May 052017

  by Bill Onasch

Their Resistance and Ours

Unless you are an electrician concerned about ohms, mention of Resistance likely conjures images of the Maquis in Nazi occupied France as depicted in Hollywood wartime propaganda films beginning with Casablanca. Under orders from Allied commanders in London, they supplied intelligence, blew up trains and ambushed German soldiers. They did this in anticipation of liberation by other foreign armies.

I’m not sure who first inserted Resistance in to current American political discourse. It has become a widely used buzzword that substitutes Trump for the Führer and those signing petitions, sending e-mails, and donating money as heroes. But even if they didn’t invent the Resistance the Democrats have certainly tried to co-opt it. They promise to liberate us not through a foreign-launched amphibious assault on the banks of the Potomac but by electing Democrats to Congress next year and the White House in 2020.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, a competent economist, has sometimes been a resister in his own party. He resigned his cabinet post to protest New Democrat Bill Clinton’s destruction of welfare. Last year he was a strong supporter of socialist Bernie Sanders in his challenge to Hillary Clinton. But Reich recently welcomed Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to the Resistance.

Senator Sanders has been accompanying another former Labor Secretary, Clinton loyalist and DNC Chair Tom Perez, on a unity tour burnishing the party’s role of directing the movement Maquis.

Of course, we should fight tooth and nail against Trump’s reactionary racist, misogynist, xenophobic, theocratic and climate-wrecking agenda. I oppose TrumpCare just as I fought what the Republicans call ObamaCare—still defended by the Democrats. I denounced Trump’s missile attacks on Syria—supported by many Democrats—just as I marched against Obama’s wars in Afghanistan, Libya, and a second round in Iraq. I’ve been in the streets the last two Saturdays protesting the destruction of the EPA as vigorously as I exposed Obama’s phony Clean Power Initiative.

The Democrat Resistance is self-serving and class-serving—and not our class. Unlike the war-time Resistance beholden to foreign military powers, we must liberate ourselves. A more genuinely inspiring Resistance are the revived mass movements demonstrating for women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, defense of immigrant workers, and for climate justice. These remain works-in-progress.

I believe it is the duty of every class conscious worker and student to participate in these movements—not to capture them but to build them and to keep them out of the paralyzing grip of the pernicious twin parties of capital.

On the Climate Front

Back in March, the editor of Socialist Action asked me to submit an article about how to fight climate change. It was published on the front page of the edition distributed at marches around the country last Saturday and can be read online here. Within that framework I’ll offer some initial personal observations about the Peoples Climate Mobilization.

200,000 marched in DC and there were over 300 sister marches—ranging from a handful to thousands–around the country. That’s not chopped humus but neither was it an advance beyond the 400,000 in the New York City Peoples Climate March in 2014. It was much smaller than the January women’s demonstrations. Some readers have reported that there was less visible presence of unions in Washington than at the New York action.

Of course, weather was hardly ideal. Washington was unseasonably hot and humid and a monster storm, spread across a dozen states, forced the Kansas City action indoors and soaked marchers in St Louis, Chicago, and elsewhere. It probably didn’t help that the PCM came just a week after many climate activists joined the March for Science.

There were more than a thousand “Partner” organizations pledged to support the PCM. But in the planning of local events most of these partners were relegated to being silent ones. In many places the Pale Greens of the Sierra Club and LCV preempted choosing speakers and controlled publicity and media contacts. Their choices were often less than inspiring. One speaker in KC urged the crowd to “give it up” in praise of the Kansas City Power & Light company for converting some of their coal-fired plants to natural gas. Already late to join the climate movement the Pales still lack a sense of urgency.

Several unions had seats on the PCM national steering committee. As far as I could tell they were there as “builders” with few proposals of their own. SEIU, ATU, CWA, and NNU promoted the actions on their websites and urged Locals to get on board. In some areas they did but some are preoccupied with major contract fights—and still others remain unconvinced that this should be union business.

In my opinion the Labor Network for Sustainability will play a key role in the next stage of the climate justice movement both in terms of advancing a working class program and increasing worker participation in the broader movement.

May Day

As usual, millions around the world marked International Workers Day with strikes and demonstrations. Though this global holiday has American roots, for decades it was only celebrated in its country of origin by small contingents of radicals in major cities.

That changed big time in 2006. Millions of immigrant workers from Mexico and other nations where IWD is a big deal walked off their jobs and marched in defense of their rights. While nothing so mammoth has occurred since, the tradition was rekindled and this year’s May Day actions were the biggest and broadest in more than a decade.

Thousands—in a few places tens of thousands–marched in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. Photos of dogged demonstrators in the Twin Cities—where janitors went on strike and university unions rallied–showed them outfitted with winter parkas and gloves. Fast food and farm workers conducted strikes in many areas. A number of unions, including SEIU, UNITE HERE, NNU, AFT, AFSCME, and UE endorsed these events.

Several hundred turned out in Kansas City for a downtown rush hour rally, and a march to City Hall for another rally, sponsored by Fight for 15, Stand Up KC, and the NAACP. The speakers expressed a broad range of solidarity with immigrants, Black Lives Matter, LGBT, women’s, religious tolerance, and union organizing issues.

And appropriately, there were more than a few socialists on hand, both some veterans I hadn’t seen in years and newly radicalized of an age where I was probably older than their grandparents. I had some short but good discussions on the sidelines and exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses with quite a few. It was a good way to conclude an extended protest weekend.

RIP Brother Zero

I first met Jerry Zero at the Founding Conference of US Labor Against the War in January, 2003. He was then the principal officer of Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago who hosted the event. I already knew him by reputation that included a courageous and successful effort to free the union from Mob control. He was also an active supporter of the Labor Party.

Jerry later concluded a nonaggression pact with Hoffa that got him sideways with his base and led to an election defeat. Demoralized and in poor health, he retired and moved to Montana. I hadn’t heard any mention of him since then until I read a story in Socialist Worker about Jerry’s passing away. It was written by Joe Allen, a longtime steward in 705 who once supported Jerry but broke with him over the Hoffa deal. It is a balanced, well written piece frankly acknowledging his mixed emotions about Brother Zero.

That’s all for this week.

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