Open World Conference of Workers
In Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights
A dossier of weekly information published by the
This issue of the ILC International Newsletter is largely devoted to the United States. You'll find:
- A statement by the National Committee of Socialist Organizer.
You will also find:
- A contribution from France: "'Rescue capitalism': This is the
new slogan of the world bourgeoisie and the French bourgeoisie, with
Sarkozy at its head."
On December 12 and 13, there will take place in Haiti, at the initiative of nearly twenty workers' and popular organizations from Haiti and the ILC, a Continental Conference for the Withdrawal of MINUSTAH and for the Restoration of sovereignty of the Haitian people and nation.
Table of Contents:
p. 1: Overview.
(Statement by the National Committee of Socialist Organizer)
Hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of people took to the streets spontaneously across the country the night of Nov. 4 to celebrate the election of the nation's first Black president.
In Black and Latino neighborhoods, on college campuses, and in cities throughout the country, from North to South (including in states like North Carolina), there was a sense of euphoria not only because eight years of the Bush nightmare had come to an end but because Barack Obama, a Black man, had been elected to the country's highest office, something that seemed utterly impossible just a short while ago.
The tears in the eyes of Black activists in Chicago's Grant Park as Obama delivered his acceptance speech only begin to tell the story. The weight of 400 years of racist and national oppression of Black people - from chattel slavery, to the betrayal of Radical Reconstruction, to Jim Crow segregation, to the warehousing of Black people in the prison-industrial complex today - seemed to be lifted off of millions of shoulders, even if only for one night.
This was an historic election, not because electing the nation's first Black president signifies the end of racist oppression in this country, but because millions of Blacks, Latinos, youth, and working people of all backgrounds seized on this election to say: enough is enough, racism and oppression must end now. In the context of the deepening economic crisis, the election also was a cry from working people of all backgrounds: We cannot accept the destruction of our jobs, our homes, our public services and our communities - this crisis is not of our making and we should not be made to pay for it.
Youth, particularly Black youth, told radio and TV reporters across the country that they had voted for the first time because they felt they could make a difference - because Obama promised to create jobs for inner-city youth, to provide public funding so that every young person could go to college, and to end the war in Iraq so that the economic draft was not their only option.
One Black youth in Harlem, N.Y., who was interviewed on Democracy Now on Nov. 4 put the aspirations of millions of Black people best when he said: "With Obama, everything is going to change. We will finally be free and equal. We will finally get our dignity back!"
Bruce Dixon, managing editor of the Black Agenda Report, wrote in his recent editorial titled, "Cashing the Obama Check:"
"The first Black president carries with him into the Oval Office the hopes and dreams and aspirations of many people he will never meet, but who imagine they know his heart and intentions. Although these things were not on the ballot, and were kept largely out of the discussions by the media and the candidates themselves, the tens of millions who voted for Obama did so because in the main, they want an end to the war. They want to see the military budget and the prison population reduced. They want single-payer national healthcare. They want a more just economy and they objected strenuously to Bush's - and Obama's bailout of Wall Street.
"Their expectations of social and economic justice at home and peace abroad are, in Dr. King's famous language, a gigantic and long-overdue promissory note. ... That is the change his voters believed in, that's what they expect to see." (BAR, Nov. 6, 2008)
Is a "National Consensus" in the Interest of Working People?
In his acceptance speech, Barack Obama spoke about the need for national unity between rich and poor, between a "thriving Wall Street" and a "revitalized Main Street."
The corporate elite who own and control most of the wealth in this country are deeply worried that the tide of Blacks, Latinos and working families of all colors that lifted Obama to power may be too difficult to contain and to redirect back into safe channels for the ruling class. They have loudly applauded Obama's call for a "national consensus" between workers and bosses, rich and poor - but, in their own way, they understand that the workers and all the oppressed nationalities may not be so easily co-opted into accepting "common solutions" with the employers.
For the corporate elite "national consensus" means that working class organizations must give up their own specific demands and interests in the name of "national unity" and the "common good." This means bailing out the corporate elite, not addressing the pressing needs of working people and all the oppressed.
Hence their drive, which began the very moment the vote totals were announced on Nov. 4, to urge the American people to "lower their expectations."
Obama himself warned: "The road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year, or even one term."
Leon Panetta, former White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton, put it this way. "We've still got two wars to pay for and hundreds of billions of dollars committed to unfreezing credit. The new president will have to set the country on a course to fiscal discipline. Š That means back-burning most of the initiatives the winning candidate campaigned on." (San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 5)
Of course, this would mean no "bailout" for working-class America - that is, no real jobs program, no genuine healthcare reform, no support for the main demands put forward by the organized labor movement, among other urgent items.
What Way Forward?
The country is confronted with a catastrophic situation. Since the beginning of the year, 1.2 million jobs have been lost and millions more are on the chopping block, more than 2 million people have lost their homes to foreclosure, social services are being dismantled left and right, and with the unfolding economic crisis even more severe attacks against working people are in store.
The current crisis is not a "market correction" or the result of the greed of a few bad apples in an otherwise pristine barrel, as we have been told. It is the expression of the failure of a "free market" economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production.
In the aftermath of the election, the question of what way forward for working people is posed immediately and urgently.
For the capitalist class the answer is clear: They must rescue the bankers and speculators to shore up their own class interests. They welcomed with great satisfaction the announcement of Obama's team of economic advisors, which includes, among others, Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman; Warren Buffet, a man who made billions through Wall Street speculation; and Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury Secretary. The full list reads like a Who's Who of old guard Wall Street financiers.
Introducing his team of economic advisers in Washington, Obama reiterated this call for a "national consensus" with Wall Street, stating, "I know we will succeed if we put aside partisanship and politics and work together as one nation."
How Should the Working Class Respond?
For our part, we in Socialist Organizer have always held that the working class and the capitalist class have interests that are diametrically opposed; to defend their interests, working people must have their own independent class organizations and their own independent political expression. That is why, as supporters of the call for the labor movement to build its own Labor Party based on the unions and open to all the oppressed, we did not support Obama, who was the candidate of the Democratic Party, which is a capitalist party. Nor did we endorse the support of the working class organizations for the Obama candidacy.
Having said that, we believe it is very significant that the AFL-CIO, which was one of the main supporters of the Obama campaign, issued a statement following the election that raised the urgent need to promote the interests of working people.
On Nov. 5, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, issued a statement applauding the election of Obama and describing the major role played by the unions in electing the Democratic contender. Such a statement was not unexpected. What came as a surprise to the Big Business press, however, was Sweeney's strong insistence - issued publicly just one day after the election - that Obama must move ahead during the new administration's first 100 days to introduce legislation in support of the unions and working people.
After noting that "[t]he election is just Step One in delivering the change we need," Sweeney stated that "[w]e need changes attuned to today's world that are as bold and as visionary as the economic changes FDR made so many decades ago."
Sweeney continued: "In the short term, working people need an economic recovery package that will jump-start the economy and put America back to work. ... [W]e need an immediate investment to create jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads and schools and bridges."
Sweeney went on to urge a national healthcare plan for the "nearly 50 million people who have no coverage or for the millions more who lack adequate coverage." Sweeney then underscored the federation's most pressing demand: [O]ur top priority is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that will restore workers' freedom to bargain for a better life. In an economy that gives corporations far too much power, a union card remains the single best ticket into the middle class."
The Wall Street Journal ran a major story on Nov. 7 titled, "Labor Wants Obama to Take on Big Fight." The article noted that the labor movement is counting heavily on the president-elect to introduce the Employee Free Choice Act, which gives workers the choice of voting for a union by signing cards instead of through a secret ballot election. Such legislation is vehemently opposed by business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the United States, which has a staunch anti-union record, has been one of the most bitter opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive, told analysts that the change would result in "making this country less competitive" and "bringing coercion and force into the workplace." (The Times of London, Nov. 6)
North Carolina Senator John Edwards is quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that he expects "political World War III" between labor and business over this issue.
The Times of London also notes that the Business Roundtable has expressed strong concerns over Obama's position of "free trade," which included suggesting a renegotiation of NAFTA.
Clearly, a showdown between labor and important sectors of the corporate class is in the works if the unions stick to their guns - which they must.
Socialist Organizer did not call for a vote for Obama. We believe that the Democratic Party is a capitalist party that is structured fundamentally to uphold the interests of corporations and the ruling elite, at the expense of working people. But we are unconditionally on the side of labor in this struggle for elementary labor and workers' rights, and we urge all trade union and labor rights activists to organize and mobilize to secure the main demands put forward by the labor movement in relation to union organizing, healthcare, a massive public works program, job protection, and more.
On Oct. 3, Democrats and Republicans - working hand in hand with the Bush administration - pulled off one of the greatest swindles in U.S. history when they gave away more than $1.3 trillion (including all funding prior to the Oct. 3 bailout plan) to the very Wall Street bankers who had profited from the home-mortgage speculative orgy.
The bailout had little support from working people. Despite the overwhelming endorsement and lobbying by Obama, Pelosi, John McCain and George W. Bush, the House of Representatives - under immense pressure from an enraged public - defeated the initial attempt to pass the bailout. The "NO" vote sent shock waves around the world.
It took a second round of intense lobbying by Obama and Pelosi, following a 776-point drop in the Dow Jones, to convince recalcitrant congresspeople to defy their constituents.
Working people were told that unless they forked over billions of dollars to the Wall Street tycoons, the economy would collapse. But even after the Wall Street bailout was passed, the economy has continued to plunge into a major recession, and the financial markets are still in sharp decline. In fact, even after Obama's victory, stock markets the world over plummeted sharply.
All this should come as no surprise: From day one, economists of all political stripes have warned that the Paulson bailout plan would not address any of the fundamental problems facing the economy.
Soon after the bailout vote was passed, Pelosi and Obama put out a call to sweeten the poison pill: They said they would come through with a $200 billion to $300 billion "economic stimulus plan" if the Democrats won the presidency and were given a majority in the Congress.
But on Nov. 6, two days after the election, Nancy Pelosi, true to form, back-tracked. She announced that in light of the "declining economy," it was necessary to back-pedal on the amount that could be allocated to such a plan. She is now talking about $50 billion, possibly less.
The truth is that under the Paulson Plan and its commitment to rescue the speculators and profiteers at the expense of the American taxpayers, it is not possible to enact any serious jobs-creation plan, let alone implement any of the other programs that Obama promised, such as expanding funding for education, healthcare, or clean energy.
Stop the Paulson Bailout Plan! Not One More Penny to the Speculators!
At this writing, only a portion of the $700 billion earmarked on Oct. 3 for the speculators has been paid out. The rest is to be distributed over a period of six months or more. The Financial Times (Nov. 7) noted as much: "Mr. Obama will inherit a $700 billion rescue plan and bank loan guarantee program. ... Nonetheless, the policy response remains only half-formed. Mr. Obama will have to decide how to reshape and manage the rescue plan."
To address the AFL-CIO agenda (which in large part is endorsed by the Change to Win trade unions) requires stopping the Wall Street bailout plan in its tracks. Not one more penny should go to the speculators and bankers!
The country needs a Manhattan Project-scale workers' recovery plan that preserves all current jobs and creates millions of new ones. But the precondition for implementing such a plan is to stop and reverse the Paulson bailout to the speculators. With a deepening economic and financial crisis worldwide, there simply is no leeway for the government to pay the speculators for their gambling losses and also finance any meaningful economic recovery plan.
Every dollar that goes to a speculator is one dollar less that could go to rebuilding the economy and putting millions of people back to work. These speculators gambled and they lost. They are parasites. Their profits should be confiscated. There should be no pandering to them in the name of "helping Wall Street." Bailing them will not solve the financial crisis. On the contrary, it will only deepen the problem.
Mobilizing to Demand Change
To meet the needs of the working class requires opposing the scapegoating of immigrants and other sectors of the working class, and putting an end to the war so that the needs of the people can be met.
The struggle of the undocumented immigrants is a major struggle that concerns all working people in this country. Tens of thousands of immigrant workers are being rounded up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials nationwide.
The only "crime" committed by undocumented immigrants is to work hard to support their families. The U.S. government and ICE are terrorizing and splitting up families across this country. The raids are a crucial component of the reactionary drive to scapegoat immigrants for the problems caused by the crisis-ridden economic system: rising poverty, job losses, deepening inequality, and lower wages.
Today, a broad coalition of immigrant rights activists is circulating a petition to Obama that states, in part:
"The ICE raids must end now! President-elect Obama: Latino and immigrant voters responded to the promise of change you made to our nation and voted for you by huge margins and in record numbers. We call on you to uphold that promise and honor our support by declaring an immediate and unconditional moratorium on ICE raids until just and human immigration reform is passed and implemented."
It is urgent that the labor movement, as well as the Black activist organizations and other fighting sectors, take up this call.
Likewise, in order to be able to fund the social needs of people in this country and to respond to the mass aspiration for peace worldwide, an immediate end to the war is needed.
A recent statement by the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations notes that the ANSWER Coalition has issued a call for united mass mobilizations in Washington, D.C. and other cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Miami, on March 21, 2009 to mark six years of war and occupation and to Bring the Troops Home Now.
The statement also notes that the other national antiwar coalition, United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) has issued a call for a week of Washington, D.C. mobilizations during the same period to demand an end to the war in Iraq now.
The National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations is calling on "the movements for peace and social justice [to] work in concert to bring the full force of opposition to the government's criminal and destructive policies into the streets Š [by] coming together to act in a unified show of strength and determination in March."
Unity to Secure the Emergency Measures Needed to Address the Pressing Needs of Working People
The AFL-CIO is right to raise the specific demands of the working class in this situation. The time has come to implement an emergency plan to bail out working people - NOT Wall Street.
Here are some proposed demands that could be included in such a plan:
* Put a halt to the Paulson bailout plan. Not one more penny should be earmarked to bail out Wall Street. It's time to bail out working people.
* Enact a moratorium on all home foreclosures, utility shut-offs, evictions and rent hikes.
* Enact the Employee Free Choice Act so that every worker can have union representation.
* Stop the layoffs in auto and other industries across the country.
* Stop the ICE raids and deportations.
* Enact a universal, single-payer healthcare plan.
* End all funding for the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring our troops home now. Redirect all war funding to meet human needs.
* Enact a massive national reconstruction public works program to rebuild the nation's schools, hospitals and crumbling infrastructure and to put millions of people back to work, with a living wage and with the unfettered right to join a union! Provide all necessary funding for a genuine Reconstruction program in the Gulf Coast.
These demands are not pie in the sky. They provide an urgent and positive response to the deep aspirations for change that were expressed by the working class majority on Nov. 4.
This is the proposal submitted by the Socialist Organizer National Committee.
At this historic crossroads facing our country, it is more urgent than ever to forge the broadest unity in action of the labor movement, Black and Latino organizations, antiwar and other social protest movements to secure the emergency measures needed to address the pressing needs of all working people and oppressed nationalities.
We call on activists and organizations who share these concerns to join with us in promoting a common labor/community campaign for united action around this over-arching demand: Bail out working people, NOT Wall Street!
(statement issued Nov. 10, 2008)
Remarks by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney AFL-CIO - Post-election Press Briefing November 5, 2008
We at the AFL-CIO are delighted that we will have a new neighbor across the park. Today is one of the brightest days in my lifetime of fighting for working men and women. And when I think of all the people I met who were working their hearts out for change - and I'm talking about state after state after state - I can safely say that today is one of the brightest days for working people across our nation.
Led by a candidate with an uncommon ability to inspire hope, we reclaimed our country from those who are serving corporate interests and the privileged at the expense of everyone else. We have taken the first crucial steps to build a better future for our children and grandchildren. And what we've seen - the stunning voter participation and the common call for change - is an indication of the history we can continue to make together.
With the election of these two remarkable leaders, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, together with strong new majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, voters have delivered a resounding mandate for broad-based economic change.
America's working families and our unions were a steady force powering the engine of change throughout this campaign, knocking on door after door, talking to person after person. This year we expanded our battlefield, reaching out to more than 13 million union voters in 24 states - 13 Senate races, 60 House contests and hundreds of state legislative elections, as well as the presidential election. We put together an unprecedented mobilization and information drive. I went door to door, handed out leaflets and made phone calls with teachers and engineers, painters and nurses, steelworkers and construction workers. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. I met activists from every union in our federation - people like Rachelle Pablo and Shane Hanley, who are here with us today.
In the last four days, 250,000 AFL-CIO union volunteers nationwide visited more than 3.9 million union households, made 5.5 million calls and distributed more than 2 million leaflets at worksites.
The result is that union household members turned out in huge numbers and voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama and Joe Biden because we trust their commitment to strengthening the economy and turning around America for working families.
In the defining industrial states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota, union voters were the firewall that stopped John McCain, voting for Obama by far greater margins than their working class counterparts who aren't in unions. In new battleground states like Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida, union members mounted a bigger effort than ever before, voting by a similarly large margins for Obama, and joined young people and other new voters to build a new majority for economic fairness.
And we expanded our constituency with Working America, our community affiliate which has been called "Labor's Secret Weapon," adding an amazing 2.5 million new members who got the same information campaign and voted decisively for change.
Our political director Karen Ackerman will show you the power of that vote in one state - Ohio - in a few minutes.
We have elected a Congress that is decidedly stronger on working family issues. You have a preliminary analysis: In state after state, we defeated candidates with lousy voting records on workers' issues and replaced them with candidates who will be champions for working people.
But the election is just Step One in delivering the change we need. Working men and women are poised to keep the energy pumping to help the Obama administration lead the change we need. There will be no gap or letdown. The AFL-CIO will keep much of our 2008 mobilization structure in place for an urgent lift-off as we go into this crucial period.
We are determined to enact a new economic agenda that will lift America's working families and restore confidence in the future for our children. We need to re-think the rules and strategies of our economy. We need changes attuned to today's world that are as bold and as visionary as the economic changes FDR made so many decades ago.
In the short term, working people need an economic recovery package that will jump-start the economy and put America back to work. We need extended unemployment benefits for the millions who still cannot find work, an expansion of food stamps, support for struggling state and local governments so they can maintain vital services and an immediate investment to create jobs by rebuilding our crumbling roads and schools and bridges.
In the longer term, we need to invest in a new economy of good, green jobs -- not financial bubbles. We need fundamental change to reverse the decline of the middle class and we must put common sense rules on Wall Street that protect working people's hard earned money - - their pensions, savings and homes. No issue impacts working families more than health care. Costs are strangling families. And nearly 50 million have no health insurance at all, while millions more lack adequate coverage. Barack Obama has a plan to address our nation's health care crisis and we are ready to work with him.
And we must counterbalance corporate power. The gap between the wealthy and everyone else has grown from a gulf to a chasm under President Bush. We cannot rebuild the middle class and ensure that economic growth is shared unless we give working people back the freedom to improve their lives through unions and bargain for better wages and benefits. Workers in unions, after all, make 30 percent more than those without a union, and are much more likely to have benefits.
And so our top priority is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that will restore workers' freedom to bargain for a better life. In an economy that gives corporations far too much power, a union card remains the single best ticket into the middle class.
Together, we have helped lay the groundwork to turn around America - to honor every child's future, give opportunity where none has been, restore our nation's fundamental values of equality and fairness and restore respect for America around the world.
This is a proud day for America's working men and women and a historic new beginning for our nation.
TRIBUNE * Angelo Geddo
"Rescue capitalism": This is the new slogan of the world bourgeoisie and the French bourgeoisie, with Sarkozy at its head. It is clear that all political leaders from left and right in Europe and France, have converted themselves into firefighters to defend the house of "capital".
Hundreds of billions of dollars, euro and yen have been easily taken to fill the gaps of a system in agony. Conversely, let us recall the difficulties they claim when we demand funds for social security.
More than 360 billion euros were immediately found to support a banking sector engaged in operations that were more than doubtful, recalling the case of Credit Lyonnais.
The heads of these banks are not even invited to provide accounts. They continue to collect profits as if nothing had happened. Some even gave themselves a promotion.
Several observers highlight the extent of paranoia that marked the past decades, footprints of savage liberalism of the Reagan-Thatcher years.
Golden parachutes, in dollars and euros, have hit the headlines.
The case of EADS, with its insider trading and the jackpot awarded its leaders are in our memories. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The future probably holds more surprises.
They told us then: "We must recognize talents and skills."
All superstructures are now rotten. The depth of the spills beyond the financial, economic or industrial sector. It is also the case in the media, in sport, in show business.
In the present context, tax havens have become managers of all accumulated wealth for a few, using the most illegal methods, including crime. This is provocation.
In France, more than seven million women and men live below the poverty line; they are employed by the most precarious jobs.
The credit crisis, regardless of what Sarkozy and his ministers say, will persist despite gifts of the state to the sector. It is high time beat back these profiteers, so that the people themselves can take charge.
Employees and their families have painstakingly invested in buying
an apartment or construction of a pavilion are struggling. After the
scandal of the "subprimes" in the U.S., France risks in the
longer term to be in the same situation, if only through rising unemployment.
The crisis hitting the world today, affecting the real economy with the rise of unemployment, was confirmed by the director of the ILO, Juan Somavia. All sectors are involved.
The latest survey figures show a collapse of industrial production and manufacturing, i.e. a soft economy.
Nobody is able to predict the political consequences arising out of this situation. Of course, history does not repeat itself.
Nevertheless, in this context, the labor movement must improve its organizations and, on class grounds, make a solid front against the barbaric destruction and chaos. This goes far beyond the "rescue of capitalism."
Last week the newspaper announced:
50 dead in the collapse of a school of 700 students
Around 50 people, mostly children, died in the collapse of a school of 700 children in Petionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince
The school "The Promise" directed by a pastor, serves children from 3 to 20 years of age, mostly from the slums. At this school wedged between houses in the neighborhood, construction was taking place.
"This building did not meet the standards. We will ask the Ministry
of Education to make an inspection of all schools built in these conditions
there," acknowledged Senator Yvon Bissereth, head of the education
committee in Parliament.
Five days after this tragedy, a second school collapses in Port-au-Prince
Thousands of distraught and angry parents and relatives came to the scene and police tried to contain them. The school usually hosts hundreds of schoolchildren from five to twelve years of age, depending on the neighborhood.
The announcement of this collapse caused a panic in other schools, where many parents ran to retrieve their children.
This new accident constitutes a dramatic indictment of the destruction of the state and all public services suffered by the Haitian people under the military occupation allegedly that says it aims to restore order and peace in the country (MINUSTAH).
You can show your support for the conference by sending your contributions
to the ILC: 87, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, 75010 Paris (checks to