Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Non intervention

I think the primary issue for the democratic left in the U.S., and for DSA, is support for a non intervention policy by our own government. Many parts of the left have a tragic history of supporting this movement or that from afar. Usually we do not know the situation on the ground and the complexity of movements and struggles. We should – usually- not be picking from among competing factions.
This applies to Venezuela, to Brazil, to Peru, Chile, Mexico, etc.
Now, we can read about and inform ourselves but the real question is how do we support non-intervention. As in Non Intervention in Chile .
Clearly we have learned since the invasion of the Dominican Republic, and since Chile (1973) that intervention comes in several forms. At times there are direct military interventions by U.S. forces. At times proxy forces are created ( Nicaraguan Contras, Salvadoran and Guatemalan death squads. )
And, most often the intervention is by the IMF, the World Bank, and other agencies which the U.S. is very capable of steering in one direction. For a long time in Latin America the intervention was aided and abetted by AIFLD, and we need to keep an eye on current foreign policy implements of our labor movement. There were resolutions on this at the last AFL-CIO convention.

In the case of Venezuela and the non renewal of the T.V. licenses. Since private, oligarchic capital controls 95% of the air waves, having the government take over 30% of the air waves seems like a reasonable act. I would be worried if they took over 70%.
Creating a new labor federation to compete with the old corrupt labor federation seems like a reasonable act. It will of course be important to see if the new federation is democratic.

There is much to learn here. Listening to the voices on the ground is important. (its a Canadian source,)

But, our primary task remains non-intervention. That is our responsibility.

Duane Campbell

Monday, January 29, 2007

David Bacon : Which Side are you on?

Which Side Are You On?
By David Bacon
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor

Monday 29 January 2007

Oakland, California - Of all the supporters of corporate immigration reform, Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff is the most honest. The day of the notorious raids at the Swift and Company meatpacking plants, he told the media the raids would show Congress the need for "stronger border security, effective interior enforcement and a temporary-worker program." Bush wants, he said, "a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers, because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs, to be able to get those workers in a regulated program."

Chertoff is hardly the only voice in DC using raids to justify guest guest worker programs. Cecilia Mu-oz, head of National Council of La Raza (NCLR), is another. Those deported in December were among the millions of undocumented workers who came after Congress passed the last immigration amnesty in 1986. Since legislators at the time didn't consider people who would come in following years, "perhaps the most tragic consequences are the terrible human costs of workplace raids," she mourns. New guest worker programs will give future migrants legal status, she claims, and protect them from the migra.

The raids do cause terrible suffering. But Mu-oz and other Washington insiders actually supported bills last year that mandate the same worksite enforcement Chertoff carries out today. More raids were a price they were willing to pay (or that others would pay) for the guest worker programs they wanted.

Today, many Congressional leaders - Democrats and Republicans - want to allow corporations and contractors to recruit hundreds of thousands of workers a year outside of the US and put them to work here on temporary visas. Labor schemes like this have a long history. From 1942 to 1964, the bracero program recruited temporary immigrants. They were exploited, cheated, and deported if they tried to go on strike. Growers pitted them against workers already in the country to drive down wages. Cesar Chavez, Ernesto Galarza and Bert Corona all campaigned to get the program repealed.

Advocates of today's programs do everything they can to avoid association with the bitter "bracero" label. They used "guest worker" until that name also developed an ill repute. Now they prefer other euphemisms - "essential workers," or just "new workers."

We don't live in a magical world, however. You can't clean up an unpleasant reality by renaming it.

Current guest worker programs allow labor contractors to maintain blacklists of workers who work slowly or demand rights. Anyone who makes trouble doesn't get rehired to work in the US again. Public interest lawyers spend years in court, trying just to get back wages for cheated immigrants. The Department of Labor almost never decertifies a contractor for this abuse.

Guest workers labor under the employer's thumb. Standing up for a union or minimum wage is risky. Under current programs, and in the new Congressional proposals, if workers lose their jobs they must leave, making deportation a punishment for being unemployed. No one gets unemployment insurance, disability or workers' compensation payments. Companies save money and avoid bad publicity by sending injured workers back home, where healthcare is virtually unavailable.

But Mu-oz and others argue that Congress can allow guest workers to go to court. Our legal system is such a poor protector of workers' rights today, however, that in 30 percent of all organizing drives, workers (both citizens and immigrants) are illegally fired, with virtually no remedies or penalties on employers. Arguing that lawyers can protect immigrants on temporary work visas is preposterous.

These problems aren't aberrations, curable with legal fine print.

By their nature, guest worker programs are low-wage schemes, intended to supply plentiful labor to corporate employers, at a price they want to pay. Companies don't recruit guest workers so they can pay them more, but to pay them less.

According to Rob Rosado, director of legislative affairs for the American Meat Institute, meatpackers want a guest worker program, but not a basic wage guarantee for those workers. "We don't want the government setting wages," he says. "The market determines wages."

Major Senate sponsors of guest worker bills don't believe the government should even set a minimum wage for anyone, immigrant or citizen. John McCain, John Cornyn, James Kyl, Larry Craig and Chuck Hegel all just voted for an amendment to repeal the federal minimum wage entirely. Making them responsible for guest worker wages is putting the fox in charge of the chickens.

And it's not just wages. The schemes create a second tier of workers with fewer rights and less job security. They have none of the social benefits US workers won in the New Deal - retirement, unemployment and disability insurance. Instead of including new immigrants in these and other social programs, giving them legal residence and rights, Congress would create a huge workforce without them. Corporations that have pushed for eliminating these standards for everyone would be halfway there.

That's why workers, unions and community organizations have opposed guest worker programs, but also why corporations want them. Starting in the late 1990s, companies organized a shadowy lobby group, the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition (EWIC) which today encompasses over 40 huge employer associations, including Wal-Mart, Marriott, Tyson Foods and the Association of Builders and Contractors. They recruited the Cato Institute to produce guest worker recommendations, which President Bush repeats almost word-for-word. The hard-right Manhattan Institute provides additional cover.

The corporate lobby made other inroads as well. John Gay, who heads the National Restaurant Association and EWIC, is now board chair of the National Immigration Forum, a major Washington player. NCLR's list of corporate sponsors includes Wal-Mart and 14 other multinationals. Even two unions, the Service Employees and UNITE HERE, supported the Senate guest worker compromise last year.

The question Congress is deciding isn't "what can stop immigration?" With over 180 million people in the world living outside their countries of origin, nothing can. Migration begins when people are displaced. In the countries that are the main sources of migration to the US, most migration is caused by economic dislocation - people can no longer survive as farmers or workers. Other migrants fled the wars that raged in Central America.

NAFTA, CAFTA, and US-sponsored economic reforms, along with US military intervention, uprooted millions of people, leaving them little option other than coming north. Corporations like Wal-Mart and Marriott wrote US trade policy to improve their investment opportunities abroad. Now they also want guest worker programs to channel people displaced by those policies into their US operations. Often those leaving home are among the most skilled and educated. Their departure makes it even harder for their countries to progress.

This flow of forced migration may not stop in the near future, but changing pro-corporate trade policies would reduce the pressure on people to leave home. Unsurprisingly, that's not on EWIC's agenda.

The real question Congress is deciding is the status of people once they're here. Other proposals, from outside the Beltway, would give immigrants far greater rights and much more equality than guest worker programs. Congress could, for instance,

Give permanent residence visas, or green cards, to people already here. Those visas don't require people to stay, but give them the chance to come and go - to work, study, or take care of family members in the US or in their home country. They can't be deported if they lose a job.
Expand the number of green cards available for new migrants, opening the door to legal immigration far enough to accommodate those now coming illegally. Most immigrants already come through family networks. Making family reunification easier would help them and strengthen communities.
Allow people to apply for green cards, in the future, after they've been here a few years. The US wouldn't develop the huge undocumented population it has today.
Stop the enforcement program that has led to thousands of deportations and firings, and a border so heavily militarized that migrants cross, and die, in the most dangerous areas.
Prohibit companies from recruiting outside the US. They can always hire immigrants with green cards here, and green card holders are in a much better position to demand rights and higher wages.
It's not likely that many corporations will support such a program. That's why those who claim to represent the interests of immigrants in Washington must choose whose side they're really on.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Unions split on guest worker proposals

Unions Split on Immigrant Workers
By Krissah Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 27, 2007; D01

Union leaders are fundamentally divided over how to best tackle immigration reform as they wrestle with how to convert illegal immigrants from job threats to dues-paying members. The split reflects long-standing questions over the place of undocumented immigrants in the labor movement.
One side supports a guest-worker program, which could permit hundreds of thousands of immigrants to enter the country annually depending on the needs of U.S. businesses. The other side says such programs encourage employers to pay less, exploit immigrant workers and drive down working conditions for everyone.
The Service Employees International Union, with many immigrants among its 1.8 million members, backs the guest-worker idea, leading it to an unusual labor-business alliance with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The AFL-CIO, a federation of 54 unions, calls guest-worker programs exploitative and wants immigrants who enter the country to do so as permanent residents, not temporary workers.
Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of SEIU, which broke from the AFL-CIO in 2005 over strategic differences, said his union recognizes "the reality of the marketplace and the economy." A guest-worker program could give immigrant workers the right to unionize and eventually petition for citizenship, he said.
Immigration reform, which congressional leaders and President Bush have called a priority, has wide implications throughout the U.S. labor movement. Last year, the Senate proposed a guest-worker program that would have made immigrants temporary residents and employers responsible for requesting their green cards.
Unions universally opposed that proposal and are trying to shape a plan to their liking, but their divided voices could dilute their message.
Immigrants are the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. workforce and organizing them has been a priority for unions as they shift from a message of "protect American jobs."
"It's a sea change from the early 1990s when immigrant labor was viewed by many as the enemy of organized labor," said Harley Shaiken, director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. "Now labor recognizes the reality of 12 million undocumented people in this country and the complexity of how to regularize that."
When thousands of immigrants marched on the National Mall last year, many of the organizers were union leaders. The spokesman for the Washington region's immigrant coalition was also the leader of a SEIU local. AFL-CIO leaders also stood with immigrant activists at marches, and last year they formed an alliance with a national group of day-laborer centers.
For some, guest-worker programs awaken memories of the government-sanctioned -- and flawed -- Bracero Program that operated from 1942 to 1964. It locked immigrants, mostly Mexican men, into English-language contracts that they could not understand and made them beholden to farm bosses. At the end of their contracts, under which they picked sugar beets, cotton and other crops for long hours and low pay, the immigrants were deported.
Ana Avendaño, the AFL-CIO's associate general counsel, called today's guest-worker programs, which tie immigrant workers' visas to their U.S. employers, "modern-day Bracero Programs."
"The bells and whistles they are currently adding to the temporary workers programs are bound to fail, they have been proven to fail," she said.
Medina said the SEIU advocates a guest-worker program with visas that would let workers change jobs, join unions and petition for permanent residency.
"Workers that come here would have full protections of our labor rights, including the right to organize, and they would have an independent method of enforcing those rights," Medina said.
SEIU's support of a revamped guest-worker program reflects a desire to create politically tenable immigration reform. Bush has said that his support of immigration reform hangs on the inclusion of a temporary-worker provision.
"Immigrants really want something. There's such desperation for some resolution of this mess," said Ruth Milkman, a professor of industrial sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles.
But SEIU's temporary-worker proposal is nothing like the president's plan to connect "willing employers with willing workers" or the guest-worker provisions floated in Congress, which would not give workers the right to independently petition for permanent residency.
Finding middle ground could be tough. Broad support is needed to change immigration laws, said proponents of increased immigration, who have been pushing to rewrite the laws for years.
"As the process goes along, I think there's a framework for the labor movement to come together," Medina said. "It won't be an easy process, but it can happen."

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Murder of labor leader in Guatemala

In Guatemala, Pedro Zamora, general secretary of the
Dockworkers Union (STEPQ), was gunned down Monday by
unknown assailants who used methods reminiscent of
those by paramilitary forces during Guatemala's 36-year
civil war.

Zamora had been leading efforts to stop privatization
of the country's major port of Quetzal and was
demanding decent working conditions for dockworkers. He
also stood with workers when they were locked out of
their workplace and when the military took over the

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, in a letter to
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, described what
witnesses say happened to Zamora:

On his way to pick up his children from an appointment
at the health center located in the Port of Quetzal
grounds, Mr. Zamora was gunned down.... His killers fired
over 100 shots, 20 of which hit him, and fired one
final shot to the face to further degrade and
underscore the message of his murder. Mr. Zamora's
three-year-old son was seriously injured in the attack.

It is unacceptable that as our countries grow closer
and closer in trade and immigration that Guatemalans
who have taken on the honorable responsibility of
representing their co-workers in what should be civil,
peaceful labor-management negotiations, should fall
victim to brutal acts of violence at their workplace.
Achieving justice in the murder of Mr. Zamora
represents one small step in the path toward the
primacy of rule of law over impunity and toward the
support of real democracy in Guatemala.

Guatemala is one of the nations that signed the
Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement
(DR-CAFTA). Its growing textile industry is well-known
for its sweatshop working conditions and lack of
workers' rights.

Ellie Larson, executive director of the AFL-CIO's
Solidarity Center, says:

Over the last year, we worked with Pedro Zamora and his
union to ensure that the rights of dockworkers are
protected under international conventions and
Guatemalan labor law. We mourn his loss, and we condemn
his murder.

(You can read the Solidarity Center press release on
Zamora's murder in Spanish by clicking here.)

Guy Ryder, general secretary of the International Trade
Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 168
million workers in 153 countries and territories, says
Zamora's murder

was planned and premeditated, and appears designed to
send a message to those who dare to stand up for
fundamental rights.

The International Transport Federation (ITF) also
expressed outrage over Zamora's murder. David Cockroft,
ITF's general secretary, said:

This is an outrage, pure and simple. It could not have
been a more dirty and cowardly attack. It's a filthy
little act that makes the blood of any decent person
boil. The Guatemalan government will never be forgiven
if it doesn't investigate and then bring the murderers
to justice.

The ITF protested in October to the Guatemalan
government and the United Nations' International Labor
Organization that Zamora was being followed in response
to his role in defending workers' jobs at Quetzal.

Click here to take action to demand a full
investigation of Zamora's murder and that his killers
be brought to justice.

The ITUC also condemned the killing of at least three
civilians, the wounding of many others and the
detention of several top union leaders in the West
African country of Guinea. The country's security
forces opened fire on a peaceful demonstration Jan. 10.
Guinea's national trade unions organized the strike to
put pressure on Guinean President Lansana Conte to
improve the country's faltering economy and other

Meanwhile, in Iraq, militia groups Jan. 16 killed
Mohammed Hameed, an organizer for the Federation of
Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI). Hameed
was among a group of 15 civilians randomly gunned down
in an open marketplace in southern Baghdad. Hameed was
out on a walk when he was caught in the gunfire.

A second incident occurred five days earlier, when
militia gunmen abducted eight engineers of the Iraqi
Oil Ministry as they were traveling in a vehicle to a
FWCUI press conference on fuel price increases. Four of
the kidnapped victims, all union members, were
released. One was later found dead, after being
tortured. The other three still are missing.

Falah Alwan, president of FWCUI, says he is
disappointed with the response from the government and
the lack of information on these heinous crimes.

The Iraqi government must take responsibility for the
lawlessness that has become so prevalent in the oil
industry, as well as for the obvious security
deficiencies that has allowed ordinary workers to be
killed every day.

The Brussels-based International Federation of
Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions,
which represents 20 million workers worldwide, called
on the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-
Maliki to fully investigate the abductions and killings
of the engineers and to make serious efforts to
apprehend the drive-by gunmen responsible for the
random shootings that took Hameed's life.

In December, Abdullah Muhsin, the international
representative of the General Federation of Iraqi
Workers (GFIW), told a group at AFL-CIO headquarters
that Iraqi workers are caught in the crossfire between
the insurgents and Iraqi and U.S. soldiers.

Iraq's workers and the union movement are under attack
by forces sowing chaos in the country, he said. Every
day, thousands of workers desperate for jobs risk their
lives in war-torn Iraq to feed their families and eke
out a living. Muhsin said:

People are lining up to go to work, and a crazy suicide
bomber comes into the crowd, and they all die. These
people are not supporting any cause, any religion, any
political agenda. They're just trying to make a living.

Muhsin says many people are afraid to go out of their
homes for fear of being killed, but they have no
choice. They must go out and find work or go to the

Muhsin and Alan Johnson are co-authors of Hadi Never
Died: Hadi Saleh and the Iraqi Trade Unions, a book
about the life of the prominent Iraqi union leader who
was brutally tortured and murdered in January 2005 by
enemies of democracy in Iraq. <8>


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Left wing in Latin America
Merco Press
January 15, 2007

Left wing forum celebrates advances in Latinamerica

Some 66 left wing delegations from thirty different
countries, mainly Latinamerica are currently meeting in
San Salvador in the framework of the Sao Paulo Forum,
to celebrate and assess the advance last year of
elected left wing governments in the region, as
happened in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela.
Medardo Gonzalez who is hosting the forum as leader of
Salvador's Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front,
FMLN, recalled the circumstances when the forum first
started fifteen years ago: the fall of the Berlin Wall,
the Soviet Union's collapse, Cuba's dramatic financial
crisis and the Nicaraguan revolution defeated by the

'We were on the defensive and neo-liberalism on full
offensive. Some said it was the end of history', said
Nidia Diaz another FMLN leader: However today 'the
defeat of neo-liberalism is evident and several of the
forum's members are in government, Lula da Silva
(Brazil); Hugo Chavez (Venezuela); Evo Morales
(Bolivia), in Cuba the revolution survived and is
stronger, and regionally social movements have

Gonzalez even recalls that back in 1996 the Sao Paulo
forum was against admitting Chavez as a member because
of his 'military coups' background, but today 'he's a
fundamental pillar' of the regional left and is
developing in Venezuela 'one of the most original
processes in Latinamerica'.

He also praised the creation by Venezuela and Cuba of
the ALBA (dawn) initiative, which stands for Bolivarian
Alternative for the Americas and is the counter
proposal for the United States 'imperial project' of a
Free Trade Area of the Americas, FTAA. So far ALBA's
members are Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.
Gonzalez revealed that the final document of the forum
will emphasize the need to strengthen democratic
processes, 'beyond electoral participation'; promote
government policies and structural reforms to defeat
poverty (60% of Latin-Americans are catalogued as poor)
and create an alternative economic project to neo-
liberalism, which defends national sovereignties and
promotes economic, political and social cooperation
among the peoples of the region.

Alba Maldonado, a member of Guatemala's Congress and
former guerrilla is optimistic about the future since
in the coming general elections this year in her
country, the leading candidate according to opinion
polls is Alvaro Colom, a Social-democrat with strong
support among the indigenous population. If Colom
finally becomes Guatemala's president, only El Salvador
in Central America will still be ruled by 'a
Conservative, neo liberal'.

El Salvador's presidential election is scheduled for
2009 and 'we are working hard to come up with a solid
candidate', said Gonzalez.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Labor repression in Guatemala

Brussels, 17 January 2007 (ITUC OnLine): The ITUC has condemned the
brutal killing on 15 January of Dockworkers' Union leader Pedro Zamora
in an attack by a number of armed assassins. Zamora, General Secretary
of the STPEQ Union, had been leading efforts to stop the privatization
of the country's major port of Quetzal and he and fellow unionists had
been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation. The union
is proposing a programme of upgrading and modernisation as an
alternative to placing the port facilities in private hands.

After picking up his children from a hospital appointment, Zamora's car
was followed and then rammed by a white pick-up truck, and then sprayed
by gunfire from both sides of the vehicle. Of the more than 100 bullets
which hit the car, around 20 hit Zamora. One of the killers then walked
up to his vehicle and shot him in the face, a method reminiscent of that
used by paramilitary forces during the country's civil war. Despite
Zamora's efforts to protect his children during the attack, his
3-year-old son was injured but his condition is believed to be stable.

The ITUC and the International Transport Workers Federation are taking
this latest case of anti-union repression in Guatemala to the
International Labour Organisation, and calling on the Guatemalan
government to ensure that a full investigation take place, to identify
the culprits and bring them to justice. Suspicions that the management
of the Port was involved should constitute one focus of the

"This gruesome killing recalls the darkest days of Guatemala's decades
of civil conflict, and the country's reputation will continue to suffer
unless action is taken to root out and punish those who commission and
perpetrate intimidation and murder", said ITUC General Secretary Guy
Ryder, adding "this murder was planned and premeditated, and appears
designed to send a message to those who dare to stand up for fundamental

The ITUC and ITF will be coordinating worldwide action to put pressure
on the Guatemalan authorities to guarantee full respect for the rule of
law and fundamental workers' rights, to ensure that all those involved
in the killing are punished and that the continuing culture of impunity
is brought to an end.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Iraq War and U.S. economic imperialism

The Iraq War and America's Economic Imperialism

by Manning Marable; MR Zine; January 13, 2007
Several weeks ago, with much media fanfare, the James Baker-Lee Hamilton Committee submitted to President George W. Bush its long-awaited, bipartisan report on the U.S. war in Iraq. On balance, the report provided Bush with a face-saving strategy for pulling out all U.S. combat forces by the beginning of 2008. The Baker-Hamilton report favors an increase of U.S. advisers being embedded inside Iraqi troops and direct negotiations with regional powers Iran and Syria.
Bush, however, almost immediately distanced himself from key proposals in the Baker-Hamilton report. He now seems prepared to flagrantly flaunt his contempt for the majority of American voters, who purged both the Senate and House of their Republican majorities last November. Why does Bush defy public opinion by pursuing this unpopular war?

The answer lies not in America's need to "combat Islamic terrorism" but in the economic necessity for the United States to control international markets and valuable natural resources, such as petroleum. Bush's economic strategy is that of "neoliberalism" -- which advocates the dismantling of the welfare state, the abolition of redistributive social programs for the poor, and the elimination of governmental regulations on corporations.

In a recent issue of the New York Times (December 5, 2006), Professor Thomas B. Edsall of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism astutely characterized this reactionary process of neoliberal politics within the United States in these terms: "For a quarter-century, the Republican temper -- its reckless drive to jettison the social safety net; its support of violence in law enforcement and national defense; its advocacy of regressive taxation, environmental hazard and probusiness deregulation; its 'remoralizing' of the pursuit of wealth -- has been judged by many voters as essential to America's position in the world, producing more benefit than cost."

One of the consequences of this reactionary political and economic agenda, according to Edsall, was "the Reagan administration's arms race" during the 1980s, which "arguably drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy." A second consequence, Edsall argues, was America's disastrous military invasion of Iraq. "While inflicting destruction on the Iraqis," Edsall observes, "Bush multiplied America's enemies and endangered this nation's military, economic health and international stature. Courting risk without managing it, Bush repeatedly and remorselessly failed to accurately evaluate the consequences of his actions."

What is significant about Edsall's analysis is that he does not explain away the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and current military occupation as a political "mistake" or an "error of judgment." Rather, he locates the rationale for the so-called "war on terrorism" within the context of U.S. domestic, neoliberal politics. "The embroilment in Iraq is not an aberration," Edsall observed. "It stems from core [Republican] party principles, equally evident on the domestic front."

The larger question of political economy, left unexplored by Edsall and most analysts, is the connection between American militarism abroad, neoliberalism, and trends in the global economy. As economists Paul Sweezy, Harry Magdoff, and others noted decades ago, the general economic tendency of mature capitalism is toward stagnation. For decades in the United States and Western Europe, there has been a steady decline in investment in the productive economy, leading to a decline in industrial capacity and lower future growth.

Since the 1970s, U.S. corporations and financial institutions have relied primarily on debt to expand domestic economic growth. By 1985, total U.S. debt -- which is comprised of the debt owed by all households, governments (federal, state, and local), and all financial and non-financial businesses -- reached twice the size of the annual U.S. gross domestic product. By 2005, the total U.S. debt amounted to nearly "three and a half times the nation's GDP, and not far from the $44 trillion GDP for the entire world," according to Fred Magdoff.

As a result, mature U.S. corporations have been forced to export products and investment abroad, to take advantage of lower wages, weak or nonexistent environmental and safety standards, and so forth, to obtain higher profit margins. Today about 18 percent of total U.S. corporate profits come from direct overseas investment. Partially to protect these growing investments, the United States has pursued an aggressive, interventionist foreign policy across the globe. As of 2006, the U.S. maintained military bases in fifty-nine nations. The potential for deploying military forces in any part of the world is essential for both political and economic hegemony.

Thus the current Iraq War is not essentially a military blunder caused by a search for "weapons of mass destruction," but an imperialist effort to secure control of the world's second largest proven oil reserves; Bush also invaded Iraq because it was the first military step of the Bush administration's neoconservatives (such as Paul Wolfwitz, now head of the World Bank) to "remake the Middle East" by destroying the governments of Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

Manning Marable is Professor Public Affairs, History, and African-American Studies at Columbia University, New York City. His column "Along the Color Line" appears in over 400 publications internationally and is available at This article was published in the Jackson Progressive, and it is republished here with kind permission of the author, who retains all rights.
Manning has long been a supporter of our work.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Strategy and tactics for immigrant's rights

Strategy and tactics for the immigrant’s rights movement.
A detailed analysis of the efforts of the May 1 coalition last year, the current situation, and potentials for immigration reform. By Nativo Lopez of MAPA.
Historical note;
MAPA ( the Mexican American Political Association) was created to pressure the Democratic Party to pay attention to Mexican American issues. Currently MAPA and Nativo Lopez are working with the Green Party.

Topics include:
· How was the immigrant’s rights movement successful in defeating H.R.4437?
· How the Democratic Party struck a compromise, and how the auxiliary organizations divided the movement?
· A divided immigrant’s rights movement
· Current state of the immigrant’s rights movement
· The Catholic Church
· The labor movement
· The auxiliary organizations
· The home-town associations
· The U.S. business community
· The local immigrant’s rights coalitions
· The Spanish language media
· The right-wing Minutemen
· The national networks - Most of the local and regional coalitions have come together under the umbrella of two national networks - WE ARE AMERICA and the National Alliance for Immigrant’s Rights (NAIR)
· The basic ten points of unity of NAIR
· The balance between legalization and enforcement
· The “guest-worker” program
· “I want to be a bracero” or “Please sanction my employer”
· Other strategic considerations
· The feminist movement
· The environmental movement
· The peace movement
· The labor movement
· Other tactical alliances
· Progressive social movements
· The Special Case of Mexico
· The African American community
· South Asian immigrant communities

Labor and immigration legislation

Posted on Mon, Jan. 08, 2007
from the Charlotte Observer

Labor takes on immigration
Opposition from union may complicate Bush's guest worker proposal

McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - President Bush's hopes of securing a comprehensive immigration
overhaul have brightened considerably in the new Democratic-controlled
Congress, but resistance from organized labor -- one of the Democratic Party's
most loyal constituencies -- could complicate those efforts.

The AFL-CIO, which represents 53 unions with more than 9 million members, is
ratcheting up opposition to a temporary guest worker program, a key element of
Bush's immigration plan. At the same time, two powerful unions in a breakaway
labor coalition, Change to Win, have tended to support the provision.

The divisions within labor were evident during the contentious debate over
immigration in the previous Republican-controlled Congress. But they take on
heightened significance as Democrats assume control of the 110th Congress and
begin shaping the legislative agenda.

Labor political action committees contributed 86 percent of their donations to
Democratic candidates, a total of $42 million, according to the Center for
Responsive Politics. Labor also aggressively waged get-out-the-vote efforts and
other activities to help end 12 years of Republican control of Congress.

With its bolstered political clout, the AFL-CIO is better positioned to confront
a powerful coalition of business groups that is pressing for a temporary worker
program to bring in thousands of foreign workers each year.

"The industry will oppose a bill that doesn't have a good temporary worker
program in it," said Randel Johnson, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of

But Johnson acknowledged that the AFL-CIO's heightened political stature in the
aftermath of the elections raises the challenge for his side.

"In view of the election, it's very significant," he said. "Certainly, the
AFL-CIO has a bigger seat at the table than they did before."

Business leaders say the guest worker program is needed to bring in foreign
workers to fill unskilled and low-skilled jobs Americans don't want. AFL-CIO
officials say the program is designed to give business a steady source of cheap
labor and would take jobs from U.S. citizens.

"We don't believe our elected representatives are ready to adopt legislation
that creates paths for corporations to import workers (and) reduce working
standards in the United States," said Ana Avendando, associate general counsel
for the AFL-CIO. "That's exactly what guest worker programs are."

Bush has made immigration one of his top domestic priorities since the outset of
his presidency. But he was rebuffed by members of his own party when
conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives effectively bottled up
a Senate-passed bill. The legislation, which had bipartisan support, included a
guest worker program and a legalization plan to put millions of undocumented
workers on a path to U.S. citizenship.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

South America: Toward an alternative future

South America: Toward an alternative future
Noam Chomsky
Friday, January 5, 2007

Last month a coincidence of birth and death signaled a transition for South America and indeed for the world.

The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died even as leaders of South American nations concluded a two-day summit meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, hosted by President Evo Morales, at which the participants and the agenda represented the antithesis of Pinochet and his era.

In the Cochabamba Declaration, the presidents and envoys of 12 countries agreed to study the idea of forming a continent-wide community similar to the European Union.

The declaration marks another stage toward regional integration in South America, 500 years after the European conquests. The subcontinent, from Venezuela to Argentina, may yet present an example to the world on how to create an alternative future from a legacy of empire and terror.

The United States has long dominated the region by two major methods: violence and economic strangulation. Quite generally, international affairs have more than a slight resemblance to the Mafia. The Godfather does not take it lightly when he is crossed, even by a small storekeeper.

Previous attempts at independence have been crushed, partly because of a lack of regional cooperation. Without it, threats can be handled one by one. (Central America, unfortunately, has yet to shake the fear and destruction left over from decades of U.S.-backed terror, especially during the 1980s.)

To the United States, the real enemy has always been independent nationalism, particularly when it threatens to become a "contagious example," to borrow Henry Kissinger's characterization of democratic socialism in Chile.

On Sept. 11, 1973,

Pinochet's forces attacked the Chilean presidential palace. Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president, died in the palace, apparently by his own hand, because he was unwilling to surrender to the assault that demolished Latin America's oldest, most vibrant democracy and established a regime of torture and repression.

The official death toll for the coup is 3,200; the actual toll is commonly estimated at double that figure. An official inquiry 30 years after the coup found evidence of approximately 30,000 cases of torture during the Pinochet regime. Among the leaders at Cochabamba was the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet. Like Allende, she is a socialist and a physician. She also is a former exile and political prisoner. Her father was a general who died in prison after being tortured.

At Cochabamba, Morales and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela celebrated a new joint venture, a gas separation project in Bolivia. Such cooperation strengthens the region's role as a major player in global energy.

Venezuela is already the only Latin American member of OPEC, with by far the largest proven oil reserves outside the Middle East. Chávez envisions Petroamerica, an integrated energy system of the kind that China is trying to initiate in Asia.

The new Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, proposed a land-and-river trade link from the Brazilian Amazon rain forest to Ecuador's Pacific Coast — a South American equivalent of the Panama Canal.

Other promising developments include Telesur, a new pan-Latin American TV channel based in Venezuela and an effort to break the Western media monopoly.

The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, called on fellow leaders to overcome historical differences and unite the continent, however difficult the task.

Integration is a prerequisite for genuine independence. The colonial history — Spain, Britain, other European powers, the United States — not only divided countries from one another but also left a sharp internal division within the countries, between a wealthy small elite and a mass of impoverished people.

The main economic controls in recent years have come from the International Monetary Fund, which is virtually a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. But Argentina, Brazil and now Bolivia have moved to free themselves of IMF strictures.

Because of the new developments in South America, the United States has been forced to adjust policy. The governments that now have U.S. support — like Brazil under Lula — might well have been overthrown in the past, as was President João Goulart of Brazil in a U.S.-backed coup in 1964.

To maintain Washington's party line, though, it's necessary to finesse some of the facts. For example, when Lula was re- elected in October, one of his first acts was to fly to Caracas to support Chávez's electoral campaign. Also, Lula dedicated a Brazilian project in Venezuela, a bridge over the Orinoco River, and discussed other joint ventures.

The tempo is picking up. Also last month, Mercosur, the South American trading bloc, continued the dialogue on South American unity at its semiannual meeting in Brazil, where Lula inaugurated the Mercosur Parliament — another promising sign of deliverance from the demons of the past.
Copyright © 2007 The International Herald Tribune |

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mexico and immigration issues

Another grassroots groundswell that mattered was the
immigrants' rights marches of last spring, which were
launched with the surprising turnout in Los Angeles --
not the easiest city for walking and marching -- of
more than a million Latinos and others defiant of
crackdowns against immigrants. Similarly huge and
passionate demonstrations, many organized by text
messaging, Spanish-language radio, and other means,
swept the nation. They demonstrated that immigrants
were not going to be so easy to bully; the force of
their numbers and passion left Republican plans to
repress and to demonize immigrants, undocumented and
otherwise, in disarray. The marches were jubilant and
powerful, one of those no-going-back moments when a
group decides never to be a silent victim again. The
culminating marches on May Day were the first time in
many decades that the U.S. had adequately joined the
rest of the world in commemorating this worker's
holiday that commemorates the anniversary of the
Chicago labor march and rally in 1886.

Mexicans rose up in 2006, and the country seems to be
on the brink of revolution, if citizen discontent is
any measure. The city of Oaxaca was seized by its
citizens and for many months functioned as an
autonomous zone akin to the Paris Commune of 1871,
until violent repression in November. After the stolen
presidential election in the summer, millions of
Mexicans took up residence in the streets of the
capital to protest the corruption and model an
alternative -- the huge occupation of the central
zocalo (or plaza) and surrounding area experimented
with mass democracy meetings in the open air, while
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Mexico-City mayor who
probably actually won the election, set up a shadow
government. The Zapatistas, a dozen years after their
appearance on the world stage, continued to play a role
in Mexican politics.

By Rebecca Solnit, AlterNet.
Posted December 29, 2006.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Oaxaca and Unions

Minnesotans heed call for solidarity with Oaxacans
By Michael Moore
29 December 2006
ST. PAUL - The violent struggle in the Mexican state of Oaxaca – where the brutal repression of a striking teachers union last June sparked a series of demonstrations, uprisings and, eventually, partial federal occupation – inspires a wide range of emotions among the teachers’ supporters.
\Primarily, however, there is uncertainty, and that, in turn, yields anxiety.

Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, who ordered police to assault the striking teachers, has refused to step aside, though an estimated 1.5 million people have taken to the streets in support of his removal.

Indeed, Mexican Teachers Union (SNTE) Local 22 is not alone in protest of Ruiz’s rule. The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) formed shortly after the governor’s attack on the teachers, uniting them with representatives of the state’s regions and municipalities, its other unions and its non-governmental, social and cooperative groups.

The APPO began acting as a shadow government opposed to Ruiz’s, and it inspired enough support from Oaxacans to take control of the capital city’s central square, or zocalo, as well as the radio station at its university.

But on Oct. 31, after rumors of state-directed death squads and assinations made their way to the nation’s capital, Mexican President Vicente Fox ordered federal police and internal security agents to Oaxaca, with directions to recapture the zocalo. The raid was successful, but it resulted in warrantless arrests, beatings and disappearances.

Leo Garcia, an activist who returned from Oaxaca about a month ago, addressed the St. Paul Labor Speakers Club Nov. 27. He detailed 14 clashes between police and protestors at different points throughout the city.

“At some points the police began to shoot 9-millimeter guns into the crowd,” Garcia said. “Police squads fired on three youths, taking two of their bodies.”

For Garcia, anxiety has begun turning to despair.

“It’s kind of hard to see a social movement repressed into submission, which is what (the Mexican government) is trying to do,” he said. “Leaders are detained, there are warrants for others and people are in hiding.”

Garcia agreed with an organizer for the Minneapolis-based Resource Center of the Americas, Eduardo Cardenas, that renewed hope in Oaxaca depends on international interest.

“It seems that Oaxaca is in desperate need of international solidarity,” Garcia said. “Teachers unions and workers in different sectors need to step up.”

In St. Paul, public school teachers made solidarity with Oaxacan teachers a central theme of their union’s celebration honoring the anniversary of St. Paul teachers’ walkout 60 years ago. Still, demonstrations in front of the local Mexcian consulate here have been sparsely attended, according to Cardenas. Media coverage, meanwhile, has been almost non-existant.

That disappoints Cardenas, who still holds out hope – perhaps the most powerful of emotions – that the struggle begun by the Oaxacan teachers and carried on by the APPO will not be in vain.

“Beyond the teachers’ demands, this has larger implications,” Cardenas said. “Here’s a process being undertaken to create a democratic system where there has not been one.

“That’s very scary to a lot of people in Latin America who (fear) this could ecourage people to take on similar actions. But as scary as it is to people like Vicente Fox, it is inspiring for people in places like Colombia, who look at the people of Oaxaca as an example, creating a fair, more participatory society.”

Michael Moore edits the St. Paul Union Advocate, the official newspaper of the St. Paul Trades and Labor Assembly. Used by permission. E-mail The Advocate at: