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 January 15

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review January 15
Jan 152017
 

by Bill Onasch

Their MLK and Ours

[Reprinted from the January 20, 2014 WIR]

The Martin Luther King Jr holiday is a day off for public schools, nonessential public sector workers, and most covered by union contracts.

It is a unique commemoration, enacted only after tenacious popular demand overcame dogged resistance. While the scale of observance is on a par with “minor” holidays honoring Presidents, veterans, and “discoverers,” this one hails one of the greatest leaders of the centuries long–and still far from completed–self-liberation struggle by African-Americans.

While the Black civil rights movement propelled him in to national and international prominence, and remained his central focus, Dr King recognized the importance of allies of different skin pigment as well–and not just well-to-do white liberals who raised funds for the movement. This Nobel laureate also worked to create a multi-colored Poor People’s Campaign as well as collaborating with trade unionists and the movement against the Vietnam war.

Both Dr King, and another Black clergyman of a different faith and different strategy–Malcolm X–alarmed the Establishment of their time. The FBI not only spied on them but also circulated slander about their character and infiltrated provocateurs in to the civil rights and Black nationalist movements. Both great leaders were assassinated. Those movements have not yet fully recovered from that loss.

As mortality shrinks the living memory of Dr King’s movement, today’s Establishment cynically places him on an iconic pedestal, an acceptable Black hero piously preaching placid peace.


But Dr King’s nonviolent mass resistance to racism and exploitation was hardly peace. While he deplored all forms of violence he adopted, in his own way, the spirit of the message scrawled on the walls of the oppressed everywhere–No Justice, No Peace.

Let’s use this day to reclaim the genuine heritage of the man whose life was taken while organizing solidarity with striking sanitation workers. Let’s teach our youth to revere not a saint but a fighter in the cause of justice for all working people.

Poster

Womens March(es) Shaping Up

Historically, most major demonstrations in Washington have taken place in Spring or Fall. January is not an ideal time to bring masses of people from around the country to an outdoor march. That’s especially true the day after a presidential inauguration with its ravenous appetite for all modes of transportation and hotel rooms.

But politically, the symbolism of a giant mobilization immediately after the launch of an anti-woman administration justifies the timing of this effort. And, for those who can’t make it to DC, there will be local support marches and rallies at the same time across the USA–and international solidarity as well. So far, there are 281 marches planned that are expected to turn out about 600,000.

Since women make up a majority of the population, the Declaration of Principles of Unity is far broader than purely feminist issues. That has facilitated bringing supporting Partners on board including not only groups such as the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood but also civil rights organizations, civil liberties defenders, LGBT advocates, promoters of immigrant rights, trade unions and climate justice campaigners.

The Kansas City event will assemble at 1PM in Washington Square Park, just east of Union Station at Pershing & Grand. If that’s your destination, look for me there—I’ll be wearing my bright red Labor Party cap.

Deja Clinton

The Clinton administration took such a sweet time approving an ergonomic standard that could have reduced common repetitive motion injuries among assembly workers that the incoming Bush II administration was able to quash it before it became enforceable. Mike Elk, in his Friday the 13th Payday Report, notes the same work ethic in Obama’s final days,

Today, the Federal Register is publishing a rule designed to remedy the problems which led to the West Fertilizer Company warehouse explosion that devastated the small town of West, Texas in April 2013. The massive blast killed fifteen people and injured 200, while destroying hundreds of homes and other buildings.

“However, chemical safety activists say that the new regulations have been dramatically weakened by the Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while the years-long delay in publishing the rule creates an opening for the incoming Trump administration to block it from coming into effect.”

And that wasn’t the only shenanigan coming out of the EPA. The Associated Press reports,

President Barack Obama’s administration scaled back new safety measures for the sprawling network of fuel pipelines that crisscross the United States on Friday, following oil industry complaints that proposed changes would cost companies billions of dollars.

“The long-delayed regulations cover almost 200,000 miles of pipelines that transport oil, gasoline and other hazardous liquids. They will be subject to review by Congress and the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who was highly critical on the campaign trail of regulations that hinder energy development.”

There have been thousands of pipeline accidents on Obama’s watch, spilling nearly 38 million gallons, inflicting 2.5 billion dollars in property damage. Saturday morning I received a message from the League of Conservation Voters urging me to “thank Obama before he’s gone.”

Converging On a Just Transition

The latest newsletter from the Labor Network for Sustainability came out last week. Articles include Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism; How Labor and Climate United Can Trump Trump; Vermont Labor Council Initiates Social Self-Defense; and How a Railway Workers Union Won New Technology That Improves Jobs and Reduces Greenhouse Gases. I was pleased to see a report about a climate resolution adopted by the union to which I pay retiree dues—the Amalgamated Transit Union.

There is also an announcement that a Second Labor Convergence on Climate will be held this summer. The first Convergence was held in January 2016 at the ATU Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. You can find a description of what happened then, along with a short video, and a sign-up form for more information here.

If you aren’t already plugged in to the LNS I urge you to do so. This work is vital to the future of the labor movement—and the very future of life as we know it on this planet. And, if you live in the Kansas City-Lawrence-Topeka corridor and want to collaborate on bringing climate in to our unions I’d sure like to hear from you.

Celebration of the Life of Jerry Gordon

I received this information from the Labor Fightback Network:

Jerry Gordon — tireless trade unionist, socialist, and antiwar activist — passed away in his sleep on October 27,  just a few weeks short of his 88th birthday.

Friends and family of Jerry Gordon are hosting a Celebration of Jerry’s life on Saturday, January 28 (from 2 pm to 5 pm) at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. We invite one and all to join us. If you cannot attend, please send a message that will be posted and enlarged for all to see in the UU hall, and that will then be published in a special booklet with all the statements at the meeting and selections of Jerry’s writings and speeches. Messages should be sent to <JerryGordonMemorial@gmail.com>

***

That’s all for this week.

P.S. I apologize for some formatting quirks I am encountering with a new “upgrade” of WordPress.


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

http://www.workdayminnesota.org/sites/workdayminnesota.org/themes/workdayminnesota/images/social/large/rss.png Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

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

Follow Bill Onasch on Google +

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

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.