Political Action

ICE operation appears routine, but raises fears

American Friends Service Committee - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 10:53
News Source: Capital Press
Categories: Political Action

Notes from your Doctor: Protecting Yourself

Democratic Convention Watch - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 05:26

One of the microbiology journals recently reported on the transference of MRSA and C.diff in hospitals. Why do you care? Because you, or someone you love, is going to end up in the hospital and this may save a life. A group of researchers were puzzled about how secondary infections often showed up in patients who were in rooms where the patient a week earlier had had the infection. Over that week, the room was cleaned top to bottom, and possibly had an uninfected patient in said room. What they found was that MRSA and C.diff were washed down the sink, where the bacteria colonized and grew in the S-curve of the drain pipe and then worked its way up the drain, and ended up splashing out when someone washed his/her hands. How long did that process take? Yup, a week.

They’re still experimenting to see how to best take care of this issue. My guess is that they’ll need a viscous bleach that clings like drain cleaner to make sure all the bacteria is killed. But while they’re still working on it, what can you do? Personally, I’ll be pouring a cup of bleach down the sink in any hospital rooms I visit.

Next: The Muslim Ban may affect your health. Any idea how many doctors are from foreign countries? Tens of thousands. Of note, 8,400 are from Syria and Iran. And we need them, we have a huge doctor shortage because we don’t produce enough doctors to meet demand. (More on that further down.) The effects are in two general areas: newly minted doctors for hospital residency programs, and practitioners in Appalachia and the Rust Belt. If you think people won’t die because of the ban, you’re wrong. (Source 1, Source 2.)

In answer to the question of why we don’t have enough doctors, it comes back to why so many of us left private practice in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The answer is the corporatization of medicine, most notably “Managed Care.”  There was a specialty neurology practice a few doors down from my office in the early 90’s. What these four men did was to diagnose and treat conditions that a lot of other people wouldn’t touch. Realize that now, we have much more advanced diagnostic equipment and treatment protocols. Back then, they had a BEAM scanner. While not in common use now, it was cutting edge back then, allowing them to diagnose lesions other methods couldn’t find, thus allowing for earlier and more successful surgery. They charged $400 for a scan. A scan actually cost them about $250 to perform, given the cost of the lease on the machine and related overhead. When managed care got through with them, they could be paid $150 from the insurance company, and about $25 from the patient. They were all in their 50’s, and when they left the practice, one opened a book store (for any millenials, small bookstores used to be incredibly popular), one took up being a charter captain in the Caribbean, one joined his son’s roofing business, and the last one went into teaching. Countless lives lost.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the medical and allied professions to attract young people. The high cost of education, the long hours (they just reinstated the 36-hour straight residency “days”), the forced lack of patient interaction, the litigiousness of society, it all adds together to people selecting other professions. This occurs as the need for additional professionals are necessary due to population growth. Further when people do choose to join the profession, they tend to practice in cities and suburbs, leaving rural areas under-served.

Finally: I’m not personally convinced that the GOP health disaster plan is going to fly. Numbers to keep in mind: Ryan can only lose 23 votes, the Freedom Caucus (30 members) is calling RINOCare. Both the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks are opposed. In the Senate, Cruz, Lee and Paul are not buying in. And that’s just on the right. On the “moderate” side, a number of Senators are opposed to defunding Planned Parenthood (Collins and Murkowski, yes really), and others are apoplectic about the rollback of the Medicaid expansion (Murkowski, Gardener, Caputo and Portman). McConnell can lose 2 votes, there are 8 at risk. McConnell is a detestable ferret but he’s not stupid, and he won’t bring the bill, in its current form to the Senate floor.

Further, when it’s scored, it’s going to add substantially to the debt, scaring off actual Republican conservatives. To get past the scoring problem, there will be no way to avoid raising taxes. Never a huge sell to the crazies. You’ll hear that Ryan will try to get this passed prior to the 3 week April recess BEFORE its scored, but large groups, with huge ad budgets are going up on the air to activate their constituencies. This includes the AARP, the American Hospital Association, plus the insurance companies.  Yes, you read that right — this bill screws the insurance companies in addition to anyone who would ever be a patient in need of health care.

So fight — write your reps, get your neighbors involved, read the actual bill….but don’t panic!

Categories: Political Action

Raising our voices for women's liberation

Socialist Worker - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 01:00

The history of International Women's Day has a lot to teach a new generation participating in the struggles of the Trump era, writes Elizabeth Schulte.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY became a focus of attention in the U.S. this year in a way that it probably hasn't been since it was first celebrated more than a century ago. Women and men around the country will raise their voices on March 8 against inequality, discrimination and sexism.

Actions today include a Women's Strike, initiated by prominent left-wing scholars and activists as part of an international day of action, with an emphasis on building "feminism for the 99 Percent"--and A Day Without a Woman, supported by organizers of the Women's March on Washington in January, and in solidarity with the Women's Strike.

Supporters of the call are invited to strike if possible, but are also to take part in other ways, from organizing a rally in their city or a teach-in on their campus, to holding a meeting about history of International Women's Day, to showing solidarity with a local labor struggle. The events promise to be inclusive, involving women of color, trans women and others who are marginalized in this society.

This revived attention to a holiday that celebrates women workers, some of the least-celebrated members of society--and a socialist holiday on top of that--is another welcome sign of a new resistance that has erupted since Donald Trump's election.

We saw the potential for a new fight for women's liberation on January 21, when at least 3 million people turned out for Women's Marches across the U.S. to protest the new Sexist-in-Chief. Now, March 8 is raising other issues and, in particular, focusing attention on women's labor. Whatever the character of the actions today, this is an important development.

There's a new audience for ideas about how to fight sexism and inequality, and some part of that audience at least will participate in reviving the left-wing tradition of International Women's Day.

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AT ITS core, International Women's Day is about recognizing the struggles of women workers--women whose names don't ordinarily make the front pages. Like Clara Lemlich.

Lemlich was a 23-year-old Ukrainian-born leader of the 1909 strike of garment workers called the "Rising of the 20,000"--which pitted an immigrant women, most of them teenagers, against sweatshop bosses who forced them to work in hot, dangerous working conditions for long hours.

Even though Lemlich was quite young, she was already steeled by several workplace struggles, having organized in the garment industry for several years before. That wasn't true of her co-workers, though. Some the most vulnerable workers in U.S. society--young immigrant women who defied their union leaders' caution in voting to strike--learned through the course of the struggle that solidarity made them stronger.

"They used to say you couldn't even organize women," Lemlich concluded. "They wouldn't come to union meetings. They were 'temporary workers.' Well, we showed them!"

International Women's Day is also a socialist holiday. It became an international socialist holiday in 1910 when the Second International Conference of Socialist Women, held in Copenhagen, adopted a resolution put forward by German socialist Clara Zetkin.

Inspired by the struggle of women workers like Lemlich in the U.S., Zetkin helped initiate the resolution in order to emphasize the role of women workers and also the commitment of socialists to take up issues of women's oppression and support women's suffrage.

At the Copenhagen conference, attendees discussed the issue of universal suffrage--which was hotly debated among socialists, men and women alike--programs to help women and their children, as well as opposition to war and the demand for the eight-hour day. Zetkin, along with Russian delegate Alexandra Kollontai, argued that socialists must link political and economic demands for women workers, like suffrage.

As a leader in the German Social Democratic Party, trade unionist and editor of its women's magazine Die Gleichheit (Equality), Zetkin furthered a materialist analysis of women's oppression, looking at how it affected women at every strata of society, and developed an understanding of how working-class women's liberation was intertwined with their male counterparts.

Zetkin concluded that it is in working-class women's interest to join forces with working-class men to overturn a system that exploits them both. Because of their class and their ability to shut down workplaces by stopping work, working-class women and men were in the best position to win liberation for all.

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THE REVOLUTIONARY potential that Zetkin and other socialists talked about became a reality spectacularly on International Women's Day in Russia in 1917, when women, angered by shortages of bread and food, went on strike to oppose the First World War, high prices and bad working conditions.

The women's protest strike drew out male workers, and the fuse was lit--International Women's Day would be the first day of the Russian Revolution.

In the process of workers' taking power, socialists saw the importance of putting issues of women's liberation to the front and creating the conditions in which true liberation might be possible. The Russian revolutionaries knew they couldn't simply decree an end to oppression, but had to get at its material roots.

One key to this was freeing working women from the double burden they bear in the home--cooking, cleaning and caring for children, or what Russian revolutionary Lenin called "barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-racking, stultifying and crushing drudgery." The new workers' state established by the end of the 1917 revolution organized communal restaurants and laundries, and child care centers.

Because of revolutionary Russia's isolation and poverty, these impressive gains were unfortunately short-lived before a counterrevolution led by Joseph Stalin reimposed the old order, though with the language of socialism falsely intact. Nevertheless, Russia's revolution gave an impressive glimpse as what was possible in a society where human liberation is the priority.

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OF COURSE, we're a long way off from demands for communal kitchens and free child care centers--although it's easy to imagine, considering what would happen if the vast resources of U.S. society were redirected for human need.

However, over the last few months, many of us have found out that there's more to be hopeful about, even as we look down the barrel of four years of Donald Trump.

Trump's victory led to an outpouring of opposition that reached a high point--so far--with the Women's March on Washington and sister demonstrations around the country on January 21, but continued in the weeks after with inspiring mobilizations in support of women, immigrants and Muslims.

That doesn't mean we don't have major fights ahead--a Republican Congress set on defunding Planned Parenthood, for one thing, and the fact that Trump's victory has given the green light for every anti-woman politician, anti-choice group or individual to act on their bigotry.

The massive protests we've seen so far give reason for optimism, but there's no jumping over the sobering fact that our side is just beginning the process of organizing ourselves to fight back.

There are important debates about what tactics and strategies have worked in the past--especially in the struggle to defend and expand women's rights, because in the U.S., that struggle has largely been dominated by organizations that concentrate on electing Democratic Party politicians to fight for us.

Of course, most of the people coming out to protests for the first time in this new era of Trump likewise look to the Democrats to defend women's rights. But unlike political leaders who thrive on the idea that they are women's only hope, many of the people who voted for them are anything but thriving.

With a new resistance emerging, especially around women's rights, we have an opportunity to have a discussion about why the old strategy of having faith in the Democrats hasn't worked--and what could work instead.

Beneath the strategy of looking to Democrats lies a deeper problem--the idea that the masses of people can't change things for themselves, so we need a leader to do it for us.

It's an idea that came up when the political wing of Planned Parenthood argued with supporters to cancel counterprotests organized when the right wing called a day of action outside clinics in February. We haven't seen the last of it.

The exciting thing about this new political moment is that large numbers of people are ready to take action--whether for the first time ever, or the first time in a while--and in the course of the struggle, they can learn the lessons of doesn't work, and be a part of initiatives and organizations that do. The left has the greatest opportunity in a generation to engage with an audience on this scale and make our politics relevant.

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THERE'S ANOTHER reason to celebrate this socialist holiday on March 8--because we have a lot to learn from the struggles when women workers fought back.

International Women's Day is about Clara Lemlich, who organized her immigrant co-workers to stand up. It's about low-wage workers in the Fight for 15 campaign who are exposing sexual harassment on the job and explaining why challenging it goes hand in hand with raising wages for all workers.

It's about the immigrant women textile strikers in Lawrence, Massachusetts, who sent their children to supporters in cities across the country in 1912 so that they could fight their battle without worry. And it's about Chicago teachers whose 2012 strike won the support of parents across the city by linking struggles against racism, school "reform" and the Democratic mayor's austerity agenda.

International Women's Day is about all the acts of solidarity and creativity that grow out of workers' own struggles, and the debates they had along the way about what could make their common fight stronger.

This is how we strengthen our side and help rebuild a left tradition in the U.S. among a new audience. There's a rich socialist tradition to learn from--and a thirst for a political alternative emerging alongside the new radicalization.

Categories: Political Action

Can you be a feminist and anti-abortion?

Socialist Worker - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 01:00

A New York Times op-ed article accused the Women's March of not being "inclusive" of abortion opponents. Lauren Bianchi and Hannah Utain-Evans answer this charge.

Abortion rights activists in San Francisco protest the protect the right to choose (Steve Rhodes | flickr)

A RECENT New York Times op-ed article, titled "How the new feminist resistance leaves out American women," accuses the January 21 Women's March on Washington--and the newly emerging women's movement in general--of discriminating against pro-life women.

According to the article, the opposition to Donald Trump should offer women "something better than abortion."

The author of the article, Lauren Enriquez, is the public relations manager at the anti-abortion group Human Coalition--which, by the way, calls abortion the "worst Holocaust in human history" and aims to make it "unavailable in our lifetime." Enriquez goes on to claim that the anti-abortion movement actually empowers women, and that access to abortion is not necessary to achieve gender equality.

Accusing Women's March organizers of promoting "a caricature of Mr. Trump as a misogynist hell-bent on sending women back to 1950s America," Enriquez goes on to say that a "radical position on abortion rights" is the "fatal chink in the armor of the new feminist resistance movement" because it "rejects the position that most American women take on abortion--that it should be completely illegal, or legal but with significant restrictions."

These statements are disingenuous at best--and lies at worst.

Contrary to what Enriquez claims, a recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of the public--57 percent--continues to support legal abortion. A 2015 Vox/Perry Undem poll showed overwhelming majorities believe that when a woman decides to have an abortion, her decision should be informed by medically accurate information (94 percent) and the procedure should be safe (93 percent), without pressure (73 percent), affordable and available in her community (72 percent), and without shame (68 percent).

This pro-choice majority is very different from the attitudes of the right, which stands outside of clinics to shame and intimidate women seeking abortions, attempts to defund providers and peddles medically inaccurate information to scare women out of having abortions.

Enriquez's op-ed is yet another attempt by an anti-choicer to cloak a sexist message with a pro-woman veneer. Pro-life organizations claim to offer help and support to mothers and their families, yet refuse to recognize the devastation caused by taking away safe access to abortions--including the thousands who have died in the U.S., and continue to die around the globe, seeking out illegal abortions.

The majority of abortion patients in the U.S. today are already mothers who need the option to limit their family size. But all women are fully capable of knowing whether or not they should carry a pregnancy to term. The notion that anyone who opposes abortion can genuinely stand with women is either utterly misled or intentionally deceitful.

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IT NEEDS to be made clear that the two sides of the abortion debate have no common ground. Attempts to downplay this reality are exactly what has allowed right-wing legislators to chip away at women's health care, and anti-women bigots to harass and attack abortion providers nearly unimpeded.

Women are finally beginning to fight back, as the recent protests against Trump and in defense of Planned Parenthood show. But without a doubt, the anti-choice movement won't let up without a tooth-and-nail struggle to fight for abortion rights.

Women absolutely need the right to abortion services if we are to achieve equality in any level.

The objectification of women's bodies as reproductive machines lies at the core of our subjugated status in society. The fact that women can become pregnant is used as an excuse to pay them less across the board, to keep us responsible for the domestic duties of caring for a family, to deny the expression of our identities and sexualities, and to blame us for not fulfilling the impossible expectations of motherhood.

Women have every reason to reject Trump's racist and sexist bigotry and his promises to crack down on access to legal abortion--remember that on the campaign trail, he floated the idea of criminal penalties for women who have abortions.

The so-called "pro-life" movement in this country has directly linked itself with Trump's presidency and everything he stands for--so, of course, the antis can't be welcomed in the resistance to Trump!

The right's "Defund Planned Parenthood" actions on February 11 were an attempt to rally a right-wing backlash against the impact of the Women's March. With "Trump for President" signs and "Make America Great Again" hats present at the Planned Parenthood protests, the anti-choice movement showed its loyalties as another arm of the right wing, whose long history of sexism speaks for itself.

No one should be fooled by the right's twisting of language that comes from the "left"--about "safe spaces," "inclusivity," "intersectionality," "free speech," "religious freedom" and so on.

It's already common for anti-choicers to repurpose anti-racist slogans, wielding signs reading "Babies' lives matter" as they harass patients entering reproductive health clinics. When they call for the "inclusion of pro-life feminism" in our movements, we should focus on their actions, which speak louder than their words.

The right to not choose an abortion is legal and protected by health care providers. Despite what Enriquez and others would have us believe, if a woman is against abortion, she has every opportunity to not have one.

There is, however, a long and sickening history of compulsory sterilization, targeting poor, incarcerated, Black, Latina, immigrant and Indigenous women. Yet the anti-choice right has been silent on this issue.

If the right-wingers mobilized in reaction to forced sterilization or showed any signs of wanting to improve conditions for the majority of women, their claims that they care about life wouldn't ring so hollow.

But it's difficult to take rhetoric about protecting women and children seriously when the strategies they use to attack abortion rights include bullying, stalking and guilt-tripping people seeking services from clinics.

And many anti-choice groups and activists go further, tacitly or explicitly endorsing intimidation and violence against abortion providers. From the mass shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 to the 2009 murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, it's clear that the antis are no defenders of humanity.

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IN THE frightening climate under Trump, abortion rights have already suffered several blows, and more are on the way, worsening the steady chipping away of abortion rights and forcing many women back to the same kinds of conditions they faced prior to 1973, when abortion became legal in the U.S.

The fight for the right to abortion access was at the forefront of the women's movement of the 1960s and '70s--alongside other demands for free child care, equal pay and freedom from sexual violence.

The hard-won victory of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion has been under constant attack ever since. Every January, anti-choice forces mark the anniversary of the Roe decision with a "March for Life" in Washington, D.C. This year, vice president Mike Pence became the highest-ranking elected official to speak at the event--a signal that further bolstered the confidence of the anti-choice right.

Many people are ready to fight against the right-wing tide, as was demonstrated on February 11 when dozens, hundreds and even thousands of pro-choice protesters came out to defend clinics around the country against the anti-choice bigots--despite Planned Parenthood officials' attempts to dissuade the pro-choice counterprotests.

By identifying and placing "pro-life" politics where they belong--with the rest of the right wing--we can to a strategy for fighting attacks on abortion rights. It is the same as when we build other struggles against an emboldened right elsewhere in our communities, on our campuses, and in the White House.

Trump's initial executive orders have been a cascade of attacks against every possible marginalized group. It was precisely the recognition of Trump's bigoted and divisive nature that brought millions out across the U.S. for the Women's Marches, demonstrating that he lacks the "mandate" he claims.

This burgeoning women's movement has revealed a propensity for inclusivity and solidarity as participants in the resistance recognize a common enemy in Trump.

Thousands of people who found the courage to take the streets for the first time at their local women's march have joined other efforts to fight back. Protesters wearing the iconic pink pussy hats have been found at every action since January 21--from the airport protests against Trump's anti-immigrant ban on immigrants and refugees from Muslim countries, to community meetings and emergency protests against raids targeting undocumented immigrants, to rallies in support of transgender liberation.

The mass resistance that cohered around the Women's Marches in response to Trump's inauguration is an incredible step forward for rebuilding a women's rights movement in the U.S.--an area of organizing that has seen few wide-scale mobilizations in recent decades.

We should talk about the importance of making the struggle for reproductive rights as large as possible--but we don't need to be "inclusive" of anti-choice forces who oppose those essential rights.

Categories: Political Action

Will school end early in Chicago?

Socialist Worker - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 01:00

Rahm Emanuel's administration is threatening to end school three weeks early, but the resources are there to solve the funding crisis, writes Chicago teacher Mike Shea.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool at the microphone, flanked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other officials

CHICAGO IS one of the wealthiest cities in the country.

But in a letter to parents issued late last month, Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool threatened that the city's schools may close three weeks early, on June 1 instead of June 20, unless the state resurrects a $215 million education funding package vetoed last December by Illinois' Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

As a result of that veto, the Chicago Board of Education slashed budgets at all of its schools, leading to layoffs and spending cuts that hit everything from teachers to support staff to wraparound programs for students.

But according to Claypool, without a fast-tracked ruling from a Cook County judge on a lawsuit requiring action from the state, still more cuts are needed--so school would have to close schools three weeks early.

However shocked and angry CPS officials may appear, they had a big hand in creating this mess. Last summer, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked Board of Education passed a budget on the "assumption" that the $215 million package to cover a huge shortfall would pass the billionaire governor's desk.

CPS teachers, staff, students and families have been waiting ever since for the other shoe to drop. Rauner, a hedge fund operator whose program as governor is to smash what's left of organized labor's power, continued with his refusal to sign any budget legislation unless it accepts catastrophic spending reductions and anti-union measures.

Emanuel, Claypool and CPS are trying to build pressure behind a compromise supported by state Democratic leaders that would cover some of the shortfall, but still keep the pressure on the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to accept massive concessions, while the drastic cuts at schools remain on the books.

Ending the school year early would rob teachers and staff of almost two paychecks, while extending the unpaid summer period by almost a month. Needless to say, teachers are furious about the imposed hardship, and families are concerned about the education and safety of their children.

But for CPS teachers, it's vital to look to the movements around us as we decide how to organize and fight.

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EMANUEL FIRST ran for mayor with a promise to extend the school day in Chicago schools, which he had the gall to justify as a civil rights issue of providing a quality education to the mainly Black and Latino students of the public school system.

Now, after countless school closings, budget cuts and attacks on teachers, the people of Chicago know better.

The threat of closing school three weeks early can accomplish several goals for Emanuel and CPS, but it also exposes a vulnerability.

CPS and the mayor's office have been trying to build up credibility by posturing as defenders of the city's most vulnerable populations against the governor's attacks. To blunt anger at Emanuel and Claypool, CPS lawyers filed suit against the state for using a school funding formula that systematically violates student civil rights and underfunds the district.

The injustice of school funding formulas is a longstanding scandal in plain sight--but Emanuel and Co. are latecomers to the issue with their lawsuit.

In fact, days after CPS filed this "civil rights" lawsuit, the entire CPS Latino Advisory Committee resigned in protest because the austerity managers slashed the budgets of Latino schools at twice the rate of mostly white schools. In response to the outcry, CPS restored some, but not all, of the funds at select schools.

CPS principals were recently instructed to deny access to school buildings for federal immigration agents unless they have a criminal warrant.

This is certainly a bold and welcome move, but we shouldn't ignore the fact that Emanuel--who was chief of staff to Barack Obama as the Democratic president ramped up the deportation machine to unprecedented levels--is attempting to use the threat of ICE raids under Trump to pose as the defender of students that he clearly isn't.

We should demand that Emanuel prove his commitment to making Chicago a sanctuary for immigrants--but resist any attempt to deflect attention from Emanuel's power to solve the CPS funding crisis right now, by using funds from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) slush fund under his unaccountable control as mayor.

To avoid a strike by teachers last fall, the city agreed to a contract that acknowledged what the CTU has long maintained--that Emanuel could find the money for a just teachers' contract and improve all schools by dipping into the huge TIF slush fund of siphoned-off property tax revenues and controlled by the mayor alone to shower money on wealth real estate developers.

Emanuel could do much more beyond putting TIF money back into the schools it was diverted from.

When he became mayor in 2011, he eliminated the "head tax" that charged Chicago businesses with more than 50 employees a $4 fee per employee. Around 2,700 Chicago companies paid the "head tax" in 2009 and 2010, contributing approximately $35 million in city revenue. The CTU proposes that Emanuel could solve the CPS crisis by reinstating and increasing the head tax on the city's richest businesses.

This is among the solutions put forward by the Chicago Teachers Union, which argues that the city's schools are "broke on purpose."

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NOW, WITH the bitter opposition to the new Trump administration mobilizing large numbers, there is a chance to broaden the fight for public education in Chicago even further.

On the same day that CPS sent its June 1 school year threat to parents, Donald Trump announced his proposal to increase military spending by $54 billion--to be paid for by cuts from other programs. The Education and Energy Departments, as well as programs to provide food assistance to needy families, will be at the top of the list for draconian cuts.

Recognizing the connection between Trump's accelerated austerity drive and the demands for cuts from Emanuel could be the basis for an even broader campaign for the schools and communities our students deserve.

People committed to the education justice movement--whether teachers, students and parents, or community members--have an opportunity to connect with new activists and forge alliances with new formations so that together, we can demand real solutions.

That was certainly clear after 250,000 people marched in Chicago's streets for the Women's March on January 21--with plenty of teachers and students among them. We've also seen an upsurge of protest in solidarity with refugees and immigrants that led to a shutdown of terminals at O'Hare Airport.

The problems we face aren't a mystery. We know who will pay the price and who is to blame--and we know more people than ever are ready to take action in order to confront those problems.

Categories: Political Action

A new women's resistance is emerging

Socialist Worker - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 01:00

March 8 will be a day of protest, forums and speakouts, and strikes in several dozen countries around the world. This statement from the Revolutionary Workers’ Party in Mexico supports the strike call and sets the protest in the contest of the struggle for a new world.

Women workers lead a demonstration against gas price hikes in Mexico City (Mujeres en Resistencia | Facebook)

SOLIDARITY IS our weapon! Organization is our strength!

A new wave of women's resistance is emerging, building fresh alliances and solidarity across the globe. An emergency of patriarchal violence is coming to light, one which affects women from all latitudes and all countries alike. It makes our work invisible, it objectifies, it hypersexualizes, it discriminates.

The call by the women of the world for the International Women's Strike shows the potential for organizing a common front to fight retrograde, conservative and patriarchal policies that assail our very lives.

Donald Trump's victory, along with his openly misogynist rhetoric, has put women on alert--not only in the United States--to the danger of worsening capitalist policies of a profoundly conservative and fundamentalist nature.

The so-called "democratic" and "progressive" governments that promote neoliberalism and the free market try to make us believe that the gap between men and women is shrinking, but the reality is that women lag behind in virtually all social indicators: work, wages, education, health, social security, as a percentage of elected officials, and access to resources. These imbalances and inequalities keep women at a disadvantage.

Society finds itself sinking deeper and deeper into an economic and political crisis. Today, women workers continue to fight for the same rights we've been organizing for over the course of decades. Instead of equality, we get dribs and drabs. And often enough, what seems like growing equity merely expresses a proportional worsening of the crisis and the impoverishment of the whole working class.

In recent times, women across the whole planet have taken action in defense of sexual and reproductive rights. In Latin America, these actions have been particularly strong in the face of the rise of feminicide, hate crimes, sexual assault and all forms of sexist violence. Resistance has grown against the criminalization of activists who defend women, defend our communities, land and neighborhoods, and defend our environment.

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HERE AND now, women are placing the accent on continuing the fight to improve living conditions and to confront the neoliberal economic model. They will refuse to retreat from the historic gains we have won. These struggles form the backdrop against which women from different countries have, over the past months, created the conditions from which broader and more powerful coordination, connections and organization among women can became a reality.

A new generation of women is invigorating today's struggles, thousands of women are bringing their enthusiasm and hope, they are rebelling and questioning the social order--and with it a whole series of hegemonic norms that stamp out diversity, plurality or difference.

The visibility of sexual dissidents and identities in our resistance movements has added a new spectrum of struggle, generating paradigms and strengthening initiatives, as well as contributing elements to our debates. Characterizing recent women's struggles from an intersectional point of view has enriched the political agenda and deepened our analysis, pointing toward an anti-capitalist, anti-racist, sexually diverse and environmentalist feminism.

The radicalization of women recaptures the original meaning of March 8 and puts the accent on the sexual division of labor where women perform multiple types of labor that are not socially recognized--from this springs the call for a strike of domestic and caring labor.

Questioning the role assigned to us socially and the value given to the work we perform in this system will be a starting point from which more women will join in and initiate a movement, ever more unified and revolutionary on an international scale.

Women will shake the world on March 8. This is the time for resistance, for women to join in and take the lead in organizing, to propose next steps, to bring us together, to accompany one another. This year, March 8 will be a day for struggle--women have decided to go on strike. Women of the world will rise up, and we will not turn back.

The Revolutionary Workers' Party gives its full support for the historic struggle for women's rights. We call for building a feminism of the 99 percent of women from whom the patriarchal capitalist system has stripped away their work, their bodies, their resources and their autonomy. And we add our voices to the global call and invitation to construct an international, organized women's movement that will fight defend of our lives.

We strike against sexist violence! We strike against feminicide! We strike against precarious jobs! We strike for women, and with women!

Revolutionary Workers' Party
Mexico City, March 2017

Translated by Todd Chretien

Categories: Political Action

Solidarity with Aporrea.org

Socialist Worker - Wed, 03/08/2017 - 01:00

In February, the left-wing Venezuelan website Aporrea.org came under intense and sustained cyber attack by unknown culprits with the resources to mount a sophisticated assault, which caused the site to go offline for several days. On February 22, Aporrea issued a statement detailing what it knows about this this attack on the alternative media.

Left-wing organizations around the world have responded by expressing support for this important resource for the struggle in Venezuela and beyond. Here, the International Socialist Organization adds its voice with a message of solidarity against the cyber attacks.

OVER THE past few weeks, the left-wing Venezuelan website Aporrea.org has been subjected to various cyber attacks, causing it go offline for five days. Because of the attacks, Aporrea was not only forced offline, but also faced severe economic setbacks, as it had to switch networks and purchase a new, expensive network protection service.

While it is still unclear who is behind these attacks, their magnitude suggest that it was coordinated by entities backed with power, money and significant resources--most likely by those who would benefit most by silencing the revolutionary, independent and critical news agency. As a statement from Aporrea reads: "It is logical to think, and it shows, that many of the antipathies towards Aporrea come from the areas of corruption embedded in the apparatus of the bourgeois state of our Venezuela, which is still subject to the capitalist system, and actors who opted for the exercise of despotic governance in the replacement of socialist democracy."

Aporrea.org is an autonomous, independent website where the concerns and criticisms of popular movements, social movements and political currents of the Bolivarian revolution are expressed. The site was created in 2002 to both to confront the coup that toppled Hugo Chávez for two days before being reversed, as well as to open up channels of expression for Venezuelan social movements.

For the past 15 years, Aporrea has been a democratic and critical space for news, analysis and debate for the left. It is a space where peasants, students, communal organizations, social organizations, participants in workers struggles and militants in various political currents can publish their documents, articles and experiences for discussion and debate.

In many ways, the site functions as a news agency for the struggles of movements in Venezuela. It averages close to 100,000 hits per day and upwards of 3 million hits per month, with up to 40 percent of those site visits being international.

The attacks on Aporrea come in the context internationally of a war on journalists and whistleblowers, and open hostility towards the press by the presidential administration of Donald Trump. A free press--one that is independent and critical of states and corporate actors--is at risk in countries around the world. Genuine voices of the left like Aporrea are especially vital today.

The International Socialist Organization stands in solidarity with Aporrea against these attempts to silence one of the most important critical voices of the left in Latin America.

Categories: Political Action

EU Internet Advocates Launch Campaign to Stop Dangerous Copyright Filtering Proposal

Deep Links - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 21:17

In the wake of the European Commission’s dangerous proposal to require user-generated content platforms to filter user uploads for copyright infringement, European digital rights advocates are calling on Internet users throughout Europe to stand up for freedom of expression online by urging their MEP (Member of European Parliament) to stop the #CensorshipMachine and “save the meme.”

Last year, the European Commission released a proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, Article 13 of which would require all online service providers that “store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users” to reach agreements with rights holders to keep allegedly infringing content off their sites – including by implementing content filtering technologies.

We’ve talked at length about the dangers of this proposal, and the problems with filtering the Internet for copyright infringement. For one thing, it’s extremely dangerous for fair use and free expression online.

This week, two EU-based organizations are calling on Internet users to stand up for their rights to lawfully use copyrighted works, and to call on the European Parliament to remove Article 13 from the proposed directive.

Bits of Freedom, a Netherlands-based organization, launched a campaign website where you can “save the meme” by contacting an MEP and urging them to delete Article 13.  The site calls attention to the proposed directive’s impact on popular legal uses of copyrighted content, “like parody, citations and –oh, noes! – memes,” and provides a handy tool for getting in touch with your MEP.

Simultaneously, the activist group Xnet, with support from EFF, EDRi, and several other digital rights groups released this video highlighting how Article 13 would give copyright holders the ability to censor a wide swath of online expression.

%3Ciframe%20src%3D%22https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fembed%2FqAcTeYtUzQY%3Fautoplay%3D1%22%20allowfullscreen%3D%22%22%20width%3D%22560%22%20height%3D%22315%22%20frameborder%3D%220%22%3E%3C%2Fiframe%3E Privacy info. This embed will serve content from youtube.com

Digital rights advocates aren’t the only ones seeing problems with this proposal. Article 13 has been criticized by academics and academic research centers, and members of the EU’s startup community as well. And earlier this month, an important committee charged with reviewing the proposal, the European Parliament Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, criticized Article 13 as “incompatible with the limited liability regime” currently in effect in the EU under the e-Commerce Directive, legislation the committee refers to as “enormously beneficial.” The committee’s report warns of Article 13’s “negative impacts on the digital economy [and] internet freedoms of consumers, ” as well as its potential effect on market entry for online services. The Committee also criticized the proposal’s call to implement technological filtering solutions, explaining “[t]he use of filtering potentially harms the interests of users, as there are many legitimate uses of copyright content that filtering technologies are often not advanced enough to accommodate.”

There’s still time to stop Article 13 before it becomes law in the EU. The proposed directive must pass through several more rounds of review by European Parliament Committees, followed by an informal “trialogue”, where the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council of the European Union try to agree on the text of the directive, before it finally moves to consideration by Parliament. If you’re in Europe, you can take action to stop Article 13 by going to savethememe.net. If you’re not, you can share that link with your European friends.


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Categories: Political Action

Congress is Trying to Roll Back Internet Privacy Protections As You Read This

Deep Links - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:27

Call congress now!

Back in 2014 over 3 million Internet users told the U.S. government loudly and clearly: we value our online security, we value our online privacy, and we value net neutrality. Our voices helped convince the FCC to enact smart net neutrality regulations—including long-needed privacy rules.

But it appears some members of Congress didn’t get the message, because they’re trying to roll back the FCC’s privacy rules right now without having anything concrete ready to replace them. We’re talking here about basic requirements, like getting your explicit consent before using your private information to do anything other than provide you with Internet access (such as targeted advertising).  Given how much private information your ISP has about you, strict limits on what they do with it are essential.

Luckily, we can stop this train wreck before it happens. But we need your help: please call your senators and your representative right now and tell them to oppose any use of the Congressional Review Act (“the CRA”—they’ll know what it is) to roll back the FCC’s new rules about ISP privacy practices.

If you want more ammo for your conversation with congressional staff, read on. But if you’re already fired up, please click here to take action right now.

Together, we can stop Congress from undermining crucial privacy protections. 

What's the tl;dr?

Late last year, the FCC passed rules that would require ISPs to protect your private information. It covered the things you would usually associate with having an account with a major company (your name and address, financial information, etc.) but also things like any records they keep on your browsing history, geolocation information (think cell phones), and the content of your communications. Overall, the rules were pretty darn good.

But now, Senator Flake (R-AZ) and Representative Blackburn (R-TN) want to use a tool known as a Congressional Review Act resolution to totally repeal those protections. The CRA allows Congress to veto any regulation written by a federal agency (like the FCC). Worse yet, it forbids the agency from passing any “substantially similar” regulations in the future, so the FCC would be forbidden from ever trying to regulate ISP privacy practices. At the same time, some courts have limited the Federal Trade Commission’s ability protect your privacy, too.

With the hands of two federal agencies tied, ISPs themselves would be largely in change of protecting their customer’s privacy. In other words, the fox will be guarding the henhouse.

Act Now

If we seem a little insistent that you take action to stop this, that’s because we sincerely believe that together, we can stop this disaster before it comes to pass. Every time someone calls their representative or senators, an angel gets its wings we’re one step closer to protecting the privacy of all U.S. Internet users. If we raise our voices the same way we did when it came to passing net neutrality, Congress won’t be able to ignore us.

Call congress now!

So please, take action and call your senator and representative today, and tell them not to use the CRA to repeal the FCC’s privacy rules.

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Categories: Political Action

Expert Panel Explores Tech Policy at the White House

Deep Links - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 16:30

On March 2, EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn sat down with Alexander Macgillivray and Nicole Wong, both former U.S. Deputy Chief Technology Officers (CTO) under President Obama as well as former legal counsel for Google and Twitter. The panel explored the development of the Obama administration’s policies on the Internet, intellectual property, and digital privacy and speculated on the future of the White House CTO position under President Trump. On March 3rd, we learned that Peter Thiel's former chief of staff Michael Kratsios will be stepping in to the role formerly held by Macgillivray and Wong. 

Both panelists underscored the contributions that technologists can make in civil service and that law and policymakers need informed voices in the room and at the table. "It's incumbent upon [the tech community] to start engaging" said Wong. "I think the technical talent within government is getting much better" and part of that comes from convening the right people within government agencies—including those who are more technologically sophisticated—who understand the issues at stake.

Macgillivray also stressed the impact that the tech community at large can have on government policy, stating "the engineering community, as it becomes more powerful, will be able to exercise more moral and political muscle."

Watch below for the full discussion touching upon diverse digital civil liberties issues including net neutrality, device searches at the border, predictive policing algorithms, and more:

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Categories: Political Action

Secret Court Orders Aren't Blank Checks for General Electronic Searches

Deep Links - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 14:59

Imagine this: the government, for reasons you don't know, thinks you're a spy. You go on vacation and, while you're away, government agents secretly enter your home, search it, make copies of all your electronic devices, and leave. Those agents then turn those devices upside down, looking through decades worth of your files, photos, and online activity saved on your devices. They don't find any evidence that you're a spy, but they find something else—evidence of another, totally unrelated crime. You're arrested, charged, and ultimately convicted, yet you're never allowed to see what prompted the agents to think you were a spy in the first place.

Sounds like something from dystopian fiction, right? Yet it's exactly what happened to Keith Gartenlaub. In January 2014, the FBI secretly entered Gartenlaub's home while he and his wife were on vacation in China. Agents scoured the home, taking pictures, searching through boxes and books, and—critically—making wholesale copies of his hard drives.

Agents were authorized by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ("FISC") to search for evidence that Gartenlaub was spying for the Chinese government. There’s only one problem with that theory: the government has never publicly produced any evidence to support it. Nevertheless, Gartenlaub now sits in jail. Not for spying, but because the FBI’s forensic search of his hard drives turned up roughly 100 files containing child pornography, buried among thousands of other files, saved on an external hard drive.

Gartenlaub was tried and convicted, and he appealed his conviction to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. EFF (along with our friends at the ACLU) recently filed an amicus brief in support of his appeal.

There are plenty of troubling aspects to Gartenlaub’s prosecution and conviction. For one, and unlike normal criminal prosecutions, neither Gartenlaub nor his lawyers have ever seen the affidavit and order issued by the FISC that authorized the search of his home. There are also legitimate concerns about the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict him.

But we got involved for a different reason: to weigh in on the Fourth Amendment implications of the FBI’s searches of Gartenlaub’s electronic devices. The unusual facts of this case gave us an unusually good opportunity to push for greater Fourth Amendment protections in all searches of electronic devices.

Here’s why: when agents copied and searched Gartenlaub’s devices, they were only authorized to search for national security-related information. But the prosecution that resulted from those searches and seizures had nothing to do with national security at all. So, either the FBI seized information that was outside of the warrant (which the Fourth Amendment prohibits); or it was relying on an exception to the warrant requirement, like “plain view”—an exception that allows law enforcement to seize immediately obvious contraband when the government is in a place to lawfully observe it.

Plain view makes sense in the physical world. If cops are executing a search warrant for a home to search for drugs, they shouldn’t have to ignore the dead body lying in the living room. But the way plain view works in the digital context—especially forensic computer searches—is not at all clear. How far can cops rummage around our computers for the evidence they’re authorized to look for? Does a warrant to search for evidence of drug dealing allow cops to open all the photos stored on our computer? Does an order authorizing a search for national security information let the government rifle through a digital porn collection? And where do we draw the line between a specific search, based on probable cause for specific information stored on a computer—which the Fourth Amendment allows— and a general search for evidence of criminal activity—which the Fourth Amendment prohibits?

Our electronic devices contain decades' worth of personal information about us. And, in many ways, searches of our electronic devices can be more intrusive than searches of our homes: there is information stored on our phones, computers, and hard drives, about our interests, our political thoughts, our sexual orientations, or religious beliefs, that might never have been previously stored in our homes—or, for that matter, anywhere at all. Because of the sensitivity of this data, we need clear restrictions on law enforcement searches of our electronic devices, so that every search doesn't turn into the type of general rummaging the Fourth Amendment was designed to prevent.

In our brief, we argued this case gave the Court a perfect opportunity to set a clear rule. We argued that the FBI’s search of Gartenlaub’s hard drives for evidence of regular, domestic crimes violated the Fourth Amendment, and we urged the Court to adopt a rule that would prohibit the FBI from using evidence that it obtained that was outside the scope of the initial search authorization. This would be a promising first step in limiting law enforcement’s electronic search powers and in protecting our right to privacy in the digital age.

Related Cases: United States v. Gartenlaub
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Categories: Political Action

Hey CIA, You Held On To Security Flaw Information—But Now It's Out. That's Not How It Should Work

Deep Links - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 14:38

Wikileaks today released documents that appear to describe software tools used by the CIA to break into the devices that we all use at home and work. While we are still reviewing the material, we have not seen any indications that the encryption of popular privacy apps such as Signal and WhatsApp has been broken. We believe that encryption still offers significant protection against surveillance.

The worst thing that could happen is for users to lose faith in encryption-enabled tools and stop using them. The releases do reaffirm that users should make sure they are using the most current version of the apps on their devices.  And vendors should move quickly to patch these flaws to protect users from both government and criminal attackers.

The dark side of this story is that the documents confirm that the CIA holds on to security vulnerabilities in software and devices—including Android phones, iPhones, and Samsung televisions—that millions of people around the world rely on. The agency appears to have failed to accurately assess the risk of not disclosing vulnerabilities to responsible vendors and failed to follow even the limited Vulnerabilities Equities Process. As these leaks show, we're all made less safe by the CIA's decision to keep --  rather than ensure the patching of -- vulnerabilities. Even spy agencies like the CIA have a responsibility to protect the security and privacy of Americans. 

Related Cases: EFF v. NSA, ODNI - Vulnerabilities FOIA
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Categories: Political Action

A Dangerous California Bill Would Leave Students and Teachers Vulnerable to Intrusive Government Searches

Deep Links - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 11:32

A dangerous bill in California would make it easy for the government to search the cell phones and online accounts of students and teachers. A.B. 165 rips away crucial protections for the more than 6-million Californians who work at and attend our public schools.  Under the proposed law, anyone acting “for or on the behalf of” a public school—whether that’s the police or school officials—could search through student, teacher, and possibly even parent digital data without a court issuing a warrant or any other outside oversight. 

A.B. 165 runs contrary to our values. California is proud to be a leader in protecting the privacy of our citizenry. Not only is the right to privacy baked into the California Constitution, but in 2015 our lawmakers also passed CalECPA—heralded as “the nation’s best digital privacy law”—with broad support from Republicans, Democrats, civil libertarians, tech companies, and members of the law enforcement community. This law strikes the right balance when it comes to protecting privacy and empowering government officials to do their jobs. It ensures that when someone in the government wants to search our digital devices or a police offer wants to search our online accounts, they go to a judge and get a warrant based on probable cause. And it also ensures that the government can act swiftly when life and limb are on the line by providing an exemption when there is an emergency.

Some may argue that schools should have different rules.  But not only do Californians of all ages and backgrounds deserve and need digital privacy, A.B. 165 is a sledgehammer, not a scalpel. It destroys all the important CalECPA safeguards that protect Californians in the school context from wide-ranging government searches.

If A.B. 165 is enacted, CalECPA protections would be stripped from students and teachers, meaning:

  •  Anyone acting “for or on the behalf of” a public school can conduct a search—that could potentially be anyone from lunch room attendants to on-campus police officers.
  • School officials have no outside oversight when conducting searches and don’t have to report those searches to anyone.
  • School officials  aren’t required to notify anyone—the individual or parents or guardians—about a search
  • There are no clear limits on what digital data can be searched—photos, appointments, social media accounts, email accounts, text messages, and browser history could all be up for grabs.
  • There are no safeguards to protect how data is used or shared, including with federal agencies.

In effect, this means that a school official could search through the cell phones or online accounts of California students and teachers without any type of warrant or oversight and pass that data to federal agencies like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or others.

As Pres. Donald Trump is announcing policies that open the door to rounding up and deporting millions of immigrants in the United States and stripping away the rights of transgender students, A.B. 165 creates a dangerous loophole in California’s privacy safeguards.

California students use cell phones to access and communicate deeply sensitive information, like learning about local political events, investigating reproductive health, discussing the immigration status of a family member, or exploring their own gender identity. We can show our students that their dignity and privacy matters by safeguarding their rights to read and communicate without the specter of unfettered government access. 

Unfortunately, backers of A.B. 165 are the same legislators who fought the passage of CalECPA two years ago. This bill may be aimed at California public schools, but make no mistake: the battle won’t stop here. If these legislators are able to destroy safeguards for our schools, they’ll turn to other communities and try to strip away these legal protections for other Californians. We need to hold the line.

A.B. 165 is currently in the privacy subcommittee of the California Assembly. That means that right now is a very important time to make sure all our California legislators hear us. Please speak out now against A.B. 165.

And if you are a California student or teacher who has witnessed the search of a digital device or online account on school property, please report it using our form.

Not in California? You can still make a difference. Please reach out to your friends in California and ask them to speak out, and please share this blog post on social media.

Oppose A.B. 165


And if you are with a nonprofit or business that wants to join our coalition in this fight, please email rainey@eff.org.

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Categories: Political Action

Random Thoughts for 7 March 2017

Democratic Convention Watch - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 05:16

Years before Facebook, there was blogging. And as blogging was making a crescendo to its brief heyday, I used to send out an email every day about what was going on in the world. It took a while for the readership to hit 1,000 recipients, and then gmail decided I was a spammer, and luckily Matt and Tom let me join them here at DCW.

Almost a decade later, the world has changed, and attention spans have greatly decreased. But here is the list of what I’m thinking about today…see how far you can get.

The New House ACA Repeal Bill: Have you read it? If not, you can do so here.  (You’ll need to use the PDF download link as the front page is just lies.)  As I always tell you READ IT. Otherwise you’re just going with someone’s interpretation and it’s hard to quote your favourite insanity verbatim. It’s short, 123 pages. Nothing like the original 3,000+ ACA bill. And that matters, because the new bill lacks CBO scoring, and answers to the kind of important questions that make #NotMyCheeto complain that healthcare is difficult. Of course it’s difficult you moron, human lives are involved.

The upshot is that the underwrites are replaced with tax credits. That’s actually great if you make a decent amount of money (although there are phase-outs for individuals beginning at $75,000 and couples at $150,000) who can actually afford the premiums, but are terrible for people who need help making monthly premium payments. Further, the credits are age based, and will be great for millenials with high-deductible catastrophic policies, but too skimpy for everyone else. If you’re older or have pre-existing conditions, consider yourself officially screwed.  AARP is already on the case because people 55 – 65 will face the greatest affect.

Want to take action? Call your rep and tell a personal story about how you will be affected by this bill. Remember, read the bill first so you can be specific.

Jon Ossoff: I’m thinking a lot about Jon Ossoff. Jon’s a guy from Georgia with actual government creds, who currently works investigating crime and corruption. He’s young. He’s a progressive. And he’s running in the 18 April jungle primary to take Tom Price’s suburban Atlanta seat. For progressives, this is the second test of whether we are willing to do what is necessary to oust the racist, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-semitic haters that are the GOP. (The first test was won in Delaware’s special election last month.) You can view his site here. And you can Google him for a lot of good information on his background and the importance of this election. And as an aside, I’m a huge fan of jungle primaries.

Want to take action? This is where the rubber truly meets the road. Lots of people contact me wanting to really, truly do something in the face of the fascist takeover last November. Here’s your chance: send a check. Send a bigger check. This is a situation where money really matters. In the last election, Tom spent millions to keep his seat, while his Democratic challenger was only able to raise $14,000. Until Citizens United is repealed, money is critical to advertising and GOTV efforts. If you’ve got the time, go down to Georgia and knock doors. Personally, I’m planning on going down the weekend before the election to knock doors because that is what wins elections.

The Muslim Ban: Yes, it’s still a ban on Muslims. Yes, the intent is still to discriminate. If you read the whole EO, you’ll find a few interesting things buried within.  First and foremost, the line “any class of aliens” – this is what’s going to screw the Bannon administration in court. There are intelligence reports documenting that the six countries have not sent terrorists to the US, while other countries have. Thus, the only “class” is citizens of countries who haven’t done anything to us, while excluding countries like Saudi Arabia which has.

Want to take action? Join the ACLU and get on their monthly donation plan. Also, join “Register Me First“. If you think #NotMyFurher will stop here, you haven’t read the Bannon manifesto. Be proactive and stand with other Americans.

Wiretap #FakeNews: Not only did Obama NOT wiretap Trumpkin, not only was there no FISA warrant, but had this happened it would have been because there was direct proof that the campaign actually was colluding with the Russians.

Want to take action? ENJOY! There is nothing anyone can do: the short-fingered vulgarian is out of his depth and truly lacks understanding of how governance works. (Don’t kid yourself, Herr Bannon does know.) He’s begging for investigations, and there will be lots of them into Russian interaction with the campaign and its members. (Including Jared!) You can encourage your elected reps to investigate, but they’re already on it.

So that’s today’s rant. I hope you learned something and are spurred to direct action. SCROTUS views the world as a zero-sum game, and I say we put him on the losing side.


Categories: Political Action

How the movement brought down a president

Socialist Worker - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 01:00

Eric Ruder describes how the movement against the U.S. war on Vietnam gained strength, handing the empire its most bitter defeat.

Members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War on the march

THE OPENING weeks of Donald Trump's presidency have been a whirlwind of reactionary executive orders, revelations about contacts between Trump's campaign and Russian officials, open warfare between the White House and U.S. intelligence services, and Trump's furious attacks on the media for printing leaks from his administration.

And then there are the protests.

There was the Women's March on Washington, with sister demonstrations across the country and around the world. In the following days, there were spontaneous eruptions in opposition to Trump's bigoted executive orders targeting Muslims and the undocumented.

As Trump's approval ratings sink further, there's speculation that Trump could be impeached. It's still far-fetched--but not as far as it used to be, according to British bookies, who doubled the likelihood to nearly 50 percent that Trump would be out of office before his first term was up.

All this begs the question: What would it really take to bring down Donald Trump? To answer it, it's worth looking back four decades to the last--and only--time a president was forced to resign. What factors compelled Richard Nixon to leave office in disgrace in 1974?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE IMMEDIATE crisis that triggered Nixon's eventual resignation was the attempt by the White House to cover up its role in the burglary of the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C.,

Five men carrying bugging devices and a large wad of cash were caught in the middle of the night in the Democratic Party's national headquarters in the Watergate complex. Four of the men had ties to the CIA and had also taken part in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.

When the ties between the burglars and Nixon's Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) became public, the wheels were set in motion toward impeachment.

But the larger context of the Watergate scandal is essential to understanding Nixon's downfall.

In his book The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam, author Tom Wells cites the recollections of Roger Morris, a National Security Council staffer under Nixon. "Watergate--the whole generic beast--is a product of the administration's insecurity and paranoia fed by the war in Southeast Asia and by an inability to cope with that dissent, and [by] these perceptions of dissent widening around it in an almost conspiratorial way," said Morris.

In fact, the scandal was driven by "excessive concern over the political impact of demonstrators," a desperate bid to stem leaks from the White House (sound familiar?), and "an insatiable appetite for political intelligence," according to the testimony by John Dean, a Nixon operative, before the Senate committee that investigated Watergate.

The same men who broke into Watergate also broke into the home of Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon employee who leaked the Pentagon Papers exposing U.S. war strategy in Vietnam, in an unsuccessful bid to stop further leaks to the press from him.

Thus, a full recounting of Nixon's downfall must start with the story of how an antiwar movement that had begun as a tiny minority barely a decade earlier grew to involve practically every strata of American society.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THOUGH THE antiwar movement began in the mid-1960s with handfuls of activists debating what if anything could be done to protest the war, the Black freedom struggle of the previous decade served as a beacon of inspiration.

The civil rights movement had already shown that dedicated masses of people had the power to arouse public outrage and mobilize sufficient pressure to bring change, even in the face of government intransigence.

There were three main elements that ultimately led to the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and Nixon's unraveling: the Vietnamese resistance to the U.S. military machine, the revolt of U.S. soldiers and sailors within the military machine itself, and the popular mobilizations that spread from campuses into society at large.

In a 1965 speech, Malcolm X captured in his typically blunt style the bravery and resilience of the Vietnamese resistance to the American war drive. "Little rice farmers, peasants, with a rifle--up against all the highly mechanized weapons of warfare--jets, napalm, battleships, everything else, and they can't put those rice farmers back where they want them," he said. "Somebody's waking up."

As Joel Geier explained in a 2000 article "Vietnam: The Soldiers' Revolt" in the International Socialist Review, the U.S. military couldn't devise a strategy to defeat Vietnam's guerrilla fighters, who carried out hit-and-run on American targets by night and melted back into the countryside and their roles as peasant farmers during the day.

In this form of guerrilla war, there were no fixed targets, no set battlegrounds, and there was no territory to take. With that in mind, the Pentagon designed a counterinsurgency strategy called "search and destroy." Without fixed battlegrounds, combat success was judged by the number of NLF [National Liberation Front] troops killed--the body count...For each enemy killed, for every body counted, soldiers got three-day passes and officers received medals and promotions. This reduced the war from fighting for "the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese" to no larger purpose than killing.

In January 1968, the NLF and the North Vietnamese Army deployed a combined force of some 70,000 and fought to win the national capital of Saigon, along with the capital cities of 34 provinces. Relying on broad popular support to maintain the element of surprise, the Tet Offensive dealt a major political blow to the American war effort, even if it failed to achieve lasting military results.

The scale of the uprising against the U.S. military and the South Vietnamese government demonstrated before the eyes of the world that all the talk out about collapsing support for the NLF and a war effort on the verge of breakthrough success was simply lies.

Though the U.S. eventually rebuffed the offensive, the military relied on the utmost brutality to do so, using the same scorched-earth tactics in the cities that it had used to crush resistance in the countryside.

According to Nick Turse's Kill Anything That Moves, the U.S. counteroffensive left more than 125,000 homeless in Saigon and unleashed "an astonishing 600 tons of bombs, plus barrages from artillery and tank cannons" in the southern city Hue, destroying 80 percent of its built structures. More than 14,000 civilians were killed, mainly by U.S. fire, and some 627,000 became homeless.

Though it didn't become public until a year and a half later, the My Lai Massacre, in which a company of U.S. soldiers massacred hundreds of unarmed villagers, came to stand as the most shocking atrocity in a war full of shocking atrocities. It was carried out six weeks into the U.S. counteroffensive against Tet.

The counteroffensive also produced an especially harrowing turn of phrase that captured the essence of the U.S. war strategy. The commanding officer in charge of recapturing Ben Tre in Kien Hoa province explained the absolute devastation of the town to reporters by saying, "We had to destroy the town to save it."

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U.S. SOLDIERS also absorbed the meaning of Tet, stepping up their own resistance to the U.S. war drive in response. After all, if the war wasn't winnable, why should any soldier risk his life to fight it?

If U.S. soldiers had, prior to Tet, turned their officers' commands to "search and destroy" into missions to "search and avoid," many turned to outright disobedience after the invasion.

By June 1971, the Armed Forces Journal reported that the ranks were in a state of open revolt:

Our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near-mutinous...[C]onditions [exist] among American forces in Vietnam that have only been exceeded in this century by...the collapse of the Tsarist armies in 1916 and 1917.

Whole units began discussing and debating the war among themselves, and some ended up deciding en masse to refuse to go on patrols. Black soldiers--emboldened by the civil rights movement, yet assigned to the most dangerous tasks by racist commanding officers--were particularly drawn to the growing revolt within the U.S. military.

As disaffection grew, some soldiers targeted gung-ho officers looking to enhance their opportunities by upping their number of kills with aggressive patrols rather than the Vietnamese resistance. By some estimates, 25 percent or more of the officers and noncommissioned officers killed in Vietnam lost their lives to "fragging"--which took its name from the fragmentation grenades rolled under a commanding officer's bunk.

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THE REVOLT in the ranks of the U.S. military was decisive in U.S. military leaders reaching the conclusion that they couldn't continue to prosecute the war. But that revolt would have been unthinkable without the massive civilian antiwar movement, which helped to expose the doublespeak of the American government and military.

The movement also built GI coffeehouses and an entire counter-narrative to the lies regularly emanating from the Pentagon to show soldiers who refused to fight that they could find a whole community ready and willing to support them.

The first acts of the antiwar movement had been a series of teach-ins on college campuses in the spring of 1965 that drew thousands of students into discussions about the war just as Democratic President Lyndon Johnson ordered stepped-up bombing of North Vietnam and the first U.S. ground troops landed in South Vietnam.

At the teach-ins, which initially featured debates with Johnson administration officials until the officials stopped showing up because they failed to convince anyone, antiwar faculty and students engaged thousands of students.

The teach-ins focused attention on the many contradictions of the U.S. war effort--killing poor peasants in the name of peace, propping up despised dictators in the name of "spreading democracy," destroying villages in order to save them.

On October 15, 1969, some 2 million people participated in hundreds of local actions across the U.S. Many large cities had rallies of tens of thousands, while students wore armbands on campuses. A month later on November 15, the largest demonstration in U.S. history up to that point took place in Washington, D.C., drawing between 500,000 and 750,000 people.

The White House carefully managed media perceptions, asserting that Nixon paid no attention to the protests and had spent the afternoon watching college football. But as later investigations by journalists and historians revealed, Nixon was distraught over the size of the mobilizations.

"The demonstrators had been more successful than they realized, pushing Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger away from plans to greatly escalate the war, possibly even to the point of using nuclear weapons, and back toward their 'Vietnamization' strategy of propping up the Saigon regime," author Gerald Nicosia wrote in Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement.

The protests grew even more intense in response to the U.S. invasion of Cambodia in early 1970, which sparked a student strike. The police and National Guard were called out to confront student protesters.

On May 4, the National Guard killed four and wounded nine students at Kent State University in Ohio. Ten days later, city and state police killed two students and wounded 12 at Jackson State, a historically Black college in Mississippi.

Rage at the killings of unarmed students further accelerated the outpouring of antiwar protests. All told, some 8 million students took part in strikes that affected 1,350 colleges in May alone. "Faculty and administrators joined students in active dissent, and 536 campuses were shut down completely, 51 for the rest of the academic year," wrote Wells in The War Within.

Two years later, Nixon would win reelection in the 1972 election, driving the antiwar movement and other activists into a state of near-total despair. Yet the internal strife and generalized sense of crisis surrounding the administration led a paranoid president to embrace a scorched-earth war strategy--in Vietnam, against the press and against his political rivals, both real and perceived.

Combined with the lack of any strategy to avoid military defeat, the U.S. war in Vietnam metastasized a Cold-War era confrontation with a marginal player into a military and political crisis that dealt a defeat to the world's main superpower--and ultimately brought down the world's most powerful head of state.

Categories: Political Action

The foxes tear down a flimsy henhouse fence

Socialist Worker - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 01:00

The Trump administration is going after the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, proving that Wall Street will try to overturn even inadequate regulation, writes Christopher Baum.

Trump's Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at his previous gig

ON FEBRUARY 3, Donald Trump issued an executive order setting out his administration's "Core Principles for Regulating the United States Financial System," which instructed the Treasury Department to identify any laws, regulations or government policies inconsistent with these "core principles."

The order may express them in vague bureaucratic terms, but Trump's many public pronouncements prove beyond any doubt that the new administration's main principle is serving unrestrained corporate greed.

Although it's never named in the order, a primary target of Trump's directive is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010, the massive and complex bundle of measures enacted by the Obama administration in response to the financial crisis of 2007-08.

To win votes last year, Trump promised to "drain the swamp" in Washington. But his administration is filling up with the same banksters who caused the financial crisis. Trump is drawing alumni from the same mega-bank, Goldman Sachs, that prevailed during the Bush administration, with six top executives--including Gary Cohn, the former president and second-in-command at Goldman--helping to "make America greed again."

Is it any surprise that the administration is unraveling the new Dodd-Frank rules they loudly opposed as "private" citizens?

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DEMOCRATS MAINTAIN that Dodd-Frank has restrained or done away with many of the worst abuses of the financial system. But the act always fell far short of what was needed.

It's important to remember that in 2009-10, when Dodd-Frank was introduced, debated passed by Congress and signed into law, the Democrats held the White House and majorities in both the Senate and House. They had essentially a free hand to create whatever legislation they wanted, without needing to seek compromises with Republicans.

What they did create, as SocialistWorker.org noted at the time, was "a hodge-podge of half-measures that will do little to alter Wall Street's business practices, much less prevent another major crisis...At most, [Dodd-Frank] increases the power of some regulators to constrain--or not constrain--Wall Street's behavior."

The Democrats thus revealed themselves to be more concerned with preserving the existing financial system, with a few minimal adjustments as a nod to "reform," than with overhauling it in any meaningful way.

Nonetheless, from a capitalist point of view, "no regulation" is preferable to "weak regulation"--and so Republicans in Congress are only too eager to help Trump tear down Dodd-Frank.

In fact, the assault has already scored its first victory.

On February 14, Trump signed legislation repealing recently enacted rules implementing Dodd-Frank's requirement that publicly traded fossil fuel and mining companies disclose payments to foreign governments

Trump justified the law with his usual bravado. "We're bringing back jobs big league," he told the press. "We're bringing them back at the plant level. We're bringing them back at the mine level. The energy jobs are coming back."

In reality, this repeal is a gift not to workers, but to executives in the energy industry, who have been lobbying against the measure in Dodd-Frank since the day it was proposed.

Among the most vocal opponents was none other than current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In 2010, he was the CEO of ExxonMobil--and he "and one of his lobbyists paid a half-hour visit to the amendment's Republican co-author, then-Senator Richard Lugar, to try to get it killed," Politico reported recently.

Tillerson failed to get the measure removed, but he and his allies did manage to keep the regulations needed to implement it from being put in place until June of last year. Because of long delay, Republicans were able to repeal the new regulations quickly this year, under the terms of the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to strike down federal regulations put in place at the end of a president's term by a simple majority vote.

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MOST OF the major components of Dodd-Frank have been in place for years, however, so a more robust legislative effort will be needed to overturn them. To this end, Republicans have reintroduced the Financial CHOICE Act, first proposed last year.

This bill takes aim at many key elements of Dodd-Frank, including: the Durbin Amendment, which limits fees charged to retailers for debit-card processing; the Volcker Rule, which restricts banks from gambling on risky investments for their own profit; and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a new agency tasked with protecting consumers from abuses by the financial sector.

In fact, each of these examples reveals different deficiencies in the design and implementation of Dodd-Frank.

For instance, the Durbin Amendment, named for its sponsor, Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, placed limits on debit-card processing fees, but did nothing to limit credit card processing fees--a clear gift to the banking industry. The amendment also did nothing to stop banks from imposing additional charges on consumer accounts to make up for "lost" fees--which, predictably, many banks did.

The Volcker Rule, meanwhile, began life in a three-page letter from former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker to President Obama; grew to 10 pages by the time it was added to Dodd-Frank; and was ultimately implemented via regulations running to just under 300 pages.

Thanks to years of lobbying and legal wrangling, the rule is so choked with exemptions and loopholes that--having won as many concessions for themselves as possible--Wall Street could then turn around and declare the finished product to be impossibly complex, and call for its repeal.

As for the CFPB, Dodd-Frank limited the scope and effectiveness of its activities by explicitly capping the bureau's annual budget--uniquely among bank regulators--and imposing substantial burdens, some of them also unique, on its rulemaking process. The CFPB's regulations can also be blocked by the interagency Financial Services Oversight Council, if that body decides they are a threat to financial stability.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of Dodd-Frank--certainly the most obvious one--is that despite its stated objective of "ending 'too big to fail' banks and other institutions," the U.S. financial system continues to be dominated by a small number of immense, interconnected and politically influential institutions, whose failure is unthinkable for U.S. political leaders.

Obviously, none of this makes the current administration's assault on Dodd-Frank a cause for celebration. Rather, it serves as a reminder of the limitations to achieving meaningful reform via the political process, no matter which party nominally holds power.

Dodd-Frank's "reforms" were always deeply flawed and inadequate. But now that Trump is poised to tear down even these meager checks on Wall Street greed, the need for a mass movement demanding genuine change is greater than ever.

Categories: Political Action

On the same side as Peña Nieto?

Socialist Worker - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 01:00

A member of the Action and Resistance Collective of Mexico analyzes Enrique Peña Nieto's effort to deflect opposition with an anti-Trump "Vibra Mexico" campaign.

Protesters march in Mexico City against gas price hikes and government corruption (ProtoplasmaKid | flickr)

DONALD TRUMP'S election has been a disaster for the Mexican government, which was already deeply unpopular even before it was faced with a new U.S. president making threats against the Mexican people.

Twenty-eight months after the forced disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Teachers College, the political crisis in Mexico has only deepened, especially after the federal government's decision to increase fuel prices, which unleashed a series of massive protests, dubbed the gasolinazo, that have marked some of the largest nationwide unrest in decades.

According to one January poll, approval for Peña Nieto has sunk to a historic low of 12 percent.

In the face of this growing anger, the Mexican business class has tried to stir up patriotism as their unifying banner, calling for "national unity" with Peña Nieto in his crusade to demand that Trump respect the interests of Mexican capital.

On January 28, Peña Nieto posted on his Facebook page a video praising the army and patriotic symbols under the motto #TodosSomosMéxico. Since then there has been a rise of nationalist propaganda and a tendency in social networks to promote the national coat of arms and flag while joining in the call for national unity.

Both the traditional media and the mainstream political parties have joined in, including the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Andrés Manuel López Obrador's MORENA, which formed in 2013 in reaction to the PRD's degeneration.

Among the Mexican middle and upper classes, there has been talk of boycotting U.S. companies--without the slightest recognition of just how dependent the Mexican economy is on international trade and security treaties with the United States.

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OUT OF this mood of upper-class nationalism has come Vibra Mexico (Mexico Rumbles), which is made up of various organizations and companies, including private universities and NGOs linked to entrepreneurs who are interested in taking over public education such as Mexicanos Primero (Mexicans First).

Vibra Mexico called a mobilization on February 12 in an attempt to show opposition to Trump's attacks. But even as this call went out, protests against the government and its gas price rise continued, with many workers skeptical of the call for national unity, seeing it as a tactic to keep the government's legitimacy afloat.

The patriotic campaign was further undermined on February 4 when the Ministry of Finance all but assured that there would be a second gasolinazo when it announced new price increases.

This decision was quickly suspended for at least two weeks in the hopes of calming protests, while the federal government set up a series of dialogues with business groups like the Business Coordinating Council and the Confederation of Employers of the Mexican Republic--the goal is to convince Mexican companies to postpone further price hikes to avoid inflaming demonstrations taking place in several states.

But these negotiations did not initially bear fruit because the entrepreneurs refused to cut into their profits by absorbing added fuel and transportation costs.

Trump is indeed a real threat to all Mexicans, but now that a large number of entrepreneurs have joined forces with the federal government, calls for the "Vibra Mexico" march should be seen for what they are: An effort to distract workers mobilized in the streets and direct their attention toward a common foreign enemy.

As the president of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE) Juan Pablo Castañón--perhaps attempting to overcompensate for rattled nerves among his constituents--put it:

We are strong and we should confront international developments by demanding respect and looking out for our own best interests. Our relevance in the international context has been demonstrated on innumerable occasions. We are the fourteenth largest economy in the world, one of the main international exporters overall and the largest exporter in Latin America. We have powerful global allies for promoting our goods and services and we are one of the most attractive nations for international investment.

The turnout for the Vibra Mexico march only ended up numbering in the thousands--despite having been widely publicized by the mainstream media and supported by establishment figures like former right-wing President Felipe Calderón brother-in-law and the president of Mexico City's major public university (UNAM).

This is far smaller than the hundreds of thousands who have taken part in the gasolinazo, the Ayotzinapa protests, and student protests, among others.

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IN THE face of a deepening crisis that Trump's policies will only exacerbate for the exploited classes, Mexican workers must create independent organizations with their own demands to avoid being taken advantage of by opportunist maneuvers from their employers and politicians, of which Vibra Mexico is one early such attempt.

They must remember that patriotic symbols are merely tools used by the bourgeoisie aiming to convince workers to defend the interests of their own exploiters. After all, the U.S. buys approximately 80 percent of Mexico's exports, giving it tremendous leverage over the business class.

Any "resistance" this class puts up to Trump will likely crack up as companies scramble to defend their own bottom line. Of course, this won't prevent politicians of various stripes--be they of the "left," right or center--from posing as patriots in order to lure votes in advance of the 2018 national elections.

Socialists will have to find ways to relate to the legitimate anger of millions of Mexicans in the face of Trump's racist policies and his imperialist bullying. But we must begin by stating clearly that we need class solidarity between the Mexican and U.S. workers, not national unity between Mexican workers and bosses.

Categories: Political Action

She stood on the barricades

Socialist Worker - Tue, 03/07/2017 - 01:00

Robyn Karina, an organizer with the International Socialists in Canada, contributes an article on a revolutionary who fought for the rights of women in the Paris Commune.

Elisabeth Dmitrieff

THROUGHOUT HISTORY, women have been at the forefront of class struggle. Often times, they have been the first to say "enough is enough" and take their anger out into the streets.

One such woman, often forgotten, is Elisabeth Dmitrieff. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Russian Revolution--touched off when working-class women of Petrograd struck on International Working Women's Day, leading to the overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy--Dmitrieff's story is one to remember and inspire.

On November 1, 1850, Elisabeth Dmitrieff was born out of wedlock. Her father was an aristocratic Tsarist official and her mother was a German nurse 20 years his junior. As a student, Dmitrieff was inspired by Chernyshevsky's novel What Is To Be Done?, which would likewise inspire Lenin years later. As a result, she became active in the early socialist movement that was developing in the harsh conditions of Tsarist Russia.

After finishing her basic schooling, Dmitrieff was restless for more knowledge and so, at the age of 18, she entered into a "mariage blanc" (a marriage of convenience) in order to move to Switzerland, one of the few countries at the time that didn't bar women from attending university.

In Geneva, she met other Russian revolutionaries who were interested in the First International--the International Workingmen's Association, an international organization which brought together into a unified force socialists, communists, anarchists and trade unionists--really anyone that wanted to defend the working class and advance the class struggle against the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system. With her fellow Russians, Dmitrieff co-founded the Russian section of the First International.

This group of Russian radicals sent the 19-year-old Dmitrieff to London as a delegate in order to study the workers' movement there and meet Karl Marx, co-author of the Communist Manifesto and the intellectual leader of the International.

What else to read

To learn more about women and the Paris Commune, read Edith Thomas' classic The Women Incendiaries.

Donny Gluckstein's The Paris Commune: A Revolution in Democracy is a comprehensive history, based in primary source accounts, of the first glimpse of a society controlled by workers.

In London, Dmitrieff became friendly with Marx and his family, especially his daughters. Despite the 33-year age difference between the two, they had in-depth discussions, during which Dmitrieff explained to Marx the complex socioeconomic conditions in Russia at the time.

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ON MARCH 18, 1871, the workers of Paris rose up, taking their lives into their own hands and establishing the Paris Commune. With red flags flying, a socialist revolution by the working masses had begun, and it fought against not just the injustices of the local bourgeoisie, but the exploitation and oppression of workers of all nations by the ruling class and the capitalist system. The world watched the Paris Commune with anticipation.

Following the declaration of the Paris Commune, Marx and the General Council of the International sent Dmitrieff, then just 20 years old, into the workers' revolution to report on what was going on and to take part in organizing it.

Diving into the revolutionary upsurge, Dmitrieff met with working-class women in Paris and contributed to the defense of the barricades by organizing ambulance stations and canteens, all while pushing for the Commune to put into practice measures to further advance the emancipation of working women.

What resulted was "l'Union des femmes pour la défense de Paris et les soins aux blesses"--the Women's Union--a militant working-class women's organization connected to the International that Dmitrieff co-founded with French anarchist Nathalie Lemel.

At the first meeting on April 11, a central committee was democratically elected. As was standard in the Commune, the elected paid organizers received no more than an average worker's wage and were recallable by the members at any moment. On this central committee were several working-class women, and Dmitrieff was the general secretary.

Branches of the Women's Union were set up in each arrondissement (district) of Paris, and within each branch, there were committees for recruiting women to work at ambulance stations, canteens and on the barricades--which the Women's Union was adamant about its members being ready to defend at a moment's notice.

The money the Women's Union got through the dues from its estimated 2,000 members and from the central governing bodies of the Commune was used to provide wages for the paid organizers, to aid any of the general members that were ill or particularly impoverished, and buy guns and ammunition to arm the women. It was this kind of commitment to socialism and women's liberation in both theory and practice that propelled the Women's Union and Dmitrieff.

The members of the Women's Union encompassed a significant portion of the advanced section, or vanguard, of working-class women of Paris. These class-conscious women saw the need to overthrow capitalism and build the socialist alternative for the liberation of themselves as both women and workers.

In early May, anonymous posters were plastered on walls across Paris that pleaded for an armistice with the reactionary bourgeois government in Versailles--which was preparing to drown the workers' revolution in blood. The Women's Union published a clear denunciation--possibly authored by Dmitrieff herself. It read, in part:

Women of Paris will prove to France and to the world that they, too, at the moment of supreme danger--at the barricades and at the ramparts of Paris, if the reactionary powers should force her gates--they too know how, like their brothers, to give their blood and their life for the defense and triumph of the Commune, that is, the People.

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THE WOMEN'S Union was unflinching in pushing the Commune toward a greater embrace of women's rights.

For example, just as before the Commune, women predominantly manufactured the uniforms of the National Guard. Once the workers rose to power, many business owners fled the city. This resulted in less work, so the Women's Union called on the Commission for Labor and Exchange to bring more women into uniform making.

The contracts, however, were assigned to traditional manufacturers that hadn't fled the city, and so the women workers actually ended up getting paid even less than they did under the old bourgeois regime they had just gotten rid of. When the Women's Union learnt of this, it demanded the Tailors' Union and delegates from the Commission of Labor and Exchange negotiate for higher payment, and that all contracts in the future go to cooperatives run by the workers themselves.

The values that moved the Women's Union and Dmitrieff to struggle for such advancements of women's rights can be summed up in the manifesto of the Women's Union, signed by Dmitrieff:

In the old social order women's work was the most exploited...In the current situation of terrible and rising poverty due to the collapse of employment opportunities it is to be feared that the women of Paris, who have been revolutionized for a time, will return to the passive or more or less reactionary state of the old order created for them, due to continual privation.

What was proposed then were "immediate and essential reforms." These included:

-- A. A variety of work in each trade--a continually repeated manual movement damages both mind and body;

-- B. A reduction in working hours--physical exhaustion inevitably destroys man's spiritual qualities;

-- C. An end to all competition between male and female workers--their interests are identical and their solidarity is essential to the success of the final worldwide strike of labor against capital.

The association therefore wants:

--1. Equal pay for equal hours of work;

--2. A local and international federation of the various trade sections in order to ease the movement and exchange of goods by centralizing the interests of the producers.

The general development of these producer associations requires:

--1. Informing and organizing the working masses...The consequence of this will be that every association member will be expected to belong to the International Working Men's Association.

Outside of workplace struggles, the Women's Union fought for women's right to divorce; an end to the distinction between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" children; education for girls and orphans that was free from the influence of the Catholic Church and at the expense of the Commune; pensions for wives--whether officially married or not--and children of National Guardsmen who had died defending the Commune; and more.

The Women's Union put forward measures that directly helped the working women of Paris take their lives into their own hands.

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WHILE THE workers of the Paris Commune were smashing the old capitalist order and building a socialist one, the leaders of the overthrown government were plotting the demise of this direct democracy of working people.

By the middle of March, the counterrevolutionary forces in Versailles had their army ready to attack the newly blossoming world of peace and labor that was dawning in Paris. What would follow was the Bloody Week, which resulted in an estimated 20,000 men, women and children of the Commune being slaughtered.

In a cruel irony, the day before the final weeklong assault by the Versailles forces to crush the Commune, the women of Paris achieved a great feat: The Commune, after existing for only two months, decreed equal pay for women and men workers. This and many other achievements would be lost in the spilt blood of the communards, not to be attempted again for many decades to come.

Armed with two pistols that she kept in a red sash wrapped around the waist of her dress, Dmitrieff charged into battle to defend the workers' revolution--firing bullets at the encroaching enemy and applying bandages to her wounded comrades. Her last order to the Women's Union committee of the 11th arrondissement demanded: "Muster all the women, and the committee itself, and come here immediately to go to the barricades."

At just 20 years old, Elisabeth Dmitrieff saw the Paris Commune as bearing "the banner of the future" and "representing the international and revolutionary principles of the people" which, when victorious, the "working men and working women, in full solidarity, with an ultimate effort, will annihilate forever every vestige of exploitation and exploiters." This was the future she was willing to die for.

Unlike many, Dmitrieff was able to escape the vengeful destruction that the bourgeoisie unleashed on the Communards. Dmitrieff fled to Switzerland, where she gave shelter to fellow exiles for a time, before returning to Russia.

Shortly after escaping Paris, the husband from her "marriage blanc" died. Soon after, she married a political prisoner in order to save him from the death penalty. When he was deported to Siberia, she went along with him. She spent the rest of her life quietly in remote Siberia until her death at the age of 67 in 1918.

Despite her importance as a revolutionary figure during the Paris Commune and her work in the First International, much remains a mystery about Dmitrieff's later life: Did she continue her revolutionary work in Siberia? Did she continue to keep in touch with her fellow Russian comrades or Marx? Did she know about and support the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, which the experiences of the Paris Commune had an immense influence on? We simply do not know.

What can be said with certainty is that Elisabeth Dmitrieff was committed to organizing masses of working women to collectively bring an end to all exploitation and oppression, while attempting to bring about the birth of a new world of freedom and equality. She was an extraordinary woman whose courageous story and inspiring example, deserves to be known.

Categories: Political Action