their support of the “Environmental President.” And most union bureaucrats took their marching orders from “Labor’s Friend” in the White House. There will be few such illusions in Trump.

There are already some developments far more promising than the spontaneous anti-Trump gatherings that the opportunists of MOVEON.org tried to corral.

* There was already the ongoing struggle of Native peoples and many allies against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Last Tuesday tens of thousands participated in solidarity events at Federal Buildings across the country. I was proud to help carry a Labor Party banner at the Kansas City action that attracted many friendly remarks and questions. Labor Beat put together a good video about the well attended march and rally in Chicago.

* Next Tuesday, November 29, the Service Employees International Union is coordinating Stand Together local actions around the country addressing both the threat to immigrant workers and the struggle of low wage workers for 15 Dollars and a Union. There will be a voluntary civil disobedience component in most places. You can get more information, and sign up to participate here.

* 350.org is leading an ambitious effort to pull together a People’s Climate Movement coalition including labor and civil rights as well as environmental groups that project a variety of actions to greet and continue to fight Trump’s climate denial and destruction. You can find out more here.

* The Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Health Care is co-sponsoring a Single-Payer Strategy Conference in New York City January 13-15.

Other actions by women’s liberation and Black Lives Matter groups are in the works and the WIR will pass on details as they become available.

We must reject althistory and learn the lessons of the true history of our class. But above all, we need to shake off any lingering depression and embrace our obligation to make new history.

‘Zuckerman Gives Hoffa a Run For His Money’

That was how an In These Times headline described the top of the ticket results of the international leadership election in the Teamsters. Though there are still some challenged votes to be resolved it appears the Teamsters United candidate for president won small majorities in all the U.S. regions but Hoffa piled up a big enough majority in Canadian locals to offset this. I’ll have more to say about this contest another time but for now I want to congratulate the exemplary principled campaign of Teamsters United that brings the Teamsters membership a step closer to the militancy and democracy they deserve.

Help Wanted

I’m sorry that I have no career opportunities to offer. No body gets a paycheck at KC Labor. We’ve never charged to view our content. We accept no paid advertising. To maintain our independence we don’t even want grants from institutions. I was still drawing a “middle class” wage as a unionized bus driver when we launched KC Labor in 2000 but my pockets have shrunk after twelve years of no regular income other than Social Security. I’ve had to rely on donations from appreciative readers and that’s the help I want.

Our needs are relatively modest for an established site–but too expensive for a hobby. My annual domain and server fees along with my AT&T bill runs about 1500 dollars. Our i-Contact e-mail subscriber list is a bargain at 150. Subscriptions to the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Kansas City Star, Labor Notes, and Monthly Review, come close to 900. Security and file backup service costs another hundred bucks. This bare minimum package needed to function runs about 2650 a year.

Fortunately, a generous monthly pledge from a California reader, supplemented by occasional smaller donations have more than kept up with these minimum needs. We’re not in imminent danger of going dark.

But in the past I have also tried to cover important movement conferences and other major events. A KC Labor information table has become a fixture at biennial Labor Notes Conferences for example. Travel, hotel, and fees for such efforts often run a thousand dollars or more.

I am on my fourth desktop and second travel laptop computer since we went online and it would be prudent to have something put away for replacement in the next year or two. Much of my software is becoming obsolete.

I am just vain enough to think this project will be more useful than ever in the class and climate battles on the horizon. That’s what moves me to overcome my reluctance to shake the can. If you haven’t donated recently your help is wanted—and appreciated.


I wish our U.S. readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

That’s all for this week.


If you’re not already signed up you can get the Week In Review free of charge in one of the following ways.

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Simply send your name and e-mail address to billonasch[at]kclabor.org

Follow Bill Onasch on Google +

Our companion Labor Advocate news blog posts articles of interest to working people by 9AM Central, Monday-Friday.