Political Action

Register of Copyrights Bill Passes the House, We’re Gearing Up to Fight it in the Senate

Deep Links - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 19:05

The U.S. House of Representatives today voted 378 to 48 to pass a controversial bill that would make the Register of Copyrights a presidential appointee. H.R. 1695, the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act of 2017, will effectively strip the Librarian of Congress of oversight over the Register, and is likely to increase industry influence over an already highly politicized office. The bill does nothing to improve the functioning of the Copyright Office, nor to fix any of the serious problems with copyright law, including its excessive and unpredictable penalties.

We’re disappointed that so many in Congress chose to put the interests of powerful media and entertainment industries above those of the public as a whole, but the fight isn’t over yet. We’re urging the Senate to oppose the bill, and to push back against industry calls for an even more partisan Copyright Office.

We applaud the Members of Congress who stood up for the readers, Internet users, consumers, and innovators who all rely on a balanced copyright system, including Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Zoe Lofgren. Here’s what they had to say:

Rep. Jared Polis:

yet again through this bill, Congress is choosing big, powerful interests over the consumers, over innovation, and over the little guy. . . this bill unfortunately does not solve the problem with copyright. It makes the situation worse because it slows down a desperately needed modernization indefinitely, and would hurt the public and consumers.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren:

Mr. Polis had mentioned the view of the Electronic Frontier Foundation that this would enhance special interests. What they’ve actually said, and I think it’s very pertinent, is that the bill would allow powerful incumbent interests to use their lobbying power to control this increasingly politicized office. No president is going to select an appointee who will be shut down by the special interests . . . We don’t want a partisan for one side of the issue. We want somebody who can run, in an efficient way, the Copyright Office.

We couldn’t agree more, and we’ll continue to fight this bill as it comes before the Senate.

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Categories: Political Action

FCC Announces Plan to Abandon Net Neutrality and ISP Privacy

Deep Links - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 16:38

Today, the chairman of the FCC announced his desire to abandon the agency’s net neutrality protections – which  protect online competition, free speech, and privacy from interference by Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T – by undermining the legal authority behind those protections.

Rolling back the FCC’s Open Internet Order would mean losing the only rules that meaningfully prevent ISPs from taking advantage of their control over your Internet connection to shape your Internet experience and the market for services and devices that rely on that Internet connection. Since most Americans have only one option for broadband service, ISPs would have unchecked power to extract tolls from you and from businesses that wish to reach you. While the big incumbents like Facebook and Netflix might be able to pay those tolls, the next Facebook or Netflix would have a very hard time competing. Investors hesitate to fund startups that can be held for ransom by someone like an ISP. And the situation is even more dire for nonprofits like schools, libraries, educational sites, and political groups.

Chairman Pai suggests these fears are unfounded, but we’ve seen ISPs use every method at their disposal to favor their own content over competitors, going up to and even over the lines drawn by the previous FCC. This is particularly concerning given that at least one major ISP, Verizon, ran a news service that banned content regarding mass surveillance and net neutrality itself as contrary to the company’s interests. In Canada, an ISP blocked access to a site being used by a labor union to organize against it. A decade of misguided FCC policymaking unfortunately helped create the dysfunctional ISP market; the Open Internet Order is our best hope for preventing ISPs from abusing their power to become private gatekeepers on speech.

Today’s announcement cleverly pretends that the current “bright-line rules,” which clearly prohibit blocking and throttling, might survive. The law says otherwise. If Chairman Pai follows through on his intention to “reclassify” broadband service, it would be legally impossible for the FCC to enforce any such rules.  How do we know this? Because the DC Circuit said so.

The same is true for privacy. Pai suggested that the Federal Trade Commission could enforce privacy requirements, but this is an empty promise for two reasons. First, the FTC can only intervene if an ISP breaks a privacy promise, and ISP lawyers are very good at avoiding enforceable promises. Second, a federal appeals court has held that a company can’t be the subject of FTC action if any part of its offerings is a “common carrier,” like telephone service. So if your ISP also offers telephone service, the FTC can’t touch it. That’s the law right now on the west coast and it’s a regime that telecoms doubtless will continue to promote elsewhere.

In short, Pai’s proposal leaves Internet users and small businesses completely at the mercy of ISPs. No one in the government would be able to step in to prevent abusive blocking and throttling of Internet content, pay-to-play fast lanes, or privacy violations by ISPs.

That in turn will be devastating for competition, innovation, and free speech. The harms of ISP discrimination and market failure were well-documented in the months-long rulemaking and millions of comments that urged the FCC to protect net neutrality in 2015. The new FCC seems determined to ignore the evidence and the wishes of the vast majority of the public, in order to advance the desires of some powerful ISPs.

The Internet has won this fight before, and we can win it again. The best way you can help now is to tell Congress to stop the FCC from throwing Internet users and innovators to the wolves. If you have a startup, you can also join a letter from over 800 small businesses from all fifty states in supporting net neutrality.

Tell Congress: Don't Surrender the Internet.

Related Cases: U.S. Telecom Association v. FCCNet Neutrality Lobbying
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Categories: Political Action

Does the U.S. want regime change in Syria?

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 01:00

The U.S. missile strike on a Syrian military air base in early April seemed to signal an about-face by the new Trump administration. Days before, U.S. officials had signaled more clearly than before that the U.S. was prepared to accept the continued rule of dictator Bashar al-Assad, after years of rhetorical, though not material, support for the opposition that developed out of the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprising of 2011.

Then came the Tomahawk Cruise missile strike against the Shayrat Syrian Arab Air Force base--the first time that the Pentagon attacked a Syrian government target. The same administration officials were now talking "regime change"--and issuing stern warnings against Assad's main international sponsor, Russia, despite previously friendly relations. Since then, though, the administration's exact wording of its policy has varied from time to time and official to official, and nearly three weeks lster, there has been no second U.S. strike. Damage from the attack on the Shayrat air base didn't prevent the Assad regime from resuming its punishing air attacks on opposition forces.

So what does the Trump administration want to achieve? We asked Anand Gopal, a journalist who has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle East war zones for The Atlantic, Harper's, The Nation and other publications, and the author of the award-winning No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban and War Through Afghan Eyes. Gopal talked to Ashley Smith about the situation on the ground in Syria since the missile strike and the consequences for the future.

THE U.S. has been at war against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria for nearly three years. Why did Trump suddenly reverse his policy of de facto collaboration with Assad in this effort to attack his airbase in Syria?

WE SHOULD not be misled by Trump's crocodile tears following the chemical weapons attack that killed many men, women, and children in northern Syria. You cannot credibly claim to be moved by the plight of Syrian civilians when you attempt to categorically ban them from entering this country as refugees.

Moreover, Trump's attack was not the start of a new U.S. intervention in Syria. The U.S. has been heavily involved for five years and has been bombing the country for three. It has conducted nearly 8,000 air strikes against a variety of targets, from ISIS to al-Qaeda to members of the anti-Assad opposition, and many civilians have died as a result.

What's new is that this is the first time the U.S. has targeted the regime, after years of assiduously avoiding doing so and even indirectly helping the regime.

To understand this expansion, we should look at the context of U.S. involvement in the country. Since the beginning, the U.S. has sought to control the Syrian revolution and civil war to ensure that there would be no outcome directly opposed to American interests.

The core American interests in Syria are: one, defeating ISIS and similar groups; and two, preserving the network of dictatorships and client regimes in the region, especially Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar. Popular revolutionary movements directly threaten this project, especially when they pose the possibility of overthrowing client regimes and replacing them with independent states.

A successful revolution in Syria--especially one outside of American control--would have profound effects across the region, including in American client states. So although the U.S. doesn't like Assad and would like to see him step down, it prefers the continuation of Assad's regime to any potential revolutionary alternative from below. It would like, in other words, a Yemen-type solution to the Syrian crisis.

This is why Obama both refused to strike Assad and refused to give the Syrian opposition the adequate means to defend itself from the regime. Instead, the U.S. manipulated the flow of arms, selectively cutting off aid to groups that focused on fighting Assad and not only ISIS. The U.S. and the regional states provided just enough to keep the opposition on life support, hoping to eventually force a Yemeni-type negotiated settlement that preserved "stability" in the region.

As Trump came to office, the situation on the ground in Syria happened to change dramatically. The Assad regime is now clearly winning the war, making the stakes of a pinprick strike against him lower than ever. It was in this context that Trump felt comfortable enforcing "red lines" where Obama wasn't.

For the regime to deploy weapons that the U.S. has determined are outside the bounds of acceptable warfare is an affront to U.S. credibility as a hegemonic power. The U.S.'s attack was meant to send a clear signal that this power will not be challenged by any actor in the region, whether it be the opposition in Syria or the Assad regime.

Of course, there are also ancillary domestic benefits that Trump accrues from such an attack, such as signaling his independence of Russian policy at a time when his Moscow ties are under intense scrutiny.

In general, though, despite confused and contradictory statements from the administration, there is as yet no evidence that the U.S. has shifted towards a regime-change policy in Syria.

Such a policy would have to entail a massive aerial campaign, such as Afghanistan in 2001, or massive support to the opposition, such as Afghanistan in the 1980s, when the U.S. supported armed groups against the then-USSR occupation. Neither of these appear very likely.

Instead, after years of only policing the opposition, we are likely to see the U.S. occasionally police Assad as well, all toward the aim of preserving the core American interests in the region that I mentioned.

HOW WILL Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers respond? What impact will these developments have in the region?

ONE IMMEDIATE benefit that Assad gained from the U.S. attack was that it appeared to reaffirm Russia's commitment to the regime at a time when Moscow had a rapprochement of sorts with Turkey, which has been backing some Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups against the regime--and it was deepening cooperation with one of the Kurdish militias in Syria, known as the YPG.

Given this--and because the strike was so limited that it didn't significantly impact the regime's ability to bomb--it's possible we will see Assad continue to occasionally test Washington's willingness to enforce this red line. That could mean another chemical attack in the future.

This, however, remains to be seen. Trump's policy so far has been unpredictable, making potential responses from the U.S. difficult to forecast. Either way, the regime is going from victory to victory. After crushing the resistance in Aleppo, it succeeded in repelling rebel offensives in Homs and Damascus.

IT SEEMS like Assad and his backers are succeeding in routing the last remnants of the Syrian Revolution, leaving only the jihadist opposition in control of the last redoubt of Idlib. What are conditions like in Syria now after the fall of Aleppo?

THE SYRIAN battlefield is extraordinarily complex, but as a simplification, you can say that the non-regime side of the equation consists of six forces.

Starting with the strongest, politically and militarily, they are: one, the YPG, a left-wing Kurdish group that is closely allied with the U.S.; two, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, the descendant of al-Qaeda in Syria; three, the northern Free Syrian Army and allied groups, which are backed by--and in some cases effectively proxies of--Turkey; four, the Southern Front, consisting primarily of revolutionary-nationalist Free Syrian Army groups south of Damascus; five, ISIS; and six, civilian revolutionary activists.

The weakness of the FSA and of what was once the mainstream democratic opposition is due to a number of factors.

First and foremost, of course, is the sheer brutality of the Assad regime, which crushed any sign of democracy, freedom or dignity wherever it appeared. But the problems go much deeper than that.

To start with, both the U.S. and the regional powers sought to manipulate these elements to serve their interests, not the interests of Syrians. For example, when the regime was besieging Daraya--one of the iconic centers of the revolution, where ordinary people built a local council in the attempt to rule themselves democratically--FSA groups in the Southern Front wanted to save their comrades, but were blocked by Jordan, which did everything from stanching the weapons flow to closing the border to block ambulances.

The reason was because both Jordan and the U.S. were worried that a successful rebel push in Daraya might threaten the nearby capital of Damascus. Today, fighters in the Southern Front are so frustrated with Jordan's stranglehold that there's talk of defecting to ISIS, which is actually fighting the regime.

Similarly, in northern Syria, a longstanding FSA group lost its foreign funding when it insisted on focusing on fighting Assad, leading it to eventually join Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham for access to better resources and protection.

This is an example of how the popular narrative on the left about Syria has it backwards: The U.S. has not been supporting "extremist" or "al Qaeda-linked" groups in Syria at all. Instead, many groups have joined al-Qaeda because they lacked serious outside support.

There are also internal reasons for the weakness of the FSA and the mainstream democratic opposition.

The revolutionary councils that popped up around the country in 2012-13 sought to include all segments of Syrian society. While this may have seemed laudable at the outset, it was, in fact, effectively a popular front strategy--the councils often included, or were dominated by, the big landowning families and the prominent traders of the community.

But if the councils were to be the seed of a new alternative state, they should have taken the question of revenue seriously. This would have meant directly confronting the class divisions in Syria, which in many ways were at the root of the uprising to begin with. This might have included confiscating the property of the wealthy and redistributing it to meet the revenue needs of the councils.

Instead, the councils and their armed protection--the FSA--sought outside funding from NGOs and foreign intelligence agencies, which inevitably introduced corruption and fragmentation, creating the space for Islamic fundamentalists to challenge their authority.

It's no coincidence that the three strongest state-building movements in Syria--ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and the left wing YPG--relied very little on foreign funding. ISIS's main source of revenue, for example, was confiscation, followed by taxation and oil.

Of course, it's easy to make this critique in the abstract, but we should also recognize the extremely difficult conditions that the rebel movement was operating under.

To begin with, the sort of organized left that might have made class demands was very weak in Syria, in large part because of the legacy of Baathist rule, which co-opted or crushed any type of progressive alternative.

Meanwhile, ISIS and Nusra could draw on the legacy of fundamentalist political organizing, and the YPG could draw on the longstanding organizational and ideological perspectives of its parent group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Turkey.

THE TRUMP administration seems to have escalated the war against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq. Does this represent a departure or a continuation of Obama's policy?

IT MAY seem like Trump has escalated Obama's wars--which is what he promised to do, saying that he wants to "bomb the shit out of ISIS."

But until now, this has actually not been the case. The increase in civilian casualties in recent months has happened for three reasons, all of which are related to the current phase of the battle or are rooted in Obama's policies.

First, the Mosul offensive against ISIS's last major stronghold in Iraq has shifted from the eastern half of the city to the western half. The two sides of Mosul are very different. Many eastern neighborhoods tend to have larger houses that are more spread apart, whereas western Mosul contains tightly packed neighborhoods and a higher population density.

It's very difficult to hit a house in air strike and not damage many others simultaneously. The timing of the Mosul battle is such that the offensive was finished in the eastern half just as Trump was assuming office.

Second, Obama has steadily relaxed the rules of engagement in the war on ISIS, most recently in late December, making it easier for frontline soldiers to call in coalition air strikes.

Third, the offensive to retake Raqqa, which is ISIS's stronghold in Syria, is now beginning. This offensive was planned by Obama, and Trump is carrying out Obama's policy to the letter.

Of course, it's possible that Trump may indeed escalate the war in the near future. One area where this seems most likely is Yemen, where there is talk of bulking up the U.S.-backed Saudi onslaught there.

On one level, this is because Yemen represents a low-hanging fruit for the anti-Iran hawks in the administration--some of the forces that Saudi Arabia is targeting with its air war have ties to Iran.

In Iraq, the U.S. has been forced to rely partially on Iran, the main backer of certain militias that are now fighting ISIS in Iraq. And the U.S. has effectively ceded Syria to Iran and Russia. So Yemen is the one place where the U.S. and its allies can hit Iran hard.

Moreover, the U.S. has significant economic interests in the region, beginning with the Houthi-controlled port of Hudeida, through which many commercial vessels pass. There has been talk of a U.S.-backed Saudi and Emirati coalition to seize this port, which might spark a major humanitarian crisis if the fighting forces its closure, leaving many Yemenis without food or other basic imports.

IT SEEMS likely that the U.S. and its highly contradictory alliance will defeat ISIS in the coming months. What will defeat look like? Will a military victory lead to any lasting political settlement in Iraq or Syria?

THE DEFEAT of ISIS will look very different in Iraq and in Syria.

In Iraq, the offensives will succeed in toppling ISIS, but will keep in place many of the same predatory phenomena that helped fuel ISIS's rise in the first place. This includes a variety of militias that have committed grave human rights violations; security forces responsible for torture and disappearance of individuals accused of "terrorism"; and a wildly kleptocratic Iraqi state.

This may not necessarily mean that we will see an ISIS 2.0, but it does indicate that the country is likely to be unstable and prone to insurgency for a long time to come. The disaster that the U.S. set in motion with its invasion in 2003 won't end any time soon.

In Syria, on the other hand, the main phenomenon that fueled the rise of ISIS was the brutality of the Assad regime. The YPG is the key anti-ISIS force, and in areas where it has ejected ISIS, locals generally much prefer them to the regime--even in Arab-majority cities like Manbij.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which contains the YPG as its key component, will likely capture Raqqa by the end of this year.

The YPG system of local councils, while far from perfect, is a vastly superior alternative to ISIS or the rule of Assad. The Kurdish regions in northeastern Syria, known as Rojava, along with Arab-majority areas like Manbij and Raqqa, will probably make up a de facto independent region within the Syrian state.

However, it's unlikely in the long run that the U.S. will continue to back the YPG after the fight against ISIS is over, because the U.S. is hostile to some of the group's left-wing ideals, and because of the U.S.'s alliance with Turkey and the Barzani government of Iraqi Kurdistan, both of whom are mortal enemies of the YPG, will come first.

The U.S. is merely using the YPG for its own ends, and once it abandons them, there's a possibility of a showdown between the regime and the YPG.

In the end, a combination of brutality from the regime and cynical manipulation by outside powers means that the revolution is at its weakest point since it began with the Arab Spring in 2011. The revolution may be edging closer to total defeat, but among many Syrians inside the country and among the refugee diaspora--who tasted freedom and dignity for the first time in their lives--it will never be forgotten.

Categories: Political Action

Why is "unity" at the expense of choice?

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 01:00

Bernie Sanders' decision to support an anti-choice Democrat reveals a deeper problem with a party that routinely gives ground on abortion rights, writes Leela Yellesetty.

Bernie Sanders speaks on the Democratic Party's "Come Together, Fight Back" tour (Gage Skidmore | flickr)

BERNIE SANDERS drew fire from abortion rights supporters last week when, as part of the Democratic National Committee's "Unity Tour," the Vermont senator made a stop to campaign for Omaha mayoral candidate Heath Mello.

Mello made a name for himself as an opponent of abortion rights in the Nebraska state legislature, co-sponsoring a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and another that would force doctors to offer patients an ultrasound before having an abortion. He also voted for a bill prohibiting insurance companies from covering abortions.

After the ultrasound bill passed the legislature, Mello told the Associated Press it was a "positive first step to reducing the number of abortions in Nebraska." For his efforts he received the endorsement of anti-choice group Nebraska Right to Life in 2010.

In a response blasting Sanders' decision to campaign for this anti-choice politician, Ilyse Hogue of NARAL Pro-Choice America wrote:

The actions today by the DNC to embrace and support a candidate for office who will strip women--one of the most critical constituencies for the party--of our basic rights and freedom is not only disappointing, it is politically stupid. Today's action make this so-called "fight back tour" look more like a throwback tour for women and our rights.

If Democrats think the path forward following the 2016 election is to support candidates who substitute their own judgment and ideology for that of their female constituents, they have learned all the wrong lessons and are bound to lose. It's not possible to have an authentic conversation about economic security for women that does not include our ability to decide when and how we have children.

Yet Sanders is standing by his decision, arguing that Mello has pledged not to attack women's right to choose as mayor--a claim which warrants skepticism, given his record--but more to the point, that progressives should be willing to embrace anti-choice Democrats in the name of building political power.

"If we are going to protect a woman's right to choose, at the end of the day we're going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation," Sanders told NPR. "And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can't exclude people who disagree with us on one issue."

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SETTING ASIDE the weird logic of electing anti-choice politicians as a strategy for protecting choice, apparently for Sanders, it really is this "one issue" that is worth overlooking. He had no problem refusing to stump for Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff for being insufficiently progressive on economic issues.

Picking up on this contradiction, the New York Times describes the terms of the debate as follows:

But the ferocity of the dispute this time reveals a much deeper debate on the left: Should a commitment to economic justice be the party's central and dominant appeal, or do candidates also have to display fealty to the Democrats' cultural catechism?

This has been a familiar refrain since the 2016 primaries, where economic populism, in the form of Bernie Sanders, was counterposed to championing the rights of women and minorities, as was purportedly Hillary Clinton's platform. Yet this is a fundamentally flawed starting point for understanding this debate, as it rests on a number of false assumptions.

First and foremost, of course, is the idea that abortion is not an economic issue. As Cosmopolitan magazine--of all places--argued compellingly:

Tolerating Democratic hedging on abortion to justify appeals to the working class is also nonsensical. For women who are pregnant, abortion isn't a "social issue"; it's very much an economic one. Most women who have abortions say they chose that route either because of their economic realities or in planning for their economic futures: They can't afford a child (or, more often than not, they're already mothers who can't afford another child), or they see that their future plans would be irreparably derailed by having a baby just then. "You know what saved me from hereditary poverty?" wrote abortion rights activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns on Twitter, "Abortion. Abortion did. Real sorry if I'm caring about economic justice wrong."

This past weekend, activists around the country participated in fundraisers across the country for the National Network of Abortion Funds, which provides grants to low-income women seeking abortion. The average cost of a first-trimester abortion ranges from $300 to $1,500.

Thanks to the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal Medicaid funds from being used to pay for abortions, and numerous state laws and insurance restrictions, more than half of patients pay out of pocket for the procedure each year, according to the Guttamacher Institute.

Considering that the majority of Americans cannot afford an unexpected expense of $500, much less the expense of an unplanned pregnancy, not to mention raising a child, abortion access is a vital economic concern--to millions of women, but also in many cases their male partners and children.

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ANOTHER CENTRAL fallacy of Sanders' contention is that abortion is a divisive "wedge" issue that is costing Democrats votes. In fact, as a new campaign makes clear, abortion access is "More Popular than Trump," with 70 percent of Americans agreeing that women should have access to safe, legal abortion, while only 33 percent approve of Trump.

While the anti-choice movement has eroded support for unrestricted abortion rights over the past decades, these polls show that it is hardly the political third rail it is made out to be--perhaps due to the fact that, despite growing restrictions, one in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.

Attacking women who have abortions was an effective way for Trump to rally his right-wing base. He, too, paired this with a supposedly "economic populist" campaign that turned out to be nothing but smoke and mirrors.

In fact, the attacks on abortion rights have long been part and parcel of a ruling-class campaign to roll back not only women's rights, but working class living standards. Indeed, the Christian Right's claims about the "sanctity" of life doesn't stop it from demonizing women who give birth out of wedlock, which helped provide the rationale for Clinton's dismantling of welfare.

The right has long used scapegoating of oppressed groups--immigrants, African Americans, women, LGBT communities and others--to divert attention from and justify policies that are disastrous for the vast majority of working people. This is precisely why the left must actively combat these attacks if we have any chance of building real unity in the fight for economic justice.

Despite popular caricatures, the working class in this country doesn't consist of only white men, but has always been--and is increasingly--multiracial and majority female. There is a reason that a majority of young women voters were enthusiastic about Sanders' demands for economic justice over Clinton's candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, though I would guess they are somewhat less enthused by his latest maneuvers.

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DUE TO the backlash, some DNC members are now distancing themselves from Sanders' position--in particular, aiming their fire at his refusal to back Ossoff while ducking altogether the question of whether or not Ossoff is, in fact, "progressive" and worthy of support in the first place.

But for Democratic Party leaders, this is a very difficult critique to make without drawing attention to their own hypocrisy on the question. Far from an "economic populist" invention of Sanders, the idea of sidelining women's rights in the name of political expediency has been the longstanding practice of the Democratic Party.

Hillary Clinton, after all, once stated that she thought abortion was "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women," and popularized the idea that abortions should be "safe, legal and rare" as a means of campaigning for Bill Clinton and courting the anti-choice vote in her run for Senate. Recently, top Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dick Durbin spoke out in support of Sanders' embrace of anti-choice Democrats in the name of party unity.

Rebecca Traister spelled out why the Democrats have clung to this approach for so long in an article for New York Magazine:

Women have heard this argument again and again, and we have remained the reliable base of a party that has elected and elevated to positions of greater power anti-choice Democrats including Harry Reid, Joe Biden, Tim Kaine and Bob Casey.

In fact, it's hard not to feel that it's because of the dedication of women, and particularly women of color, to the Democratic Party--where else are they going to go?--that party leaders feel freer to take them for granted and trade their fundamental rights in obsessive pursuit of the great white male. This is how Dems always imagine that they can make inroads in red states. It's third-way centrist bullshit.

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THIS TIME around, however, the Democrats may not find this approach so easy. Trump's inauguration was greeted by the single largest day of protest in U.S. history under the banner of a "Women's March."

A new generation of activists is making the connections between economic and reproductive justice, in the process coming to reject the "lean-in" feminism of the likes of Hillary Clinton, which focuses on more gender representation at the top of an economic system in which working-class women (and especially women of color) suffer disproportionately.

In addition, more and more abortion rights activists are challenging the failed strategy of focusing efforts on electing nominally pro-choice politicians into office while refusing to confront the anti-choice forces that have successfully chipped away at abortion access for decades and continue to harass women outside of clinics every day.

Recent months have seen the growth of clinic defense actions across the country aimed at both demoralizing the bigots and reframing the abortion debate away from the lives of fetuses to those of women.

It's a welcome sign that groups like NARAL have taken politicians like Sanders to task, but Hogue's statement still expresses a commitment to working within the Democratic Party.

In reality, it has been the activism outside traditional political channels that has made the biggest difference. As long as most mainstream pro-choice organizations pursued a narrow strategy of uncritically backing Democratic candidates, the party was free to take their support for granted, while steadily giving up ground to the right.

If we are to be successful in turning back the anti-choice tide, we need to build a movement that is independent of a party which has proven time and again that it is not on our side--and instead put our faith in our own collective action to shift the terms of the debate and hold politicians of both parties accountable. As an activist quoted in Traister's article put it:

It is incredibly important that people within the progressive movement and Democratic Party realize that women are sick of this" stuff, said Erin Matson, a Virginia-based abortion rights activist, "and we're not going to take it anymore." (She used a more pungent word than "stuff.") "What Bernie doesn't seem to realize," she added, "is that the abortion rights movement has really bucked up and gotten some tough ovaries in the last couple of years."

Categories: Political Action

Tom Cat workers fight for dignity

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 01:00

Christopher Baum reports on a protest by bakery workers in New York City on the morning they were scheduled to be fired based on their immigration status.

Workers and family members rally at the Tom Cat Bakery in New York City (Brandworkers | Facebook)

A CROWD of around 100 people, including a small but exuberant brass band, came together in the early morning hours of Friday, April 21, outside the Tom Cat Bakery in Long Island City, Queens.

They were demonstrating their solidarity with 15 of the bakery's long-serving workers, who were facing termination for not providing immigration papers to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)--and who walked off the job on their last day to strike.

A month earlier on March 15, the workers at Tom Cat received letters from their employer informing them that they had 10 days to show proof of legal status to work in the U.S., or else they would be fired. Tom Cat stated in the letter that this move was prompted by a DHS audit.

The situation has widely been viewed as reflecting the intensification of anti-immigrant policy under the Trump administration, although Tom Cat says the audit was actually initiated under the Obama administration.

According to the New York Daily News, of the 26 workers who initially received these letters, four immediately produced the correct papers, two quit and found work elsewhere, and five accepted a severance package negotiated by Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union International (BCTGM) Local 53, which represents Tom Cat's employees.

The other 15 decided to fight.

With the help of Brandworkers, a local advocacy group for retail and food employees, the Tom Cat workers organized a demonstration in Long Island City on March 22. Thanks in part to the attention generated by this event, the workers were given an extension until April 21, to produce the required documentation.

The workers held another rally on April 8, this time at Trump Tower in Manhattan. As at the event in March, several local government officials appeared and spoke in support of the workers. But Tom Cat continued to claim that they had no choice but to comply with the DHS audit.

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AND SO on the morning of their scheduled April 21 termination, they organized with Brandworkers to have a demonstration and call for a Day Without Bread, asking New Yorkers to refrain from buying bread as a show of solidarity.

As the New York Times reported, this call was taken up by restaurants and other businesses:

Eli and Max Sussman, brothers who run the Brooklyn restaurant Samesa, posted signs drawing attention to the protest, and to the rights of immigrant workers. On Friday, they donated 50 cents from the sale of every item that includes pita bread to a fund set up for workers. And at the register, they collected additional money.

Yemeni bodega owners in Bay Ridge and other parts of southern Brooklyn put up posters in solidarity and in some cases refused to sell any bread on Friday. Many of the bodega owners who shut their stores in February, to protest President Trump's travel ban, feel that the most vulnerable and weakest are being targeted, said Rabyaah Althaibani, a Yemeni-American activist.

A couple of hours before the demonstration on Friday, four activists (none of them Tom Cat employees) handcuffed themselves to the undercarriage of a Tom Cat bakery truck in an effort to prevent the day's orders going out.

The protest itself began with brief opening remarks by Brandworkers organizers and a representative of the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York. But then the floor was given over entirely to the Tom Cat workers. Each worker stated his name and how long he had worked at Tom Cat; many also gave their countries of origin, which included Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and Ecuador.

Two common themes ran consistently through their remarks: heartfelt and moving expressions of gratitude to all who had come out to support them, and emphatic reminders that this was not merely a struggle in this one workplace, but rather a fight for justice for all workers and for all immigrants.

Oscar, who has worked in Tom Cat's production area for 12 years, said (through a translator):

We're not just protesting Tom Cat's unjust treatment towards us, we're also resisting Donald Trump and his administration, and we invite you all to join us in the streets on May 1. We're marching because of the many injustices of Donald Trump. We will not be afraid, we will fight for all people to be respected as equals, and we will continue until we achieve victory.

Henry Rivera, an 11-year packing worker, echoed this sentiment: "We're going to stay united. We're standing here today with all of you, united, fighting not just for our rights but for the rights of all workers. And we're going to continue fighting until they listen to us."

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AFTER THE speeches, a picket line was formed in front of the bakery, and people took up a number of chants to the rhythm of the band, including: "¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!" (The people united will never be defeated), "¿Qué queremos? ¡Justicia! ¿Cuándo? ¡Ahora!" (What do we want? Justice! When? Now!), "No borders, no walls! Immigrants, they feed us all!" and "¡Trump, escucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha! (Trump, listen: we are in the fight!).

Brandworkers organizer Gabriel Morales closed the rally by thanking the Tom Cat workers for their bravery and making an impassioned call for all to participate in May Day demonstrations.

"We want people to know that this fight is not just about this factory," Morales said. "This fight is about a broken immigration system all across this country. We want to invite you all to come support these workers again on May 1... We're going to inspire the nation!"

With cheers and applause, the crowd took up the chant "¡Unión! ¡Fuerza! ¡Solidaridad!" (Union! Strength! Solidarity!) for several boisterous minutes, before gradually dispersing.

The 15 workers are continuing to fight, with Brandworkers' help, to get a better severance package than Tom Cat's current offer of 90 days of health care plus one week's pay for every year of service, in addition to banked sick and vacation days.

During the picket, one worker told SocialistWorker.org that this offer, which Tom Cat has given the workers a few extra days to consider, is "a slap in the face after all the time we've been working here."

But as many of the workers made clear in their speeches, this fight isn't about just one workplace, but about justice and equality for all workers, regardless of immigration status. That's why a hundred people got up at the crack of dawn to stand outside a bakery in Queens, and it's why we need to march on Monday, May 1.

Categories: Political Action

Election fraud sparks protest in Serbia

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 01:00

An eruption of discontent is threatening the status quo in Serbia, unleashing long-held anger with free market "reforms," writes Marko Supic, in an article written for Red Flag.

Protests have continued in Belgrade each night since the first round voting in the presidential election

ELECTIONS THAT were meant to consolidate the rule of Serbian president-elect Aleksandar Vučić have backfired, producing the biggest mass demonstrations since the revolution that overthrew dictator Slobodan Milošević in October 2000.

The spark was voting irregularities: opposition candidate Saša Janković accused Vučić of stealing 319,000 votes in the April 2 first round poll--almost 10 percent of the total vote, and enough to secure the former prime minister outright victory in the first round of voting.

The trajectory of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska Napredna Stranka, SNS) is now widely seen to be veering toward authoritarianism, after parliament was suspended a month before the election and the Electoral Commission was stacked with pro-Vučić operatives.

The demonstrations have continued daily since the election, peaking at 50,000 in Belgrade on April 8. They meet at 6 p.m., march, give speeches and then agree to do the same the next day. Protests of thousands went ahead in Novi Sad, in the north of the country on the banks of the Danube River, even after the street lights were turned off.

Far-right groups have attempted to influence and lead the protests to no avail. They have been chased away by students. According to the revolutionary socialist group Marks21 in Serbia, the majority of placards at the demonstrations do not fit with the ideology of the existing political parties and are even further away from far-right sects.

The majority of people are concerned with the defense of working conditions and wages; they want free education and they are against Vučić's flirtatious attitude to Western imperialism.

However, the police and army unions have been major players in the protests. They have been protesting for months against a new budget that would cut their pay while increasing arms expenditure. On the day of the largest protest, the Ministry of Internal Affairs directed all employees to report for duty--not because the repressive arm of the state was needed to beat up protesters, but because the government is frightened at the prospect of rebellion in its own police force.

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FOR DECADES, people have been fed the same message about the need to attract foreign investment with low wages. Politicians such as Vučić consider themselves "more IMF than the IMF." But the "benefits" have not accrued to workers. Zeljko Veselinovic, president of the Sloga trade union, told one newspaper of the conditions at the South Korean-owned Jura factory in Leskovac, in the country's south: "Our battle with Jura lasts already five years. They have been hitting [workers] with metal sticks, harassed women, although there were no rape cases. They forbade them [female workers] to go to toilet and suggested them to wear diapers for adults."

Vučić has a long record. He was elected general secretary of the far-right Serbian Radical Party in 1995 and was responsible for the persecution of journalists and the spread of wartime propaganda as the minister of information in the last years of the Milošević regime.

When Vučić split with others to form the SNS in 2008, he ditched his anti-EU rhetoric while never truly supporting independence for Kosova. This has been the de facto position of the ruling coalition; it has risen to prominence while straddling pro-Russia, Greater Serbia chauvinism and liberal pro-EU integration politics.

The liberal opposition has been pathetic, refusing to challenge the core of SNS's project: a Serbia run in order to provide bosses with a skilled but cheap workforce. The "We've had enough" coalition, formed by Vučić's former minister of the economy, spends its time trying to convince people that government jobs are a waste of resources because they're given to lazy workers who are employed only because they will vote for Vučić. Its presidential nominee, Saša Radulović, failed to receive 2 percent of the vote.

Jankovic, the former ombudsman, ran on an anti-corruption platform. Everything the SNS does is terrible, according to him, because it is illegal. He upholds the constitution, but he does not oppose privatization--he just questions the way in which it is done and who the proceeds go to. He received less than 17 percent of the vote, running second.

The far right Serbian Radical Party and Dveri/Democratic Party of Serbia coalition have done even worse than the liberal opposition, receiving 4 percent and 2 percent respectively.

The most interesting of the opposition presidential candidates is indicative of the public mood. Luka Maksimović, a comedian, heads the "You haven't tried the stuffed cabbage" party. His success (running third with almost 10 percent of the vote) points to the significant levels of cynicism in the electorate.

To turn that around, the movement against Vučić will need to continue and deepen.

First published at Red Flag.

Categories: Political Action

Ready for May Day in San Francisco

Socialist Worker - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 01:00

Elena Stamatakos reports on a panel discussion that highlighted upcoming May Day protests and connected the fights for immigrant rights, labor rights and socialism.

A full house at the Women's Building in San Francisco for a forum on preparing for May Day (ISO-Northern California)

AS MAY Day--International Workers Day--draws near, activists are preparing for demonstrations in cities across the country to stand up in defense of immigrant and workers' rights against the attacks of the Trump administration.

On April 19, socialists gathered in San Francisco for a panel discussion focusing on the radical history of May Day--and arguing why socialists, trade unionists and immigrant workers and their supporters should participate in this working-class tradition. Approximately 60 people attended the forum, which was sponsored jointly by Bay Area chapters of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Socialist Alternative (SA). Some members of the Tech Workers Coalition--a progressive group of tech industry workers and labor and community organizers--joined others in attending.

Highlighting the importance of May Day and the increasing popularity of socialist ideas, panelists invited everyone in the audience to build a socialist contingent planned for the May 1 "Day Without Immigrants" march in San Francisco.

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ISO MEMBER and SocialistWorker.org contributor Alex Schmaus spoke about the history of May Day as a tradition with its roots in the one of the first nationwide struggles of the U.S. working class at the end of the 19th century.

International Workers Day on May 1 commemorates the 1886 mass strike for the eight-hour day as well as the Haymarket Martyrs--a group of anarchist labor organizers in Chicago who were tried, convicted and several executed on trumped-up charges of being responsible for a bombing in Chicago's Haymarket Square.

The struggle for the for the eight-hour day was at the center of a radicalization and mobilization of the working class--a historical example that Schmaus described as illustrating how "one of the best ways to build the organizational capacity of the left is to strike."

Erin Brightwell of SA connected the history of May Day to present conditions. She argued that the left can't cooperate with the Trump administration in any way; that we need to build movements in the streets; and that our actions should be developing the confidence of these movements, and not isolating the left from other forces. "This summer, we must organize against Trump and the billionaire class," Brightwell concluded.

Speaking about the radical history of the left in San Francisco, Ryan Moore of DSA said: "When people stand up for each other and themselves, regardless of whether they are victorious, the process of struggle and solidarity can be transformative." Moore also said that that we should put the "social back in socialism" and hold more events like the panel discussion to strengthen relationships on the left.

All of the speakers pointed to the importance of the immigrant rights movement and how the traditions of May Day were brought back to the U.S. by the mass "Day Without Immigrants" marches in 2006, when hundreds of thousands took to the streets against reactionary legislation to criminalize the undocumented. With immigrants under attack by the Trump administration, the fight for immigrant and refugee rights are particularly important at this year's May Day events.

One audience member echoed this sentiment, pointing out that refugees and immigrants are being targeted not only by Trump, but by the right in general--but that there is strong solidarity as well, as evidenced by one of the most popular chants at the Women's March in San Francisco on January 21: "No borders, no nations. Stop deportations!"

Next up for socialists in San Francisco is a picnic gathering on April 30, followed by flyering for the socialist contingent in the march the next day--and then May Day itself. The socialist contingent initiated by ISO, DSA and SA will gather at Justin Herman Plaza and march together.

Categories: Political Action

No Gathering Social Media Handles from Chinese Visitors

Deep Links - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 21:09

EFF has joined a coalition effort, led by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), to oppose the federal government’s proposal to scrutinize the social media activities of Chinese visitors. Specifically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seeks to ask certain visa applicants from China to disclose the existence of their social media accounts and the identifiers or handles associated with those accounts.

Last year, EFF opposed a similar CBP proposal concerning foreign visitors from countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). CBP finalized this proposal in December 2016.

Although providing social media handles would be optional and CBP promises to review social media activities “in a manner consistent with the privacy settings the applicant has chosen to adopt for those platforms,” collecting this information would still pose risks to the free speech and privacy rights of foreign travelers and their American associates. Moreover, CBP has made no showing that these intrusions on digital privacy and speech will actually do anything to advance public safety.

Specifically, CBP’s scrutiny of the social media activities of Chinese and VWP visitors will unmask anonymous Internet speakers, and reveal highly personal information like religious beliefs or dating preferences. CBP will scrutinize not just the online behavior of foreign visitors, but also that of the many U.S. citizens who communicate with them via social media, whether family members, friends, business associates, or other contacts. Foreign nations may retaliate and subject U.S. visitors to the same surveillance. Many people may self-censor to avoid this unwanted government scrutiny or curtail important travel to the United States.

These CBP proposals are part of a larger CBP effort to invade the digital privacy of travelers. At the U.S. border, CBP agents have ordered U.S. citizens to disclose their social media accounts and identifiers. And CBP searches the phones, laptops, and other devices of tens of thousands of travelers.

EFF is fighting back in the courts and Congress, and teaching travelers how to protect their privacy. We are proud to join AAAJ and dozens of other groups in opposing the intrusive and unnecessary social media screening of Chinese visitors.

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Categories: Political Action

The FCC Wants to Eliminate Net Neutrality Protections. We Can't Let That Happen.

Deep Links - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 17:00

In 2015, following years of dedicated activism – including individual actions by millions of Internet users – Team Internet scored a crucial victory: clear, enforceable protections for net neutrality. The new head of the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) wants to take away those protections and allow broadband providers like Comcast and AT&T to become permanent Internet gatekeepers. The good news is we can stop him. We need to tell Congress: Don’t let the FCC surrender the Internet!

Tell Congress: Don't Surrender the Internet.

According to several news reports, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is planning to gut the FCC’s Open Internet Order, eliminating hard-fought net neutrality protections. What do we get instead? ISPs have to promise, cross their hearts and hope to die, to include certain net neutrality “principles” in their terms of service.  The ISPs will doubtless jump at the chance, because they know what we know: artfully drafted pledges and promises don’t mean much when there’s no firm legal obligation to back them up.

In theory, of course, there is a way to enforce terms of service commitments. Pai’s plan would reportedly rely on the Federal Trade Commission to go after service providers that violate their promises, on the theory that any such violation would be an unfair and deceptive business practice. But as The Verge’s Nilay Patel, and former FCC Counselor Gigi Sohn point out, companies change their terms of service all the time, and as yet we haven’t heard of anything in Pai’s plan that would stop them from doing so. Moreover, it’s not clear that all ISPs would have to make those promises. And, while the FCC’s current rules are proactive, the FTC would be limited to bringing enforcement actions after the harm has already occurred – and there’s only so many actions it can bring. Moreover, there’s no reason to expect that the FTC – or most subscribers – will have the expertise needed to figure out when service providers are breaking their promises. Finally, in at least some states, the FTC can’t actually bring enforcement actions against many ISPs, thanks to a 2016 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As Sohn explains, “Another name for the Pai Plan might be “Just Trust Us.” Hardly a comforting thought in a market where ISPs face little competition and serve as the sole gatekeeper to the [I]nternet.”

Pai is expected to announce his plan as early as tomorrow, and if so, the FCC could vote on the plan at the Commission’s May 18th open meeting.

But Pai can’t reverse the will of millions of Internet users without giving us a chance to weigh in – directly and through our representatives. The FCC’s net neutrality rules are crucial for the Internet – they help make sure that ISPs run their networks in ways that are fair to users and innovators alike. Without those protections, ISPs can abuse their position as gatekeepers to the broader Internet to further cement their monopolies, hurting Internet users, content providers, nonprofits and small businesses in the process. We don’t need to look back very far to see the kind of harmful practices ISPs can get up to without effective oversight. We can’t let the FCC trade the desperately-needed rules of road we fought so hard to put in place for empty promises. It’s time to tell Congress: Don’t let the FCC surrender the Internet!

Tell Congress: Don't Surrender the Internet.

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Categories: Political Action

EFF and Allies Write to Congress: FCC Chairman Pai's Network Neutrality Plan Unworkable

Deep Links - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 16:41

EFF and a coalition of other groups wrote a letter to Congress today detailing the failings of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai's reported—but undisclosed—network neutrality plan and requesting that lawmakers hold hearings over any FCC plans for the Internet.

So far, media outlets have reported that Chairman Pai intends to surrender the legal authority the FCC holds over cable and telephone companies. All the FCC apparently wants in exchange is empty promises from the industry to not end Internet freedom while relying on the Federal Trade Commission to protect users. Our letter to Congress details why that plan, as reported, will fail to protect an open Internet and how placing all of their eggs in the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) basket invites the industry to game the system and avoiding any meaningful accountability.

Here is why the plan fails:

1) The FTC lacks rulemaking power and therefore can not create open Internet rules much like the Open Internet Order.

2) A recent circuit court ruling has vastly limited the FTC's ability to oversee the activities of telephone companies due to their status as common carriers, granting the telecoms a powerful loophole from any federal enforcement actions. In essence, FCC Chairman Pai's plan could allow AT&T, Verizon, and any local telephone company in the states of Oregon, Arizona, Alaska, Hawaii, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington to exempt their broadband business from any federal consumer protections.

3) The undisclosed plan appears to rely on cable and telephone companies publishing written pledges to do no harm to the open Internet so the FTC could hold them accountable, but nothing in the law will require those companies to keep those promises. They are more than free to change their pledges to reshape the Internet, charge higher prices, and invade consumer privacy.

In short, Americans are being asked to substitute the rule of law that guarantee an open Internet for promises that do not have to be kept. Tomorrow the FCC Chairman is scheduled to deliver a speech regarding his vision for the future of the Internet. We will find out if Chairman Pai intends to continue down the path of surrendering the Internet to Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T or if he will reverse course.

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Categories: Political Action

Tell FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai: Startups Depend on Net Neutrality

Deep Links - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 14:18

Startups, entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, and incubators are signing onto a letter urging Trump’s FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai not to undermine the FCC’s net neutrality rules.

The letter affirms the need for net neutrality rules to protect entrepreneurs and innovators, and responds to recent reports that Pai plans to roll back the Commission’s net neutrality rules, replacing them with empty promises from broadband providers:

Without net neutrality, the incumbents who provide access to the Internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new fees on us, inhibiting consumer choice. Those actions directly impede an entrepreneur’s ability to “start a business, immediately reach a worldwide customer base, and disrupt an entire industry.” Our companies should be able to compete with incumbents on the quality of our products and services, not our capacity to pay tolls to Internet access providers.

Fortunately, in 2015 the Federal Communications Commission put in place light touch net neutrality rules that not only prohibit certain harmful practices, but also allow the Commission to develop and enforce rules to address new forms of discrimination. We are concerned by reports that you would replace this system with a set of minimum voluntary commitments, which would give a green light for Internet access providers to discriminate in unforeseen ways.

It’s not too late to add your voice to theirs. Engine Advocacy, Y Combinator, and Techstars are calling for members of the startup community to sign on to the letter by 5pm ET on April 28th.





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Categories: Political Action

What's driving Trump's immigrant-bashing?

Socialist Worker - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

Lee Sustar untangles the contradictions of the administration's immigration policy.

NET IMMIGRATION from Mexico is negative, and unemployment is at the lowest point in a decade. Yet Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions justify the biggest crackdown on immigrants in decades in the name of "hiring American"--in an effort to win white working class support on a racist basis.

It's the latest example of the chronic criminalization and mass deportation of immigrants in the U.S.--and it poses an acute challenge for organized labor at a point when unions are at their weakest in nearly a century.

Basically, Trump is offering a deal to both labor and capital.

For employers, the deal is this: Tolerate my immigrant-bashing to meet my political requirements, and I'll deliver higher profits by slashing regulations, cutting taxes and quietly supporting efforts to weaken unions by right-wing judges. Trump has further linked the crackdown on immigration to the reassertion of U.S. imperial power by seeking to impose a ban on travel from six majority Muslim nations.

As the Council on Foreign Relations noted, U.S. business as a whole is reliant on immigration.

Some 17 percent of the workforce is comprised of immigrants, and many sectors have come to depend on a regular flow of labor from abroad, with or without documents. This has been the case in agriculture (33 percent), manufacturing (36 percent) and accommodation (45 percent).

At the other end of the labor market, the labor shortage in information technology means that tech jobs are heavily dependent on immigrants from India, China and other Asian countries. At Facebook and microchip maker Qualcomm, for example, some 15 percent of workers are on H-1B visas that provide temporary legal status for skilled workers.

This is why Corporate America prefers a version of immigration reform that would stabilize the situation. Many businesses favor a guest worker program that would keep foreign-born labor available and wages low--workers without full citizenship rights are less likely to organize unions.

Silicon Valley bosses favor the same approach to tech talent: an expansion of the H1B visa program that allows them to recruit skilled workers. If this puts downward pressure on tech salaries, so much the better.

But the problem for employers is that the leading party of U.S. business, the Republicans, has increasingly played to the racist right on the question of immigration.

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IN 1986, President Ronald Reagan championed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which included qualified amnesty for undocumented workers already living in the U.S. It also included sanctions on employers who hired undocumented workers, a get-tough policy at the border and a guest-worker program for agricultural workers, which is why the left and community-oriented immigrant rights groups opposed IRCA.

But a few decades later, Republicans--and not a small number of Democrats--would consider Reagan's legislation pro-immigrant radicalism.

Twenty years after IRCA, Republicans in Congress supported an ultra-reactionary bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. The Sensenbrenner bill would have criminalized not only the 11 million or so undocumented workers in the U.S. at the time, but also anyone who assisted them--teachers, social workers and others.

The proposal highlighted the contradictions of immigration for the Republican Party as it tilted away from the needs of business and toward a right-wing electorate.

It was the Sensenbrenner bill that sparked the "mega-marches" of 2006 in which masses of people took to the streets and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of immigrant workers went on strike or stayed away from work on May Day that year.

Even with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, the mass immigrant rights movement stopped the Sensenbrenner bill in its tracks.

In the decade since, Congress wrestled with immigration "reform" proposals that could deliver the goods for business with guest worker programs while throwing in sops to the right, including heavier enforcement on the border.

As activist and journalist David Bacon explained, the immigrant rights movement has for years been divided between grassroots activists on the left and Washington insiders who push "comprehensive immigration reform," or CIR:

The structure of the bills has been basically the same from the beginning--the same three-part structure of IRCA--guest workers, enforcement, and some degree of legalization. Under the CIR proposals promoted by Washington advocacy groups for several years, people working without papers would continue to be fired and even imprisoned, while raids would increase. Vulnerability makes it harder for people to defend their rights, organize unions, and raise wages. That keeps the price of immigrant labor low.

Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Chicago tried to reach a CIR deal with the Republican Tea Party factions in Congress before then-Sen. Jeff Sessions and his allies killed it. But Obama appeased the anti-immigrant forces anyway.

As Marisa Franco and Carlos Garcia point out in the Nation, years before Trump called for a "deportation team" to target "bad hombres," the Obama administration had built "the most sophisticated and well-funded human-expulsion machine in the history of the country." When Trump and Sessions took office, they could hit the ground running.

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TO BE sure, the Trump administration agenda is qualitatively different than Obama's. Rather than simply restrict immigration, Sessions is trying reverse demographic trends in the U.S.

Consciously, or not, the Trump policy parallels that of the Immigration Act of 1924, which sharply limited immigration from Europe and virtually banned migrants from Asian countries.

Passed under the right-wing Republican administration of Warren Harding--who foreshadowed Trump with a business-dominated cabinet mired in brazen corruption--the law was a reaction to the wave of industrial struggle during the First World War and the success of the Russian Revolution. As the State Department's website puts it, "In all of its parts, the most basic purpose of the 1924 Immigration Act was to preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity."

Trump, along with adviser Steve Bannon and Sessions, is after something similar today. "For Bannon, Sessions and [Sessions' aide Stephen] Miller, immigration was a galvanizing issue, lying at the center of their apparent vision for reshaping the United States by tethering it to its European and Christian origins," wrote Emily Bazelon in the New York Times.

Thus, as a U.S. senator from Alabama, Sessions supported that state's HB 56, the "Juan Crow" law that forced schools to record the immigration status of students, allowed police to demand immigration documents and made it a crime for individuals or employers to hire, harbor, rent property to or even give a ride to an undocumented immigrant.

Alabama employers protested--especially those in agriculture, food processing and construction. Now, employers across the U.S are wary of similar measures at the national level.

But they may not be able to stop Sessions, whose anti-immigrant program is driven primarily by his ideology and the demands of his political base. And now Trump has taken that model national.

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THE TRUMP-Sessions program puts employers in a contradictory position. As a corporate boss, Trump himself routinely uses immigrant labor even as he calls for restrictions, making the usual claim that his companies can't find U.S. citizens who will do the low-wage work.

Meanwhile, Trump has told the "Dreamers"--undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children--that they can "rest easy" and remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established by Obama.

Some immigrant rights activists believe DACA could become a template for a guest worker program in which undocumented people are allowed to stay in the U.S. for renewable time limits without any possibility of permanent residency or citizenship.

So the result is a twofold policy. On the one hand, Trump is throwing red meat to the anti-immigrant right by empowering ICE to carry out high-profile raids and order instant deportations and by further militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border. The real aim is "self-deportation," as 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney put it, as an alternative to cost and chaos of mass expulsions.

At the same time, Trump immigration policy would allow business to continue to profit from immigrant workers, even if under less predictable circumstances.

That was the message of Trump's April 18 appearance at Snap-On Tools in Wisconsin, where he announced a "hire American, buy American" campaign and signed an order for a review of the H-1B visa program--even as he attacked Canadian dairy famers dumping cheap imports on the U.S. market.

The H1-B visas, Trump declared in Wisconsin, were a "theft of American prosperity."

Employers are lobbying Trump for an immigration plan that would preserve H1-B workers for tech jobs while creating a "path to legalization" for lower-wage workers--a euphemism for a guest worker program in which immigrants literally become second-class citizens. But unless and until such a program materializes, business will continue to take advantage of the pressure on immigrant workers caused by ICE's intensified operations.

That pressure is growing by the day. Immigrant neighborhoods in cities across the U.S.--mainly Mexican but not exclusively so--are under siege, with many people refusing to answer their doors or leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

And for good reason: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly said on national television that "a single DUI" could result in deportation.

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THE TRUMP attack on immigrants has put the Democratic Party on the spot. While the Democrats want to craft a pro-employer immigration policy, they must also try relate to their electoral base, which includes millions of immigrant workers.

That's the logic of declaring "sanctuary cities" in big urban centers around the U.S., where Democratic mayors and city councils typically direct local police not to cooperate with ICE. Sessions' Justice Department has pushed hard against this, threatening to withhold federal funds from local governments that don't cooperate with immigration enforcement. So far, the Democrats have not buckled, and the clash is likely to end up in court.

But ICE, of course, doesn't need local cops' permission to carry out arrests and deportations. So the question is how to defend immigrants from this onslaught.

Organized labor, with its unparalleled capacity for collective action, is in a position to do so. In 1999, the AFL-CIO's convention went on record in favor of amnesty for undocumented workers, rejecting the sanctions and guest-worker programs in IRCA and its would-be legislative successors preaching "comprehensive immigration reform."

Since Trump took office, the AFL-CIO has been on record declaring its support for immigrant workers. In February, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka denounced Trump's deportations:

The labor movement will stand proudly and firmly with all local leaders who support workers' rights and prevent exploitation. We know these communities are defending our right to organize to lift standards and cracking down on abusive employers who retaliate against working people. These are core values of the labor movement.

Central labor councils in Los Angeles and Chicago are pouring resources into May Day protests and job actions that will highlight the struggle for immigrant rights.

However, most unions have long since gone quiet on the question of amnesty. In 2009, the AFL-CIO retreated into support for mainstream CIR, folding in behind the Obama administration.

Even more worrisome is that some big unions have tried to cozy up to Trump to benefit from proposed infrastructure jobs and "Buy American" programs. Laborers union General President Terry O'Sullivan told reporters that Trump brought "a new day for the working class," adding that Trump "has shown that he respects laborers who build our great nation, and that they will be abandoned no more."

With that statement, O'Sullivan abandoned the immigrant members of his union--workers he claimed to support when he spoke at the May Day rally in Chicago in 2013.

It's impossible for unions to choose to support Trump on jobs spending while opposing him on immigration. That's why Trump chose to make his announcement on H-1B visas and federal government "Buy American" proposals at the Snap-On Tools plant. It's a single package of economic nationalism in which immigrants are kicked out and jobs go to "native" Americans, preferably those with a European heritage.

The fight for immigrant rights will continue to intensify. Liberals and most union leaders will argue that the only realistic course of action is horse-trading over a boss-friendly guest worker program, with limited workers rights in exchange for accepting greater repression.

It will be up to activists and the left to continue to stand in defense of immigrants and build the solidarity of all working people--no matter what their status.

Categories: Political Action

Scientists turn up the heat on Trump

Socialist Worker - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

Leonard Klein and Elizabeth Schulte report on an outpouring of opposition to Trump's attack on science and the environment in marches around the globe on April 22.

Marching for science in Washington, D.C. (Susan Melkisethian | flickr)

MOLECULAR BIOLOGISTS, botanists, researchers, doctors, computer scientists, public school teachers and scientists of all kinds along with hundreds of thousands more turned out for protests on April 22 to show their opposition to a president who thinks climate change is a hoax and is sharpening his budget ax for deep cuts to government funding for environmental protection and public health.

April 22 is Earth Day, which was first held in 1970, when it turned out millions of people and ushered in a new movement in defense of the environment.

With more than 600 marches on seven continents, and with hundreds of scientific professional organizations, environmental groups, labor unions and non-profits endorsing this year's April 22 March for Science, organizers hope this will be part of its own new resistance.

As one sign read, "The oceans are rising, and so are we."

Scientists, a group not known for organizing protests, turned out en masse for the call for a national day of action in support of science, in response to the Trump budget that slashes funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes for Health.

Beka Economopoulos of the Natural History Museum told Democracy Now!:

This is unprecedented. Scientists and science institutions don't really do advocacy. There have been robust debates for decades about whether science is political or not. And it is really refreshing to see this coming-out party for a new movement of scientists who are engaged in the public sphere, who are advocating on behalf of science and communities who are going to be hit the hardest by these attacks on science.

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AS MANY as 100,000 people turned out for the march in Washington, D.C., some dressed as Albert Einstein or the excitable Muppet lab assistant Beaker, and others wearing lab coats and safety goggles. Many held handmade signs reading "There is no Planet B," "This Spring won't be Silent," "Science NOT Silence" and "I am with Her [Mother Earth]" as they lined up to get into the protest area as early as 8 a.m.

Speakers included a cross-section of scientific disciplines and concerns, including Indigenous, immigrant, and racially, ethnically and gender diverse speakers.

Mustafi Ali, who resigned from the EPA's Environmental Justice Program--a program he founded--in March, emphasized the importance of linking together struggles:

Today we stand up for Standing Rock, to protect and support cultures that honor Mother Earth and the lives of our people. Today we stand up for Flint. Today we stand up for Baltimore. Today we stand up for East Chicago, where the devastating effects of lead will have long-term health and economic impacts.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who discovered that Flint's water was poisoning the city's children with lead, was there, accompanied by Mari Copeny, or "Little Miss Flint," who helped tell the Flint story. Hanna-Attisha said:

About a year ago, my research proved that our contaminated water in Flint was leaching lead into the bodies of our children. And I took a risk. I walked out of my clinic to speak up publically for my kids. I was attacked. But when you are fighting for children, you fight back. And I was loud and I was stubborn, and science spoke truth to power.

Science is not an alternative fact. It is time for all of us to fight back against those who deny science and those degrade science.

Nine-year-old Copeny added, "When our government doesn't believe in science, kids get hurt."

"It's time for all of us to step out of our clinics, our classrooms and our labs," Hanna-Attisha said. "We need to make ourselves known in the halls of government."

While the March for Science mission statement described the organizers and sponsors as "nonpartisan," Trump was decidedly the target of many angry remarks from the stage, and the barbed wit of the many signs.

Marchers brought homemade placards with slogans such as "It's the Environment, Stupid," "Make America Think Again" and "Stop Global Warming; Save Mar-a-Lago." This last sign was a reference to the fact that Trump's often-visited golf resort in Palm Beach, Florida, will experience flooding if sea levels rise two to six feet between now and 2100, as modeled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Debates among participants about whether the march was actually "nonpartisan" or "non-political" were reflected in various speakers' comments. Early in the program, Dr. Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, said, "Some people are going to say we are politicizing science, but we are not: we are defending it."

Later on, however, program co-emcee Derek Muller said, "Some people say science shouldn't be politicized. But let me tell you something: science is inherently political." This statement left many in the audience a little stunned, except for a few cheers here and there.

But Muller went on, saying, "Because when science uncovers toxins in drinking water, policy must be made to fix it." As Muller went through a few more example of needed policy fixes, the crowd warmed to the theme and began to cheer more loudly.

It also has to be acknowledged that the threat to the environment began well before Trump. The Obama administration not only failed to deliver on his promise of a "Green New Deal," but instead increased fossil fuel extraction and the construction of pipelines.

Many speakers called for greater citizen participation in politics and movements. Public health researcher Kellan Baker challenged the audience and fellow scientists:

The poet Dante wrote that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis. We cannot pretend we are above the fray. Science is objective, but it is not neutral. As scientists, as human beings, our mandate is clear: it's for each of us to stand up for what we know to be true. And to stand together when working to shape a future in which we can all thrive.

Washington, D.C., has seen a great number of protests since November, and a growing number of people are finding ways to oppose Trump and form the networks we'll need to build a strong, sustained resistance. Many of the science marchers were wearing their pink hats from the Women's March, but for others, the March for Science was their first step into activism.

Given the breadth of Trump's attacks and the energetic response from these many new activists, whether around science or at airports, the front line is truly everywhere. The April 29 People's Climate Marches and May Day actions for immigrant rights are the next opportunities to show our solidarity in the streets, and join up with other people who are looking to build resistance to Trump's attacks.

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THE SPIRIT of Washington's March for Science was replicated in cities across the country on April 22, in protests large and small.

-- In Chicago, more than 40,000 people came out for the March for Science, a much larger turnout than anyone had anticipated, with waves of people coming off the train and streaming onto Columbus Drive.

It was likely a first or second protest for many people. The signs ranged from the amusing--"No Science = No Beer"--to the defiant--"More equations, less invasions." Many marchers also carried signs in support of "controversial" scientific research, such as "Stem cells saved my life."

Some made direct connections with Trump's immigration policies, listing the names and pictures of immigrant scientists such as Einstein and Nikola Tesla. One young protester carried a sign that read, "All my favorite scientists are socialists."

After rallying, people marched for an hour down the street in an atmosphere of celebration of science and protest against the destructive policies of the Trump administration. The march arrived at the city's "museum campus" southeast of downtown, where activists, nonprofit groups, university science departments and organizations that promote public involvement in science set up tables to discuss ideas and conduct demonstrations.

-- In New York City, thousands of people took the streets to march for science, their procession stretching for 10 blocks along Central Park West.

Medical students joined doctors, scientists and others who work in the science field to protest. Whole families turned out, including many people who had never been to a protest before.

"We want to get across the message that Americans really care about science, and we care about this world, and that we really need science to help us thrive," scientist Dawn Cohen told CBS New York.

Some protesters chanted, "Money for science and education, not for bombs and deportations," "Hey Trump, we know you, you can't pass a peer review," and "Hey, Trump, have you heard? You can't silence every nerd."

-- More than 20,000 people marched in Seattle through downtown from Capitol Hill to Seattle Center to defend science. People of all ages, including many families with children, came out.

Besides the general focus in defense of science, many marchers were there to protest all of Trump's policies, with thousands of homemade signs such as "Resist Trump: Green Jobs," " Got Smallpox? Me Neither," "I was born with a broken heart. Science saved me" and "Dump Trump."

-- In San Diego, some 15,000 people marched from the Civic Center to City Hall. Speakers included climatologist Ralph Keeling, who called the rising global temperatures a national security issue. Some protesters emphasized the Trump administration's attack on all of us, chanting "Stop the ban, stop the hate, immigrants make science great."

The celebration of science, education and the environment had local as well as global relevance. The San Diego Unified School District just announced a new round of layoffs, which will include dozens of library technicians and mental health clinicians. Meanwhile, aging facilities and defective water fountains have led to multiple schools throughout the county testing positive for lead contamination in the last year.

-- In Austin, Texas, residents of the state capital and surrounding communities came out in full force at the Capitol building to voice overwhelming support for science, with police estimating close to 10,000.

A teach-in at various stations started the day at 9 a.m., followed by a rally at 11. The crowd's support for science led to some of the most creative signs ever: "There is no Planet B,""I Came for the π" and "All Lives Are Matter." At Noon, the crowd marched the long route to Huston-Tillotson University to join the festivities of the annual Earth Day celebration.

-- In Rochester, New York, more than 1,500 people marched for science, not only opposing Trump but celebrating Earth Day and their love of science and diversity. Signs included slogans like "Make Earth Cool Again" and "Science Is Not Alternative Facts."

"Science is something everybody should have access to," said a biochemistry student at Rochester Institute of Technology.

One participant saw the connection between Trump's threats to science and his broader attacks on immigrants. "When you block out other cultures, you ignore science," she said. "We need the big picture."

A middle school science teacher expressed worry for her students and science education in general. Trump's denial of climate change science is "making it harder for students to access science-backed knowledge," she commented.

The rally ended with a march to the Rochester Science Expo, which organizers put together as a post-rally event to highlight scientific research and inquiry. Speakers from local universities and research facilities gave talks on their work, and booths geared toward the younger crowd exhibited science fun facts and interactive demonstrations.

-- In Olympia, Washington, some 5,000 people rallied for science at the Capitol and then marched to Heritage Park, led by a loose band of musicians known as the "Olympia Arkestry" who were dressed in white lab coats for the occasion.

Sharon Versteeg said she participated in several demonstrations against the Vietnam War during the 1960s and was inspired to start protesting again after November's election. "Everything that's happening right now is diminishing what we've worked on for years and years," said Versteeg, "and I would like to right now keep the energy going so that in these next four years we don't loose too much."

Jhana Chinamasta spoke of hope for the future. "I do have a lot of hope that other citizens who are helpless and hopeless can stop feeling that way," she said. "We have nothing to lose. You might as well be positive and get out there and do something because it ignites, it's contagious. Hope creates hope."

-- In Columbus, Ohio, some 4,000 people gathered at the statehouse for a rally and march on April 22. Large sections of university departments at Ohio State University and neighboring colleges and universities organized to attend.

The substantial turnout for the event--one of the largest in Columbus since the protests against Gov. John Kasich's anti-union legislation in 2011--continues a trend since Trump's election, in which increasingly large numbers of people who are not yet activists are mobilizing to join the resistance to the administration's agenda.

The attendees of the march embraced a broad range of political ideas, including some speakers who said they wanted to avoid politics as well as protesters that lead chants of "Climate change is a war. Of the rich upon the poor!" and "O-H-I-O! Scott Pruitt has got to go!"

-- About 1,000 people turned out for the March for Science at the University of California-Berkeley, gathering at Sproul Hall. Mario Savio's 1964 speech, "Bodies upon the gears," was played through a loudspeaker.

Protesters then walked through campus to Civic Center Park, which just a week ago had been occupied by white nationalists with a "Pro-USA, Proud, Strong & Unafraid in Berkeley" sign.

Speakers tied this fight to others, including graduate students campaigning to unionize. Popular chants included "Fund science not war!" Signs included "Critical thinking is critical," "Fund science not walls" and "Support science and refugees."

-- In Amherst, Massachusetts, about 1,000 people marched in the morning to the Amherst Town Commons, where an Earth Day-themed fair had been organized. The fair turned out some 4,000 people throughout the day and included a teach-in called "The Capitalist Ecological Crisis and How to Fight It."

Categories: Political Action

The far right goes on a rampage in Berkeley

Socialist Worker - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

Alex Schmaus reports on a mobilization of racist goons, given new confidence by Trump's election, who turned downtown Berkeley, California, into a battleground.

Members of far-right organizations came ready for a fight in Berkeley

THE LIBERAL San Francisco Bay Area city of Berkeley has become the prime target for violent far-right individuals and organizations emboldened by the reign of Donald Trump.

Their latest provocation on April 15 shows the physical threat that the far right represents as it gains confidence--and underlines the urgent need for all those who oppose bigotry and reaction to mobilize in large numbers to show that the racists will be opposed whenever they try to claim the streets.

While thousands joined Tax Day marches in cities across the U.S. to oppose the billionaire president and demand he release his tax returns, several factions of the "alt right" and "patriots movement" mobilized up and down the West Coast to bring 150 or more goons to the so-called Patriots Day rally organized by the local Berkeley Liberty Revival Alliance.

Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza and the area around it, adjacent to the municipal administration building, police headquarters and Berkeley High School, was transformed into a bloody battlefield as the racists clashed with a smaller number of anti-racist demonstrators, mainly those who call themselves "antifas."

The far right's rally was ostensibly called to protest supposed violations of the free speech rights of conservative speakers in Berkeley, famously the site of the mid-1960s Free Speech Movement struggles at the University of California at Berkeley.

The UC Berkeley administration did cancel two speaking events organized by the College Republicans to feature notorious right-wing provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos and David Horowitz, and there is controversy now over whether Ann Coulter will be allowed to speak in late April.

But in the best-known of these conflicts, Yiannopoulos' speech was called off on February 1 by UC officials after a 2,000-strong demonstration ringed the site of the speech to show that Berkeley students and the community oppose his reactionary rants.

Right-wingers have been looking ever since to take revenge in Berkeley, not so much against the UC administration as the larger number of people who had the courage to show their revulsion for the right's one-time hero Yiannopoulos. As David Neiwert of the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out, organizers of the April 15 rally referred to it on social media as "the Next Battle of Berkeley."

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ON APRIL 15 itself, the true intentions of the far right--to target liberals, the left and oppressed people for violence and intimidation--were exposed by their words and their deeds.

"I don't mind hitting," Stewart Rhodes told the Los Angeles Times when asked about his attitude toward left-wing counterdemonstrators. "In fact, I would kind of enjoy it."

Rhodes is the founder of the Oath Keepers militia, reportedly composed of former law enforcement and military personnel. Rhodes claimed to have brought about 50 militia members with him from Montana to the Berkeley rally.

Members of the Proud Boys, a bizarre masculinist and Western chauvinist fraternity founded by Vice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes, were also looking for a fight.

Days before the Berkeley rampage, McInnes introduced a new initiation ritual for the Proud Boys that involves getting in "a major fight for the cause." "You get beat up," McInnes reportedly said, or "kick the crap out of an antifa."

Unlike the mass protest against Yiannopoulos in February, the majority of the counterdemonstrators against the far-right goons were individuals who consider themselves part of the "antifa" current, which sees physical confrontations with the right a goal of its mobilizations.

There are several problems with their strategy, but one of most obvious became evident on April 15 when the antifas were apparently outnumbered by a much larger-than-expected turnout by the racists. The antifas used some of their usual tactics in engaging the right-wingers, but were generally overwhelmed and pushed back.

The media treated the entire event as a street brawl with victims on both sides, but videos of the confrontations and accounts of people who were there show that the right was on the offensive, while police intervened with pepper spray and violence of their own directed at both right-wingers and counterdemonstrators.

Nathan Damigo, founder of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, was caught on video punching a counterprotester in the face.

A member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) was also punched while acting as a street medic. "Some random person ran up out of nowhere and clocked me in the face," Albert (not his real name) said in an interview. "I chipped my tooth and had a black eye."

"I'd say we had half as many folks as them, maybe a bit more than half," Albert said. "We were definitely outnumbered, they were definitely more organized and much more militant."

Another DSA member joined the counterdemonstration with some friends to show that there was an opposition, but they didn't come to fight. "Once the brawl got into the street, [the right wing] had weapons," said Lucy (not her real name). "People hit each other with poles and sticks and bike locks. One old boy had a gun in his pocket."

Lucy recalled how "we just kept getting pushed farther and farther back" for several city blocks. "I was scared sometimes when the streets were filled with smoke bombs and tear gas, and everyone was running. You couldn't tell who was who, and you just kind of ran."

"I saw a guy wearing a shirt that said he provided legal justice aid for incarcerated people get pummeled by a zillion guys," Lucy said. "It was a lot of head punching."

The police reportedly arrested 21 people, but a Mother Jones writer reported that most of the right-wing fighters "walked away scot-free and full of pride about this supposed victory." Eleven people were injured, with six hospitalized.

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THERE WAS an earlier street battle in Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza on March 4 when local right-wing activists organized a smaller demonstration on a day Trump supporters were encouraged to rally and show support for the president. The right wingers were outnumbered that day.

But this was nothing like the mass protest on February 1 against then-Breitbart News contributor Yiannopoulos, who planned to give a speech on campus sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans.

It was rumored that Yiannopoulos would be launching a campaign to target undocumented students and their supporters on sanctuary campuses like Berkeley. But he and the College Republicans were unable to carry out this plan after they were confronted by some 2,000 or more students and community members chanting, "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!"

The February 1 protest was inaccurately portrayed in the media as violent because a contingent of 100 or so masked Black Bloc activists carried out their own unannounced action--starting more than an hour after the much larger picket had begun--setting off fireworks and smoke bombs, pulling down police barricades, breaking windows and starting fires.

Reports of small numbers of far-right Yiannopoulos supporters trying attempting to intimidate protesters were ignored in almost every mainstream media account. Eventually, university administrators canceled the event, citing safety concerns.

As Berkeley law student Mukund Rathi, an organizer of the larger protest, wrote at SocialistWorker.org, "[T]he tactics of the Black Bloc minority...purposefully sideline the majority of the protesters and foreground their actions, giving everyone from the university administration to the corporate media to the right-wingers themselves an excuse to ignore the issues raised by the wider crowd, and shift their attention to the 'violence'."

Now the far right has gotten its revenge, and it won't abandon Berkeley where it has had an attention-getting success. But our side is weaker--in part because the Black Bloc tactics that attract so much attention of their own don’t function as an effective deterrent against the right.

The far right has shown what it is capable of in mobilizing for a riot in Berkeley on April 15. There is an urgent need to confront them before they gain any further confidence.

The left needs to rebuild the mass popular opposition that turned out several thousand people back in February. We can show, using our strength in numbers, that the far right won't go unopposed.

Categories: Political Action

Organizando voces de lucha

Socialist Worker - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:00

Organizaciones por los derechos civiles, laborales e inmigratorios, entre otras, se preparan para protestar la agenda de Trump este Primero de Mayo, el Día Internacional de los Trabajadores. Una de las organizaciones más activas, Voces de la Frontera, basada en Milwaukee, está coordinando movilizaciones a través de Wisconsin incluyendo una marcha entre Milwaukee y Madison, capital del estado.

Voces de la Frontera fue fundada en 1995 en Austin, Texas, como un periódico en solidaridad con los trabajadores de las maquiladoras. Se mudó a Wisconsin en 1998, y en el año 2000, lanzó una campaña por la legalización de los trabajadores indocumentados. En 2001, abrió un centro de trabajadores en Milwaukee.

Desde entonces, Voces se ha vuelto una organización de membresía, con ocho delegaciones en distintas partes del estado, y ha sido un componente central de varias importantes luchas por los derechos de los inmigrantes en Wisconsin, incluyendo las masivas marchas del 2006 contra la Ley Sensenbrenner, un proyecto de ley aprobado por la Cámara de Representantes de los EEUU intentando criminalizar a los inmigrantes, patrocinado por un congresista republicano del estado.

Christine Neumann-Ortiz, co-fundadora y directora ejecutiva de Voces, habló con Lance Selfa sobre el trabajo de la organización y sus planes para el Primero de Mayo.

¿QUÉ CAMBIOS has visto para los inmigrantes en Wisconsin desde que Donald Trump accedió al poder? Desde el 2011, también han vivido el reinado del gobernador derechista Scott Walker

LA ELECCIÓN de Trump representa definitivamente un momento decisivo, mucho más que lo es el período de Walker. Pienso que como es un cambio mucho más grande, realmente resonó con ondas de choque en toda la comunidad inmigrante, no sólo en Wisconsin, sino en todo el país.

Pero me siento muy bien sobre la manera como rápidamente confrontamos la situación, y comenzamos de inmediato a organizar agresivamente. La razón por la que pudimos hacer esto es porque somos parte de una red nacional, y planificamos de antemano para un escenario en el que Trump fuese electo. Aunque pensábamos era improbable, igual hicimos planes. Y eso nos permitió de verdad seguir el paso de la situación.

Organizamos foros comunitarios en muchas partes de Wisconsin, donde están nuestras delegaciones, y presentamos una propuesta sobre cómo organizarnos bajo Trump. La propuesta fue sometida a voto en todas las delegaciones, y es la que hemos estado implementando desde entonces.

Nuestra estrategia general se centra en organizarse localmente con un enfoque en políticas de santuario, sea en escuelas o en los gobiernos locales, y en trabajo anti-deportación de respuesta rápida. Hemos estado haciendo un montón de entrenamiento sobre lo que la gente tiene que tener a la mano cuando ocurre una deportación, pero no sólo para esas situaciones. Derechos de custodia temporales para menores de edad, planillas financieras, poderes de representación, son todos parte de conocer tus derechos, y no perderlos.

Estamos montando una línea de asistencia activa 24/7, y le hemos estado pidiendo a gente formar parte de redes locales de respuesta rápida, para que si recibimos una llamada, podamos mandar voluntarios a verificar si es real, y conectarse con las familias, para poder levantar esos casos y resistir agresivamente al tipo de programas de deportación masiva que Trump está intentando montar.

Otra parte de nuestra organización ha conversado con instituciones religiosas para que provean santuario físico. Eso es algo que hemos estado coordinando con iglesias, ya de hace muchos años.

El movimiento de santuario comenzó bajo la administración Reagan en los 80s, cuando iglesias de todas las denominaciones, con mucho coraje, procuraron santuario físico a gente escapando la guerra en Centroamérica, sin ser reconocidas como refugiados políticos por el gobierno estadounidense.

La segunda ola fue el nuevo movimiento de santuario bajo la administración Obama, inspirado por Elvira Arellano, que se rehusó a ser deportada y tomó santuario en una iglesia en Chicago.

Ahora bajo la administración Trump, estamos en una tercera ola del movimiento de santuario, fuerte y muy determinada, mucho más que la segunda, a mandar un mensaje a los inmigrantes y al gobierno sobre su compromiso a defender a los trabajadores inmigrantes y sus familias.

Hemos tenido una respuesta enorme. Tenemos en Wisconsin un gran número de iglesias, y redes religiosas enteras, como los luteranos y los metodistas, que están a punto de, o ya han apoyado a cualquier iglesia que provea santuario físico.

Hemos conformado grupos de trabajo enfocados en organizar alrededor de planteles educativos, sitios de trabajo e iglesias. Un ejemplo de esto fue el "Día sin Latinos, Inmigrantes y Refugiados", el 13 de febrero, en el que usamos nuestro poder económico para mandar un claro mensaje.

También estamos formando alianzas más amplias. Creamos la Coalición por un Wisconsin Inclusivo para trabajar con otros grupos también acosados por el gobierno. Hemos trabajado de cerca con la comunidad musulmana en particular. Hay ahora alianzas cercanas entre la comunidad por los derechos de los inmigrantes y la comunidad musulmana, porque también ellos están en la mira de Trump y sus órdenes ejecutivas.

MENCIONASTE LA acción del 13 de febrero. ¿Cuál fue su trasfondo?

EL TRECE de febrero fue un paro general, a nivel comunitario. Hicimos un llamado por una respuesta a nivel estadal para demostrar nuestra profunda oposición al anuncio del Sheriff del Condado de Milwaukee, David Clarke de querer traer a su jurisdicción el programa 287(g).

La Fuerza de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE, por sus siglas en inglés) tiene el controversial programa 287(g) que dice que cualquier oficial de los organismos policiales puede volverse un agente de migración. Reciben un mes de entrenamiento, y ya.

Este ha sido un programa altamente controversial. El antiguo Sheriff del condado de Maricopa, Arizona, Joe Arpaio, lo hizo infame violando los derechos constitucionales de la gente, sus derechos civiles, con pesados abusos de poder. Ese ha sido el patrón en todas partes donde ha sido aplicado.

Trump quiere hacer que las fuerzas policiales locales adopten 287(g) en al menos 70 sitios. Y ICE ha contactado a cárceles municipales para sub-contratarlas. Así que esto significa que la infraestructura de los gobiernos locales se está volviendo parte del plan de Trump para las deportaciones masivas.

Otra parte importante de estas políticas es la legalización del perfilamiento racial. Haciendo de tu manera de vestir, tu acento, el color de tu piel, causas suficientes para que la policía te detenga. Esto retrocede el progreso social alcanzado, y los sacrificios hechos, por el movimiento por los derechos civiles. Creo que es algo que a veces no se investiga lo suficiente.

Para Voces de la Frontera, el 13 de febrero fue la quinta vez que hemos utilizado el arma de un paro general comunitario, incluyendo llamados a no trabajar, no ir a la escuela, no hacer compras, cerrar negocios y protestas masivas. Hemos usado ese paro general, que llamamos "Un Día sin Latinos e Inmigrantes" en el pasado, pero esta vez, añadimos "Refugiados" al nombre. Tuvimos un torrente masivo de decenas de miles de personas en todo el estado que salieron a la calle, en Milwaukee, sólo diez días después del llamado a la acción. Fue una manifestación de fuerza increíble.

En términos del movimiento social, definitivamente tuvo un impacto, porque inspiró apoyo nacional e internacional, así como renombre, en una manera que no había pasado antes. Eso tiene que ver directamente con que estamos bajo el gobierno de Trump, y que el Sheriff Clarke quiere presentarse como el nuevo Arapio. Así que el viento agitó nuestras banderas, y empujó a muchos otros a hacer como nosotros.

Esta vez, de verdad, atrajo mucha atención, y a través de las redes sociales, ese llamado general a "detener 287(g) y rescindir las órdenes ejecutivas" agarró vuelo. En múltiples ciudades del país otros trabajadores y dueños de negocios pequeños tomaron en sus manos el realizar acciones similares el 16 de febrero. Ahora tenemos un reconocimiento del poder el paro general.

Ello ha sido adoptado ahora como parte de la movilización del Primero de Mayo en todo el país, que tiene un muy fuerte apoyo. [Una de las campañas de Voces será un llamado nacional, como parte de la movilización del Primero de Mayo, para presionar al gobernador Walker a despedir al Sheriff Clarke.--ed.] Así que es una protesta masiva, pero que también abraza la estrategia de la huelga general.

No hay duda de que ha tenido un poder inmenso, y sé que Voces cree que, en el clima político actual, debemos apoyarnos más en esfuerzos estratégicos más refinados que utilicen nuestro poder económico colectivo como trabajadores y dueños de negocios pequeños para en serio mandar ese mensaje.

Acabamos de convenirnos en Wisconsin los primeros dos días de abril, reuniendo a varias de las organizaciones, tanto de trabajadores como de inmigrantes, que están haciendo un muy buen trabajo en relación a la organización laboral o de paros, y de verdad enfocándose en cómo podemos abrir la conversación, para en el proceso formar un espacio de desarrollo de liderazgo donde podamos compartir nuestras experiencias y estrategias y fortalecer a esta parte del movimiento.

Estoy muy emocionada sobre este desarrollo. Es de necesidad absoluta.

EL AÑO pasado, una movilización de trabajadores inmigrantes fue el factor clave en derrotar un esfuerzo de la cámara legislativa de Wisconsin para criminalizar inmigrantes y a los trabajadores estatales que les den servicios. Cuéntame sobre eso.

POR MÁS de una década hemos estado en distintos niveles empujando contra la criminalización de los inmigrantes, de quienes los apoyan y de organizaciones enteras. En el 2006, Milwaukee fue la tercera ciudad en número de personas que salieron en protestas masivas y exitosamente derrotaron la Ley Sensenbrenner. Esto trajo de vuelta a la mesa la necesidad de reformar nuestras leyes inmigratorias y proveer un camino a la ciudadanía. Así que en términos del nacimiento del movimiento moderno por derechos de los inmigrantes, para mí comenzó en el 2006 con esa protesta masiva, que fue una masiva huelga general.

De las cinco veces que hemos hecho el paro general, en dos ocasiones hemos verdaderamente demostrado su poder. La primera vez fue en el 2006, y la siguiente en el 2016, cuando logramos una victoria contra John Spiros, miembro de la Asamblea del Estado, que había introducido, entre varias otras, una ley que hubiera prohibido ciudades santuario.

Decidimos que teníamos que hacer algo audaz para derrotar esto. Así que pusimos el llamado, lo sometimos a voto con nuestros miembros, y en once días, teníamos un paro general en todo el estado convergiendo en la capital.

Nuestra prueba de fuerza cortó a través de todo tipo de industrias, pero creo que lo que al final hizo palanca en nuestra victoria sobre esta ley anti-santuario fue que la acción alcanzó a la industria láctea, que depende fuerte y considerablemente de trabajadores inmigrantes. Y fueron trabajadores inmigrantes, en defensa de sus familias y las vidas que han construido, los que salieron a la calle.

Por esto, realmente agarró la atención de los empresarios lecheros, en gran parte republicanos, sobre esta cuestión. Se volvieron parte de la lucha por derrotar la ley. Y sí prevalecimos, y el proyecto no se volvió ley. Pero fue reintroducido este año, y es parte de la razón por la que estamos haciendo un llamado similar a la acción para el Primero de Mayo. Es por la lucha local, estatal y nacional, y lo que es distinto este año, es que también es nacional.

¿QUÉ RELACIÓN tuvo el movimiento inmigrante del estado con la Rebelión de Wisconsin en el 2011, contra el Acta 10, un ataque contra los derechos de negociación colectiva de los trabajadores del sector público?

SALIMOS FUERTEMENTE en defensa de los empleados públicos y su derecho a la negociación colectiva. Todo fue muy orgánico. El brazo juvenil de Voces de la Frontera comenzó en las escuelas muchos años antes, en el 2003, así que hemos tenido relaciones fuertes con los maestros que asesoran a nuestras delegaciones de estudiantes.

En el pasado, fueron los maestros y los consejeros escolares los que salieron en apoyo de la juventud inmigrante y sus padres, apoyando asuntos de derechos educativos como el Acta DREAM, o por equidad en costos de matrícula. En esta instancia, vimos la otra cara de la moneda y los ataques se enfocaron en los maestros. Fueron hechos chivos expiatorios por supuestamente tener demasiados beneficios y obtener salarios demasiado altos, para justificar la ofensiva contra sus derechos, su fuente de empleo y su calidad de vida.

Así que salimos en apoyo de los maestros y consejeros, quienes en el pasado habían apoyado a la juventud inmigrante y sus padres, no sólo alrededor de cuestiones de educación sino de todo tipo: reforma inmigratoria y lograr que el estado otorgue licencias de conducir a inmigrantes. Creo que alrededor de ocho autobuses salían cada día en las primeras dos semanas de las protestas masivas contra el Acta 10.

El movimiento por los derechos de los inmigrantes tuvo una presencia muy fuerte en la lucha entera. Lo que es muy importante sobre esto es que por la relación que habíamos cultivado a lo largo de los años con distintos líderes sindicales, tuvimos la plataforma en esas protestas masivas para levantar no sólo un mensaje de solidaridad, sino también las cuestiones por las que habíamos estado luchando.

El presupuesto del gobernador limitó la equidad en el costo de la matrícula para la juventud inmigrante. Esta se había ganado dos años antes, y nos había tomado 10 años ganarla. Estas cuestiones fueron realmente levantadas, y nos trajo mucho más cerca a otros sindicatos con los que no habíamos trabajado antes. Tuvimos maestros que se nos acercaron y se ofrecieron para ser consejeros escolares para nuestras delegaciones, así que vimos un crecimiento organizacional y alianzas más fuertes, por lo que creo que en términos del movimiento, a pesar de nuestras derrotas, nos fortalecimos.

¿SE CONSIDERAN, tú y Voces de la Frontera, como parte de un ala más activista o de izquierda del movimiento por los derechos de los inmigrantes?

VOCES ESTÁ definitivamente marcada por principios muy progresistas alrededor de derechos económicos y sociales, así que diría que sí, definitivamente hemos puesto como prioridades ser parte de mesas, en todo el estado, que reúnen a distintos grupos luchando tanto por los derechos económicos como por cuestiones de los derechos civiles.

Hemos sido parte de asegurar que la comunidad latina e inmigrante esté informada sobre asuntos actuales y que pueda tener una voz en estas luchas más amplias. Por ejemplo, la gente siempre habla sobre el asunto de la inter-seccionalidad. Creo que una de las fortalezas de Voces, que es parte de nuestro ADN, es que siempre hemos estado al ritmo de ello. No es algo nuevo para nosotros.

Los asuntos de justicia económica son extremadamente importantes para latinos e inmigrantes, así que obviamente siempre hemos formado conexiones a su alrededor. Pero hay otras cuestiones también. Por ejemplo, recientemente ganamos en Milwaukee una tarjeta de identidad municipal que no sólo beneficiará a los inmigrantes indocumentados, a quienes el estado no otorga identificación, pero que también es el mejor ID en el país en términos de los derechos de las personas transgénero.

Parte de esa lucha fue una coalición más amplia, y nos permitió la oportunidad de levantar las voces de nuestros propios miembros en Voces que son transgénero. Así que es, en verdad, acerca de levantar conciencia en solidaridad con otros frentes por los derechos civiles, de los cuales nuestras propias comunidades y familias son parte.

¿QUÉ PIENSAS acerca de la reforma inmigratoria integral que ha sido el enfoque principal desde el 2006 para las organizaciones por los derechos migratorios?

PIENSO QUE parte de la razón por la que no tenemos una reforma inmigratoria es que ha habido demasiada batalla sobre el tipo de reforma que queremos. Una de mis preocupaciones es que ahorita, bajo el gobierno de Trump, van a estar usando distintas tácticas intimidatorias, como redadas masivas y teatrales en sitios de trabajo en distintas ciudades, para luego hacernos tragar un programa de trabajadores huéspedes, dándole a los empleadores aún mayor control. Estos programas son tan abusivos, que en algunos casos han sido comparados al tráfico humano.

Pienso que este es el tipo de cosas sobre las que tenemos que informar a los trabajadores y sus familias. Tenemos que mantener un estándar alto acerca del tipo de reforma que queremos para no terminar en un escenario peor. Pero diría que hasta ahora no hemos logrado reunir suficiente poder como para asegurar una reforma inmigratoria.

Creo que una gran decepción para mucha gente que estuvo involucrada en apoyar esfuerzos electorales fue ver que entre el 2006 y el 2010 no nos pudimos mover ni siquiera más allá del Acta DREAM. Así que mucha de la pelea bajo el presidente Obama fue contra la ejecución de las deportaciones, que estuvo a un nivel más alto que bajo cualquier otro presidente estadounidense.

Por el otro lado, siento como si hubiéramos estado en entrenamiento, por la agresiva ejecución de deportaciones bajo Obama, para enfrentar los tiempos que ahora vivimos. Así que por un lado, siento que estamos en el momento indicado por nuestras experiencias y que estamos en una posición más fuerte para ayudar a liderar el movimiento. Pero por el otro, pienso que hay una nueva oportunidad que sencillamente no existía en el pasado.

En el pasado, los poderes existentes se contentaban con aislar a un grupo del otro, tomando medidas sobre cuánto quitarle a cada uno. Pero ahora, todos estamos bajo ataque al mismo tiempo. Creo que hay una necesidad absoluta de audacia y de mantenernos a la delantera de cualquier situación. Pero al mismo tiempo, no hay duda que en términos del tipo de cuestión por la que deberíamos estar luchando, tenemos un horizonte mucho más amplio.

No hay duda, el derecho a migrar debería ser visto como un derecho fundamental. Y eso no es por decir que no nos vamos a meter en los detalles sobre el tipo de políticas o sistemas que también deben cambiar, sino que en términos de los valores, estándares y principios, a lo largo y ancho también se han abierto esos horizontes. La gente ahora está diciendo que el derecho a la educación pública para todos debería ser un derecho fundamental. Siento que estamos en un momento distinto, que tenemos una mayor oportunidad alrededor del tipo de principios y visión que queremos, y que definitivamente debemos estar levantando.

Traducido por Alejandro Q.

Categories: Political Action