Jan 092018

  by Bill Onasch

They Never Went Away

The day after a self-described “stable genius” was sworn in as America’s 45th President the USA saw its biggest political demonstrations in history–and there were solidarity events totaling hundreds of thousands in other countries on every continent.

The Call that brought out millions in the streets last January was a terse “March for Women.” Its impetus was clearly an exposed misogynist ascending to leader of the “Free World.” But marchers supplied their own slogans around many and various long standing issues confronting more than half of the population. One selected for a headline in the New York Times simply said “We’re Not Going Away.”

As I expressed in the January 23 2017 WIR I thought the single best coverage was an article by two accomplished working class journalists, Ann Montague and Michael Schrieber. They recognized that for many, perhaps most, of the millions of women—and many male supporters—it was their first political action of any kind. And while they didn’t all go in the same direction after, they certainly did not go away.

Ann Montague was an activist in the SEIU Oregon state employees union and is still active as an SEIU retiree, a member of its Lavender Caucus. She has been a participant in the feminist movement since the 70s, is a long time socialist and a Labor Party Advocate. She’s been around the block a time or two. In a new article, All Out for the Women’s Marches January 20-21 she reviews various trends since last January. Commenting on the DC march,

After the march, many thought it had been a one-time expression of women’s anger that was sparked by the election of a president. But they had not listened to Angela Davis, who was the last speaker and quoted Ella Baker, ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.’”

Ann then goes on to note the unprecedented numbers in U.S. marches and rallies on March 8 International Women’s Day; a new current around Feminism for the 99%; #Me Too; and most recently #Time’s Up that have toppled some once high and mighty sexual abusers.

I would add that women have also since asserted a more visible presence in the actions and leadership of movements like Black Lives Matter and 350.org. And, of course, Me Too, Time’s Up, and Oprah stole the show at Sunday’s Golden Globe awards.

Effective enduring mass movements need more than “social media.” There should be face-to-face gatherings to make important decisions on both local and national levels. And there’s no better way to get the message out than demonstrating their strength through mass actions in the streets.

Like all movements face every two years, the women’s will be under pressure to become financial donors and foot soldiers for the Democrats in the midterm elections. Until we have a working class party that also fights for gender and racial equality, and climate justice, electoral politics is a costly diversion. The kind of party needed will be building, not competing with, mass actions.

All out January 21-22!

Who Will Play Mickey Mouse?

A New York Times headline seemed to describe a crisis for U.S. employers–From Offices to Disney World, Employers Brace for the Loss of an Immigrant Work Force. So did its opening paragraphs–

They clean federal office buildings in Washington and nurse the elderly in Boston. They are rebuilding hurricane-wrecked Houston. The Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium, plumbing and heating systems at Fannie Mae’s new headquarters, the porterhouse at Peter Luger Steak House and even the Disney World experience have all depended, in small part or large, on their labor.

“They are the immigrants from Haiti and Central America who have staked their livelihoods on the temporary permission they received years ago from the government to live and work in the United States. Hundreds of thousands now stand to lose that status under the Trump administration, which said on Monday that roughly 200,000 immigrants from El Salvador would have to leave by September 2019 or face deportation.”

To be fair, the Times in this, and other articles, also explains the humanitarian crisis for those slated to be expelled—and for the countries of their origin who have been able to count on money immigrants send to parents and children who could not join them in the USA.

An even bigger group—the 800,000 “Dreamers”–are also in imminent danger of losing their protection in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) set to expire in March. Trump once proclaimed he loved these kids but is now using them as a bargaining chip in negotiations with congressional Democrats. The current price for extending DACA is bipartisan approval of 18 billion dollars for a start on the Great Wall along the Mexican border. Even a GOP Congressman recently dismissed this mean spirited boondoggle as a Third Century solution to a 21st Century problem.

Third Century solution sounds about right—but the problem in this millennium is not immigration. The threat is the America First scam Trump borrows from American Nazi sympathizers of the last century and that is also being revived with various names preceding First in Europe.

Xenophobia, along with racism, misogyny and homophobia, are tactics advanced by a sector of the ruling class in their war on the working class. A universal antidote to these various poisons is class solidarity.

Nach unten Werkzeuge!

In recent decades strikes have been rare in Germany. But the Guardian reports that the 3.9 million member IG Metall union has begun a series of warning strikes to back a demand that, for two years, workers would be allowed to voluntarily work only 28 hours a week to “improve their work-life balance.”

This may seem odd but it is tied in to German social benefits for parental and family leaves that apply to both newborns and elderly family members. And the union is also proposing a six percent raise for all workers in metal-working and electrical industries.

The German economy—third biggest in the world—is presently robust and is beginning to encounter labor shortages. That gives the union some leverage but the bosses, while prepared to accept higher wages, will likely bitterly resist granting fewer hours. Stay tuned.

Out of Sight—Maybe Out of Town?

Advance scouts for Prince Harry’s May wedding wanted to have the unsightly homeless in the town adjoining the Royal Family’s Windsor Castle removed. They might consider what a number of American cities are now doing—offering them a free, one way bus ticket to somewhere else. Labour shadow prime minister Jeremy Corbyn said rough sleeping was part of the British experience and should be replaced with affordable housing, not hidden out of sight elsewhere.

Comprehensive Without Liability

According to insurers, “natural” disasters caused or intensified by climate change did 339 billion dollars worth of damage in 2017. These events included record breaking hurricanes in the Gulf/Caribbean, and massive flooding in South Asia.

A New King of the Greenhouse

For the first time in forty years, all modes of transportation have displaced electricity power plants as the leader in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Not surprisingly, the Trump administration has judged this a good time to scrap regulations that would require cuts in truck emissions and Congress is out to cut back fuel consumption standards for cars and light trucks. But there was a big surprise when Trump’s hand-picked Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected his plan to subsidize aging, obsolete coal and nuclear powered plants.

That’s all for this week.

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