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Tijuana meeting on fight for education, public jobs


first_imgSeminar students with their certicates. Photo: José Lino Meza ParraTijuana, Mexico — The intense five days of the 9th U.S./Cuba/Mexico/Latin America Labor Conference and Seminar in Tijuana, Mexico, from Aug. 15 to 19, resolved to prepare for Encuentro Sindical Nuestra América VI (Sixth Unionist Meeting in Our America) — to be hosted by Cuba in 2014. ESNA VI will continue integrating working-class movements and class conscious unions that confront the capitalist economic crisis on many fronts.ESNA is a movement of millions of workers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean offering powerful examples for the U.S. working class. The capitalist class has no borders in international trade, finance and exploitation. Neither should workers!On Sept. 12, the unjust imprisonment for the Cuban 5 — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González — will complete its 14th year. Cuban 5 supporters organized a special program featuring Rosa Aurora Freijanes, spouse of Fernando González, on the night of Aug. 17, and shared a special cake marking his birthday the following day.Banners calling on Obama to free the Cuban 5 decorated the meeting hall throughout the conference, making everyone conscious of the need to expand the struggle to free these five heroes. Freijanes had participated in the struggle to free Nelson Mandela from apartheid South Africa. She knows the people can win freedom for the Cuban 5.The conference highlighted the fight for education and public jobs — a point of struggle in communities across the U.S., in Mexico and many other countries.Maribel Vázquez Lozano, a leader in the Cuban Union of Education, Science and Sport opened the conference along with Aníbal Melo Infante, representing the Confederation of Cuban Workers International Department.Melo Infante stressed,“We have an obligation to support those teachers and students who are creating a movement to oppose the privatization of education.” He called such privatization in Mexico, Chile, Europe and the U.S., “selling a human right.”Melo Infante rebutted the corporate media’s lies about the current steps to modernize the Cuban economy, asserting the adjustments underway are aimed at meeting the needs of the people. There is no privatization of the economy in Cuba, he said, only a proposal to open minor areas of the economy to self-employment.The main economic engine will remain in the hands of the state, which will guarantee the social conquests of the revolution — free health care, free education through graduate levels, social security, employment and retirement for all Cubans. The highly educated Cuban population is what makes it possible for Cuba to share its benefits around the world, Melo Infante said.Cuba’s education systemVázquez Lozano presented details about the Cuban education system, including its ideological roots in the formulations of José Martí and Fidel Castro. Castro linked the unequal and low level of education with Cuba’s neocolonial economic system in his 1953 “History Will Absolve Me” speech at his trial after the attack on the Moncada Barracks.Emphasizing the primacy of education for socialist Cuba, Vázquez Lozano drew applause saying, “Without education, there is no revolution.” One of the first acts of the revolution was to create 10,000 classrooms and employ all the unemployed teachers, but it didn’t guarantee classrooms everywhere.In 1961, a massive literacy campaign went to the far corners of Cuba, eliminating illiteracy in one year. This dedication to education is shown 50 years later in the “Yo sí puedo” (Yes I can) literacy method developed by Cuban educators and used around the world.A concrete benefit of the growing continental integration represented by ESNA, “Yo sí puedo” originates from a radio literacy program developed by Cuban educators working in Haiti. More than 5 million people in 28 countries have conquered illiteracy using this program since its inception in 2001, including its Braille version for blind people. Internationalist in intent, it is designed to help people 15 years of age and older who have never gone to school develop skills to participate more fully in their society.The United Nations declared Venezuela and Bolivia free of illiteracy after these countries used this method. It is being used in Mexico, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Granada, Brazil, New Zealand, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Colombia, El Salvador, Uruguay, Guatemala, and St. Kitts and Nevis.Education is mandatory in Cuba and free of charge at all levels, from infant care and pre-school through post-graduate work.Before the 1959 revolution, there were only three universities in Cuba — in Havana, Santiago and Las Villas — with only 15,000 students, compared to today’s hundreds of thousands. Only those in the richer social classes were able to attend. The education style was repetition and memorization with separation between the students and their professors, who were servile to the administration and the government.The new paradigm is University for Everyone with classes in every province and every municipality. Adult education and education for children and adults with disabilities is also emphasized so everyone can develop to their fullest capacity.Cuba’s debt-free graduates, who are guaranteed a place in productive work, are a sharp contrast to the reality faced by young people in the U.S., but it was not the most striking difference. Answering a question, Vázquez Lozano contrasted the Cuban system to the shockingly low U.S. high school graduation rates, especially for students of color — described as a 78 percent “push-out” rate.“We don’t expel anyone,” she replied, “except the beautiful expulsion when they graduate. If students in the course of their studies decide to leave and not continue their studies, our professors go to visit them and bring them back to school. That is where we see the greatest challenge, unity between the students and the teachers.”Watch the full panel at ustre.am/:1G35m or view belowFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


Anti-fascists organize resistance as crisis grips Ukraine coup regime


first_imgMarchers in Odessa defy threats, demand a referendum on autonomy and an end to political repression, March 23.Photo: BorotbaJust a month after a U.S.-backed coup d’état in Ukraine brought to power a regime dominated by neo-Nazis and pro-Western capitalist politicians, the ruling junta finds itself in deep crisis.Threats from the government in Kiev and its U.S. and Western European patrons were unable to intimidate the people of the Crimean autonomous region, who voted overwhelmingly to break away from Ukraine and affiliate with Russia on March 16. Russian President Vladimir Putin and local leaders made it official on March 18.Now infighting has exploded among the fascist factions in the ruling coalition in Kiev.The International Monetary Fund, meanwhile, has agreed to give the coup-makers an $18 billion loan — but only if they accept painful austerity measures. These are almost certain to throw Ukraine deeper into chaos.Further, Kiev has been unable to subdue the rebellious eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, where anti-fascists are digging in to organize grassroots resistance.People in these major working-class industrial and mining areas are rising to oppose the junta and demand political and economic autonomy. They reject the rule of the billionaire oligarchs appointed as new regional governors by Kiev. Some are even calling for re-nationalization of privatized industries.At this time, most are not calling for separation from Ukraine.Thieves fall outPhoto: BorotbaOvernight on March 27-28, members of the neo-Nazi Right Sector gang surrounded the Ukrainian Rada [parliament] and threatened to storm it — much as they had done a month earlier, when the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych was toppled.But this time, the Right Sector was protesting its own erstwhile partners, some of whom were barricaded inside, including members of the far-right Fatherhood party and neo-Nazi Svoboda party.European television broadcast images of Svoboda politicians hanging out of windows shouting epithets while Right Sector goons hurled rocks at them from the street.What happened?On March 24, Right Sector leader Aleksandr Muzychko was shot dead during a police raid in the western city of Rovno. Muzychko had a long history of fascist terrorism and was on several international “most wanted” lists — a Ukrainian version of the anti-Cuba terrorist Luis Posada Carriles.The assassination of Muzychko was followed by raids on Right Sector hideouts and seizures of weapons.The hit came on orders from acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, a representative of the Fatherland party associated with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.Avakov has established a “National Guard” under his command to deputize the fascist gangs and bring them all under the junta’s control. He also masterminded the joint neo-Nazi/police patrols that have suppressed any resistance in the western cities.Avakov represents the coalition of far-right forces that control the commanding heights of police, military and prosecutorial powers of the new regime.Some forces in the Right Sector, like Muzychko, didn’t want to follow orders. Avakov and his colleagues decided that those who wouldn’t play ball must be eliminated.The fascist street gangs served their purpose as the violent fists of the Euromaidan protests that ousted Yanukovych. But when it comes to investments and military strategy, Washington, Bonn and the IMF prefer to work with well-groomed, business-suited fascists like Avakov and Svoboda leader Oleh Tyanhybok.Tymoshenko: ‘Grab a machine gun’On March 16, the New York Daily News reported that 1.4 million people in New York City — about 1 in 5 — now rely on charities, food pantries and soup kitchens to eat. That’s an increase of 200,000 over the last five years. It’s a crisis echoed in cities, towns and rural areas across the U.S.Yet what is the top priority of political leaders in Washington? According to a headline in the March 25 New York Times, “Ukraine Aid Leads Agenda as Congress Returns.”Why?U.S. imperialism has big plans for Ukraine. First, it contain pipelines that control much of the flow of oil and gas between Russia and Western Europe. In addition, stationing NATO troops and weaponry there is also key to U.S. plans to isolate and dismember Russia.Even after promising the Kiev junta $10 billion in loans, Washington is worried about the stability of the coup. Means have to be found to stabilize the country — that is, make it profitable for the Western imperialists. That means not only controlling the far-right factions in the western part, but quelling the anti-fascist resistance in the south and east.While the inter-regime crisis was unfolding in Kiev, a leaked phone call posted online revealed more about the fires of war that the Obama administration and congressional leaders are furiously stoking.The call was from former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, considered a leading candidate in the presidential elections planned for May 25. Tymoshenko, a leader of the so-called Orange Revolution of 2004, was imprisoned for corruption before the coup.Speaking with a former military official after the Crimea referendum, Tymoshenko urged her supporters to “take up arms and kill the fucking Russians along with their leader.”Tymoshenko also said she was ready to “grab a machine gun and shoot [Putin] in the head.”The recording ends with Tymoshenko threatening to use nuclear weapons against the 8 million Russian-speakers living in Ukraine.After the call went public, Tymoshenko claimed the part about using nukes was manipulated. The rest, she confirmed, was accurate.Anti-fascists build resistanceIn the cities of southern and eastern Ukraine, the leftist Union Borotba (Struggle) is one of the groups organizing anti-fascist resistance.Borotba’s central office in Kiev was ransacked after the coup and its activists forced underground. Outside Kiev, Borotba and other anti-fascists work in a hazy state of semi-legality, operating more or less openly depending on the level of organized resistance in each city.This creates special challenges for organizers. For example, print shop owners refuse to print flyers or newspapers due to threats from the fascists. However, Borotba has managed to get help from sympathetic workers to publish its materials.A 10,000-copy run of “Front,” the first issue of a newspaper published by Borotba and the Antifascist Resistance Center, sold out in just three days.Borotba activists have set up tents and information tables to spread their message and recruit people to local anti-fascist defense committees composed of activists, workers, youths and former Red Army soldiers.In Kharkov, where the Right Sector murdered two anti-fascists on March 14, Borotba plays a leading role in organizing mass resistance.On March 22, some 2,000 people defied a ban and rallied at Freedom Square for a people’s speakout initiated by Borotba. A major goal of the event was to recruit supporters for the local defense organization, People’s Unity.The following day, hundreds marched down Rymarska Street to remember the two slain activists. They chanted: “Fascists kill! Power covers up!”Police then charged Borotba leader Denis Levin, a convener of the rally, with violating the ban and ordered him to appear in court on March 26. After a crowd of supporters picketed the court during his hearing, the judge dismissed the charge as “baseless.”In Odessa, Borotba activists took up the case of Anton Davidchenko, a local resistance leader who was seized by the “Alpha” special police unit on March 17 and kidnapped to Kiev, where he is being held incommunicado.Some 1,000 people defied fascist threats and rallied at Odessa’s Kulikovo Field on March 23 to demand a referendum on autonomy. Led by Regional Council Deputy and Borotba activist Alex Albu, they marched to the prosecutor’s office to demand Davidchenko’s release and an end to the regime’s political repression.Communist Party holds congressThe Communist Party of Ukraine (KPU) has also been targeted by the junta.On its first day, the new regime threatened an outright ban of the KPU. The party’s headquarters in Kiev was trashed and is still occupied by the Right Sector. Party members have been attacked and beaten.KPU leaders have continued to assert their membership in the parliament although they have been effectively banned from Kiev since the coup.On March 26, the KPU held its 47th Extraordinary Congress in the eastern industrial city of Donetsk. The party nominated its general secretary, Peter Simonenko, to run for president in the May elections.It is unclear whether the KPU will be allowed on the ballot, or what dangers party candidates might face.Emphasizing the need of the party to preserve its cadres and organization, Simonenko said: “We have grounds for optimism. In a short time, the new regime showed its anti-people nature and incompetence, its inability to govern. The inevitable deterioration of the situation of workers as a result of the requirements of the IMF will inevitably create the basis for a new protest movement.”Workers, youths and retirees alike are determined to defeat the far-right gangs and push back Western imperialism. They remember their history as part of the Soviet Ukraine, which defeated the fascist occupation during World War II, with support from the Red Army.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


Thousands demand “Justice for Eric Garner!”


first_imgWW photo: Johnnie StevensStaten Island, N.Y. — At least 15,000 people demonstrated in Staten Island, N.Y., on Aug. 23,  demanding justice for Eric Garner, an African American, slain on July 17 by New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo.   A video of Pantaleo applying a chokehold to Garner, killing him, has been widely disseminated, and been seen by millions of people worldwide.The police execution of Garner, a 43-year-old loving father of six children, enraged New Yorkers. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” were uttered repeatedly,  Despite his pleas, racist cops let Garner die.Even though the city’s medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the chokehold and chest compression, none of the cops responsible for his death have been charged.Solidarity against racist terrorThe National Action Network and its leader, the Rev. Al Sharpton, initiated the Aug. 23 protest under the theme of “We will not go back.  March for Justice!”  It was held on the 25th anniversary of the lynching of 16-year-old African-American Yusef Hawkins, who was shot to death by racist youth in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.Demonstrators came from all over New York City and New Jersey. They boarded buses in the early morning from Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Westchester. The Arab American Association of New York in Bay Ridge filled a bus. Service Employees Local 1199, the hospital workers’ union, provided most of the buses. Hundreds of people took the Staten Island Ferry, chanting all the way.Those who attended this spirited march expressed solidarity with the Black community of Ferguson, Mo., and the family of Michael Brown, an African-American youth who was gunned down in that city on Aug. 9 by police officer Darren Wilson.  Signs read, “We stand with Ferguson.”  A popular chant was “Hands up! Don’t Shoot!” which has been a prominent slogan in Ferguson.Protesters gathered outside Tompkinsville Park in northeast Staten Island at the site where Garner was killed and then marched to the office of the Richmond County district attorney, Daniel Donovan, calling for justice all the way.Chanting, “No Justice!  No Peace!” the demonstrators demanded that the cops responsible be charged and held accountable for Garner’s death — and put in prison.  They then marched to the 120th Precinct in St. George, where the rally was held.Speakers at the rally included Esaw Garner, Eric Garner’s spouse, who spoke movingly, as did several of their children.  Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother; Ellisha Flagg, his sister; and his nephew also spoke.Family members of other Black youth who’d been killed by police also spoke.   Constance Malcolm told the demonstrators, “This is my family now,” pointing to them.Malcolm’s 18-year-old son, Ramarley Graham, was shot to death by cop Richard Haste in Graham’s Bronx home in 2012. A judge dropped the case against Haste, citing prosecutorial errors, and then the grand jury refused to re-indict him.Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo, spoke.  In 1999, racist police shot 41 times at her 22-year-old unarmed son, a Guinean immigrant.  Since then, police officers have killed more than 200 people, with Garner being the latest victim of racist police violence.Rally speakers raised the police killing via chokehold of Anthony Baez in the Bronx 20 years ago.  Others at the podium told the crowd of other young Black and Latino/a victims of racist police brutality.Remember James Powell and Clifford Glover!Former New York Gov. David Paterson reminded marchers that July 16 was the 50th anniversary of the killing of 15-year-old African-American James Powell by police Lt. Thomas Gilligan.  That heinous act sparked the 1964 rebellion in the New York neighborhoods of Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant, and then in other cities.Paterson pointed to the 1973 killing by police officer Thomas Shea of 10-year-old Clifford Glover, a fourth-grader who weighed 90 pounds. After the fatal shots were fired, a cop was heard on a walkie-talkie saying “Die, you little bastard.” Shea was acquitted by a nearly all-white jury.Paterson also told of the racist violence experienced by his father, the late Basil Paterson, a former New York secretary of state and New York City’s first Black deputy mayor.  He said, “In 1942 my father was pistol-whipped in front of all his neighbors for no reason.”Energetically, the Rev. Herbert Daughtry of the House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, and a longtime anti-racist leader, shouted to the crowd: “Forward ever! Backward never!”The crowd cheered in response to a shoutout from the podium recognizing Ramsey Orta, who took the video of Garner’s killing.Rep. José E. Serrano spoke to protesters in Spanish and English. “We are one,” he emphasized, referring to the historic Black and Latino/a community alliance that built Local 1199 and fought racism for decades.Labor leaders addressed the crowd, including United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew.  George Gresham, president of  Local 1199, spoke on behalf of the union’s more than 100,000 members. Among them is Constance Malcolm.The presence of Gresham, Mulgrew and other union leaders enraged police organizations, none of which deserve to be called “unions,” since the cops’ pre-eminent role in capitalist society is to act as armed defenders of the interests of the bosses and against the interests of workers and oppressed people.During the march, many people complimented and photographed the six-foot-long sign carried by the People’s Power Assembly delegation that read: “Jobs with a living wage, not racist police murder!”Thousands of International Action Center fliers which linked the police murders in Staten Island and Ferguson, Mo., to the genocidal war against the people of Gaza were distributed.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


Two years after factory collapse, Bangladeshi workers address students


first_imgLexington, Ky. — Mahinur Begum went to work on the morning of April 24, 2013, even though she knew she shouldn’t.“We knew the building was unsafe, but we went anyway,” she recalled. Her workplace was a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, called the Rana Plaza. That day, during her shift, the building collapsed.Speaking to a packed room of students and activists on March 3, Begum described the collapse of the Rana Plaza building. “The first thing we heard was the sound. Then I was struck by falling machines and concrete,” she said through an interpreter. “After 18 hours, I was pulled out of the rubble. I had lost a toe,” she added. A total of 1,129 people were killed. Begum was among the more than 2,500 who were injured. She spoke at the invitation of UK (University of Kentucky) United Students Against Sweatshops, a student organization that is lobbying the university to break ties with garment companies who refuse to adhere to new safety regulations.Rana Plaza stands as the worst disaster in the bloody history of the Bangladeshi garment industry. Kalpana Akter, a trade union activist who is traveling with Begum, noted that 80 percent of Bangladesh’s foreign currency comes from the garment industry. Many legislators are also factory owners. In response to a question from the audience, Akter said that no mainstream political party in Bangladesh is concerned with workers’ rights. The owner of the Rana Plaza has been linked to the ruling Awami League.Conditions for garment workers are Dickensian. Both Begum and Akter said that 14-hour shifts are routine, and that factories are rife with verbal and physical abuse. An average month’s pay is the equivalent of $68, which meant that when Begum was released from the hospital, she had to borrow money from her neighbors to pay for medicine.When asked what people in the U.S. could do to help, both women responded simply, “We need your solidarity.” More information about USAS’s “End Deathtraps Campaign” can be found at usas.org/2015/03/02/enddeathtrapstour01/.Stanley is a member of FIST – Fight Imperialism, Stand Together – residing in Lexington, Ky.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


A year of U.S.-coordinated war in Yemen


first_imgIn March last year a coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and supported by Washington began a daily bombing campaign and later ground operation in Yemen.Over the last year, this war has accelerated, bringing in military forces from Egypt and Sudan in what is seen as a proxy war against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its growing influence throughout the Middle East and North Africa.The aim was to halt and drive back the Ansarullah Movement (Houthis) in their seizure of territory in central and southern regions of the country. The Ansarullah are a Shiite-based movement that has formed a tactical alliance with elements of the Yemeni military, which remains loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.Saudi piloted U.S. warplanes bomb Yemen’s cities.Despite several attempts to broker a ceasefire, the bombing of Yemen by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council continues, utilizing U.S.-manufactured warplanes, offensive weapons and intelligence sharing. The administration of President Barack Obama has provided diplomatic cover for the war against Yemen, a continuation of aerial bombardments and drone attacks that have taken place for several years.On April 4, attacks by warplanes killed at least one person and injured many others in Yemen as the Gulf monarchies continued their bombing of residential areas across the country. Yemeni news agencies also reported that the Saudi-GCC bombing raids struck a camp for internally displaced people located in the northwestern Hajjah Province, leaving at least six children and one woman injured. These bombing operations hit the Lamrour district of al-Shahel, a city in Hajjah.According to Yemen’s al-Masirah TV, the Saudi-GCC coalition also carried out bombing raids in Sa’ada, in the north of the country, destroying homes and killing one person. Additional reports said air strikes bombed a telecommunications installation in Saqayn as well as a post office in Haydan. The reports noted that a number of houses were struck in the operation. The two cities are located in the Sa’ada Province, an Ansarullah stronghold.An April 4 Press TV article stated, “The Saudi attacks on Monday [April 4] came as Ansarullah fighters and allied army units continued to launch reprisal attacks on Saudi and pro-Saudi military positions inside and outside Yemen. Yemenis managed to kill scores of Saudi forces in one such attack on troops in Rabuah region, southern Saudi Arabia. The allied forces also launched missile attacks on Saudi-led forces in al-Naser military base, located between Yemen’s Jawf and Ma’rib provinces.”Meanwhile, resistance efforts on the part of the Ansarullah and its allies are complicating the war for the U.S.-backed Saudi-GCC coalition. In recent days Yemeni resistance fighters have taken 42 Saudi troops into custody in Bayda and Jawf provinces. Several other Saudi troops were killed in Ma’rib.The Yemeni armed forces, which are supported by Popular Committees loyal to the Houthi Ansarullah Movement, captured 31 Saudi troops in the Rada district in the southern province of Bayda and detained 11 others in the al-Matma district in the northwestern province of Jawf.News reports claimed that the detained soldiers were being deployed to the west-central Ma’rib province to enhance the Saudi-GCC forces there when Yemeni forces captured them. The Yemeni forces launched a separate operation against Saudi troops using Katyusha rockets in Ma’rib city, resulting in six deaths and 17 wounded. (sabanews.net, April 3)Attacks were carried out by Saudi-GCC warplanes in Taiz, the third-largest city in the country. Saba News agency reported April 4, “Saudi fighter jets waged on Monday [April 4] a series of air raids on many areas in Taiz province, a local official said. The war jets targeted al-Shuqirah market in the central district of al-Wazeyah, leaving damage to houses and private properties, the official added.”This same report emphasizes, “The warplanes targeted al-Siteen Street, in the north of Taiz, with several raids leaving serious damage to a number of houses and roads in the area. The Saudi aggression also waged many sorties on Warazan and Khadeer areas in the south of Taiz city, the official added.”Casualties escalateIt has been estimated by various news and humanitarian sources that up to 10,000 people have died in the intensified fighting in Yemen in the last year. Meanwhile, 80 percent of the population is in dire need of assistance.A United Nations Children Education Fund report published on March 29, “Children on the Brink,” said that millions of people are being negatively impacted by the war. Children and women have been affected severely through the aerial strikes, ground operations and the attacks on civilian areas, including neighborhoods, internally displaced person camps, schools and medical facilities.Statistics cited by UNICEF indicate that 63 health care facilities have been bombed and severely damaged, while most hospitals and clinics report extreme shortages in equipment, supplies and personnel. Repeated bombing operations have resulted in sporadic access to electricity.A news release announcing the report reads: “UNICEF verified more than 1,560 incidents of grave violations against children in Yemen. As a result, over 900 children were killed and more than 1,300 were injured in the past year alone. … With more than 50 verified attacks on schools, children were also killed while at school or on their way to or from school. These numbers represent the tip of the iceberg as they only indicate the cases that UNICEF was able to verify.”Moreover, the UNICEF report stresses: “The disruption of the inflow of food and fuel as a result of the violence and restrictions on imports has paralyzed the delivery of basic services across Yemen. Beyond the direct impact of the war, UNICEF estimates that nearly 10,000 additional deaths may have occurred among children under five years old in the past year due to preventable diseases as a result of the decline in critical health services including immunization and the treatment of diarrhea and pneumonia. This figure is in addition to the nearly 40,000 children who die every year in Yemen before their fifth birthday.”With the U.S. military and security apparatuses coordinating the war by providing fighter jets, ordinances, refueling technology, intelligence sharing and diplomatic cover for the Saudi Arabia-GCC coalition and its allied militias, Washington is culpable in the current strife. The impact of the military campaign aimed at the Ansarullah over the last year is compounded by periodic drone attacks ostensibly targeting al-Qaida and its partners inside the country.Resistance by the Ansarullah and other allied forces is formidable, with ongoing attacks in Yemen and the spread of the war into eastern Saudi Arabia.Another ceasefire has been announced for April. But if the recent past is any indication the airstrikes and targeting of civilians will only intensify and therefore worsen the conditions for people living in Yemen.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


Detained immigrant women start hunger strike


first_imgWomen immigrants held in the Berks County Family Detention Center in Leesport, Pa., launched a courageous hunger strike on Aug. 8 to protest their confinement and that of their children, whose health and well-being are deteriorating. Calling themselves the “Madres Berks,” they assert, “We are desperate and we will get out dead or alive.” (telesurtv.net, Aug. 12)These Central American refugees say they have been detained for 270 to 365 days. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told the media that the administration is ensuring the average stay is “20 days or less.”  When the women got wind of his statement, they decided to publicize their long detentions.In a letter to Johnson, the women wrote: “On many occasions our children [ages 2 to 16] have thought about suicide because of the confinement and desperation that is caused by being here.” (democracynow.org, Aug. 17)  Their children are suffering, many not eating or sleeping.Olga Byrne of Human Rights First, an immigrants’ advocacy organization, says, “The Obama administration’s detention of families has had severely traumatizing effects on both children and their mothers. Even a few days in detention can be harmful to the health of children.”These women were not granted asylum at the U.S. border, but, with the American Civil Liberties Union’s assistance, have appealed and filed petitions in federal court requesting new screenings. The government asserts that the women do not have a legal right to challenge their imprisonment or to appeal through the courts as newly arrived immigrants. A federal judge agreed. But an appeal has been filed on the women’s behalf — and it’s a test case for other “noncitizens,” too.Stop detentions and deportations!The U.S. government’s policy regarding Central American families fleeing violence and extreme poverty in their homelands is to lock up women with their children, including babies, in “family detention centers.” Instead of providing safe, healthy environments, or allowing these families to live with relatives, the state punitively jails them in isolated facilities, providing little or no legal or social services and violating their civil and human rights.The practice of detaining families expanded in 2014 when the government tried to stop immigration, mainly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — countries where the U.S. continues to play a large role in fomenting violence and instability.  In 2009, former Secretary of State, and current presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton supported a right-wing coup against the democratically elected government of Honduras. The coup ushered in repression and violence on a massive scale, causing many people to flee.In the summer of 2015, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered the government to release migrant children and their mothers within 20 days, arguing that their detention violates the Flores Settlement, which  established policies regarding custody and housing of immigrant children since 1997.Around the 20-day period, Texas immigration jails send detainees to Berks, where “the 20-day period doesn’t apply,” says immigration attorney Carol Anne Donohue, president of the Greater Reading [Pa.] Immigration Project. The for-profit detention center is publicly run, but has a contract with Immigration, Customs and Enforcement to maintain a certain occupancy rate. The state cancelled Berks’ license, so it is illegal to detain children there, but that is being allowed anyway.The Obama administration is holding in custody and deporting record numbers of immigrants; tens of thousands are being held in detention centers where conditions are abysmal. Many are awaiting hearings. This is an enormous humanitarian crisis. Detention Watch Network asserts that “the current family detention program is the largest since the internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.”Major civil liberties and immigrant rights organizations have been protesting the unjust, inhumane practice of family detention through demonstrations and in the courts. Regarding the Berks’ detainees, demonstrators displayed banners calling for the release of these women and children and the detention center’s closure on Aug. 15 in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where the Obama family was vacationing.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


New Yorkers protest MOAB bombing in Afghanistan


first_imgMore than 40 people came to the Times Square military recruiting station in Manhattan, N.Y., on April 14 to demand that U.S. imperialism get out of Afghanistan.Called on with less than 24 hours’ notice by the International League of People’s Struggle, the rally denounced war criminal President Donald Trump’s dropping of a 21,600-pound bomb on Afghanistan. Among the member organizations represented were BAYAN-USA; the Committee to Stop FBI Repression; NYC Students for Justice in Palestine; Samidoun: the Palestinian Political Prisoners Network; and the International Action Center.Workers and tourists stopped to listen to speeches that cut through corporate media lies. Michela Martinazzi from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression told onlookers about Palestinian political prisoner Rasmea Odeh, who was tortured by Israel and then framed on immigration charges by the U.S.Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department to protest the invasion of Iraq in 2003, attacked the U.S war against Afghanistan.Representing the International Action Center, Steve Millies reminded people that 32 years before the U.S. dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan, the Pentagon, FBI and local police dropped a bomb on the MOVE house in Philadelphia, killing six adults and five children. Millies pointed out that the first mission of the U.S. Army Air Corps, which was scrubbed at the last minute, was to bomb striking coal miners in West Virginia.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


East Harlem residents say, ‘Remove the racist Sims’ statue!’


first_imgSims performed hundreds of surgeries on enslaved women without anesthesia, antiseptics or their consent.The struggle is growing for the removal of racist Dr. James Marion Sims’ statue from New York City’s Central Park. Sims, known as the “father of gynecology,” made alleged medical advances through his cruel practice of performing unethical, gynecological surgical techniques on enslaved Black women without anesthesia, antiseptics or their consent. In his quest for fame, he manipulated the institution of slavery to perform his brutal experiments.The national movement to get rid of Confederate monuments following recent white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., led local activists to renew their push to take Sims’ statue down.Black Youth Project 100 held a protest Aug. 19 in front of the monument, located at 103rd Street and Fifth Avenue in East Harlem, to demand its removal. Other organizations have demonstrated, too. Boldly, someone spray-painted “racist” on the statue on Aug. 26.NYC City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been involved in this campaign since 2011, called for the statue to come down at an Aug. 21 press conference, calling Sims’ “despicable acts … repugnant and reprehensible.” (Daily News, Aug. 21)East Harlem residents have campaigned for years to get this affront to their community taken down. A recent poll of that community showed an overwhelming number support the statue’s removal.Medical experimentation = tortureAlso addressing this issue post-Charlottesville was Steve Benjamin, African- American mayor of Columbia, S.C., who said that Sims’ offensive statute on their Statehouse grounds “should come down. … [He] tortured slave women and children for years as he developed his treatments for gynecology.” (MSNBC, Aug. 15)“Slaveowner” Sims carried out these surgeries in the U.S. South from 1845 to 1849 with no training in gynecology. In Alabama, he performed hundreds of surgeries on enslaved women that he “owned” or “borrowed.” He experimented many times on 12 enslaved women, an astounding 30 times on one of them. Many women died.Plantation owners took enslaved women to Sims for treatment so they could continue working and would produce more children to add to the enslaved population. Enslaved people had no personal rights and were the property of their “owners” who held possession of their lives, bodies and labor. Sims also experimented on enslaved Black men.Sims’ copious notes revealed slaveowner language, sprinkled with racial slurs and vivid depictions of Black women’s bodies. Later, after “successful” experimentation, he used the same surgical procedures on white women in New York, but used anesthesia for them.A common, outrageous racist belief then was that Black people were insensitive to pain — and thus didn’t need anesthesia during surgery. This sheds light on the historically violent oppression of Blacks in the U.S., and was a horrifying testament to the brutality of slavery and its relationship to U.S. medicine. It highlights the intersection of race and medicine.Harriet Washington writes about this extensively and Sims’ crimes, in her groundbreaking book, “Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present.” (Doubleday, 2007)Neonatal tetanus in newborns, acquired through infection of the unhealed umbilical cord, often cut with a nonsterile instrument, afflicted many enslaved children. It is now known to result from the impoverished conditions of enslaved peoples’ living quarters.But the archracist Sims attributed neonatal tetanus to enslaved Africans’ “inferiority.” So this “medical monster” performed horrific surgeries on enslaved women’s babies without anesthesia. All of these babies died. He blamed the fatalities on “the ignorance” of their mothers and midwives, while his crimes caused these deaths.Even as he was committing these crimes, Sims founded the Woman’s Hospital of New York in 1855, where he performed operations on indigent women who then had lengthy hospital stays and underwent repeated procedures. Despite his record of killing women and children and inflicting pain, he was named president of the American Medical Association in 1875 and then president of the Gynecological Society in 1879.Take down Sims’ statue!The 13-foot statue of Sims was installed at its present location in 1934 — in East Harlem’s historically African-­American and Puerto Rican neighborhood. In an insult to oppressed women, the wording below it reads: “Surgeon and Philan­thropist, Founder of the Woman’s Hospital State of New York. In recognition of his services in the cause of science and mankind.” Wording on the base adds: “His brilliant achievement carried the fame of American surgery throughout the entire world.”The current struggle is over whether the city should keep, remove or relocate the statue. The East Harlem Preservation organization began its campaign in 2007 in solidarity with efforts by activist Viola Plummer, member of the December 12th Movement, to call attention to Sims’ cruel experiments. That year, NYC Councilmember Charles Barron petitioned the NYC Parks and Recreation Department to remove the statue. Proposals have been raised to instead honor the women Sims tortured.The EHP reports that then-East Harlem Councilmember Mark-Viverito appealed to the Parks Department in 2011 to remove the statute because it is a “constant reminder of the historic cruelty endured by women of color” — and in a community comprised mainly of people of color.The Parks Department refused to honor these requests, claiming “the city does not remove ‘art’ for content.” In 2016, Community Board 11 called for the statue’s removal. That year, at a speakout at Sims’ statue “community members honored their ancestors and condemned the memorial to assaults on Black and Latina female bodies,” said the EHP. In February, EHP addressed this issue in a cable TV panel discussion, which included author Harriet Washington. The organization is working to gain more endorsements to pressure the Parks Department to remove this racist’s monument.EHP declares that “Sims is not our hero” and maintains that the statue’s presence is an insult to the “neighborhood’s majority Black and Puerto Rican residents — two groups that have been subjected to medical experiments without permission or regard for their wellbeing.” Moreover, there are many heroic “Black and Puerto Rican women and men who have made great medical and scientific contributions” to the community. Our children, says the EHP, should learn about them — and know their lives matter.Sims’ statues, like Confederate monuments, memorialize white supremacist slaveowners and murderers. They perpetuate the view that this “medical monster” was the “father of gynecology,” a benevolent man of science, rather than a sadistic racist whose inventions were brutally enabled by slavery.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


V.I. Lenin’s ‘Letter to American Workers’


first_imgRussian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin’s “Letter to American Workers,” written in 1918, stressed the role of the U.S. working class in the ongoing global struggle against oppression. It contains important lessons for workers on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution.The Bolsheviks established the first workers’ state in Russia on Nov. 7, 1917, and pulled the country out of the imperialist slaughter of World War I. Surviving revolution, civil war and foreign invasion, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (later the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) ended Czarist rule in the Russian Empire — “the prison house of nations.” It was under these conditions that Lenin’s letter was written.The story of the document’s creation and publication is nearly as interesting as the letter itself. There were rumblings of revolution in the U.S. even before its entrance into World War I, a global catastrophe accompanied by anti-labor violence and anti-union crackdowns on the home front.The Shilka, a former Czarist naval vessel, arrived in Seattle harbor on Dec. 21, 1917. The ship had left Russia before the Bolshevik revolution and the sailors were excited to hear about the victory of the Soviets. U.S. workers greeted their Russian comrades when the ship docked in Seattle.American journalist Anna Louise Strong, in her 1935 memoir “I Change Worlds,” reported the following: “The vessel left Russia under the rule of Kerensky; it arrived in our port in the era of Bolshevik rule. Somehow a soviet of workers had been elected on board the ship under which the captain functioned. This caused some consternation among Seattle Port authorities.”The sailors were arrested and the ship raided by the police. They were freed after protests from the Industrial Workers of the World, the AFL-CIO and other allies of organized labor. The Shilka left on Jan. 8, 1918, carrying a letter co-written by lumberjack Roy Brown and other Seattle I.W.W. leaders. The document, describing the conditions confronting the U.S. working class, was hidden in a life-belt by Commissar Nikolai Kryukov.The letter was addressed, “To Nicolai Lenin and the Representatives of the Bolshevik Government, and through them to the Workers of Russia.” In this document, the Seattle workers declared “there is no such thing as freedom of press, freedom of speech in the U.S.,” calling the democracy boasted by capitalists “a trap.” They also expressed their solidarity with the workers of revolutionary Russia: “Your struggle, in its essence, is our struggle. Your victory is our victory. And your defeat will be a blow to us.”Lenin finished drafting his response in August 1918. Addressing his “Comrades,” Lenin recognized, “American revolutionary proletarians are destined now to play an especially important role as irreconcilable foes of American imperialism.”Lenin referred to the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War as “liberating wars of which there have been so few compared to the vast number of wars of conquest which, like the present imperialist war, were caused by squabbles among kings, landowners or capitalists over the division of usurped lands or ill-gotten gains.”One of those who demonstrated this kind of solidarity was the Socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, who was jailed for opposing U.S. involvement in WWI. Debs had told a crowd in Canton, Ohio: “The master class has always declared the wars, the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and all to lose — especially their lives.”Being knowledgeable about U.S. history and the struggle between classes, Lenin said he was not surprised that the so-called liberal President Woodrow Wilson, “the head of the American multi-millionaires and servant of the capitalist sharks,” imprisoned Debs under the Espionage Act of 1917. The law was passed during what became known as the First Red Scare, to intimidate workers from revolutionary activities.The radical journalist John Reed, author of “Ten Days That Shook the World,” an eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution, secured the publication of Lenin’s letter in the U.S.The letter became an influential document in socialist and communist circles. International Publishers founder Alexander Trachtenberg wrote, “It played an important part in developing among American Socialists an understanding of the nature of imperialism, of the aims of the October Revolution and of the role of social-chauvinists in the labor movement.”Many lessons contained in this largely forgotten document are still relevant to revolutionary workers for the struggles that lie ahead. As Lenin concluded, “In short, we are invincible, because the world proletarian revolution is invincible.”Lenin’s “Letter to American Workers” can be read at marxists.org.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more


Class war in West Virginia


first_imgBy Martha Grevatt and Minnie Bruce PrattUPDATE, MARCH 6: After nine consecutive work days out on strike, West Virginia’s militant teachers and school staff faced down a right-wing governor and legislature to win a 5 percent pay raise, not just for themselves, but for all state workers. They had vowed to stay out until they won. The bill authorizing the raise passed the House and Senate and was signed by the governor this afternoon. Teachers and staff are likely to return to work March 7 but the possibility of renewed action remains, especially in relation to health insurance funding. To continue to follow workers’ struggles in the state, including Frontier workers represented by CWA, still out on strike, go to FB: WWP West Virginia – Strike Support.March 5 — In West Virginia, famous for pitched battles between union miners and the coal barons, class war is raging. This time it’s teachers and all school employees on one side and right-wing capitalist politicians on the other. To quote the old labor song, “Which Side Are You On?” — “there are no neutrals.”Education workers were still out on the picket lines at the end of the day, continuing their historic statewide strike for better wages, as well as blocking health care takeaways and other union-busting attacks. West Virginia ranks 48th in the U.S. for teacher wages — teachers earn less in only two other states. Starting pay is around $32,000 a year, and teachers with families must often apply for food assistance.The strike in all 55 counties, which began Feb. 22, will continue indefinitely until the state Senate passes a bill granting state education workers a 5 percent raise.On Feb. 28, the House approved the 5 percent pay raise, which billionaire Republican Gov. Jim Justice approved in talks with the three unions the day before. But on March 1, the right-wing Senate proposed taking away the pay raise and diverting it toward supposedly “fixing” the health insurance plan. The legislature must believe the workers will fall for this as if it’s a magic trick. This capitalist fakery only made the workers angrier.Members of both the House and Senate are heavily influenced by the coal, oil and gas company owners of West Virginia.For three days, including a Saturday when a special session was called, the Senate failed to pass the 5 percent raise. Then they tried to substitute a 4 percent raise under the cover of giving it to all state workers.A joint statement from the striking unions explained why that was unacceptable: “You do not equalize pay for different groups by simply taking from one group and passing it to another. The purpose of this is clear — to divide us and to pit us against each other.”The three unions are the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginina School Service Personnel Association.A Senate clerical error actually endorsed the 5 percent increase briefly before pro-business senators rushed to erase the raise. One striker’s social media comment was that the legislators seemed to need a teacher to help them check their figures and their draft language.The strikers’ impact was felt early when the governor approved, and the Republican-majority House passed, the pay hike. The governor had to back away from pushing bills that gutted seniority, promoted charter schools, prevented unions from deducting union dues from members’ paychecks, and would expand “Teach for America” — a program that hires new college graduates without teaching degrees at a lower rate of pay. These types of bills are part of a national anti-union campaign funded in part by the far-right billionaire Koch brothers.The governor’s offer did not create a permanent fix for the Public Employees Insurance Agency, only proposing a temporary “freeze” on health care insurance premiums and a “task force” to find more funding sources. However, the worst legislative changes to PEIA, mostly various excuses to raise premiums, are paused for the time being.The strength of what is essentially a general strike of education workers was demonstrated March 2 when 45 county school superintendents told Republican legislators that schools would stay closed until the 5 percent increase passed. Now all 55 superintendents have taken that position.Statewide wildcat strikeStrikers have rallied around the slogan #55Strong. The multinational, majority-women, rank and file set in motion and unsatisfied by the governor’s proposal, felt strongly they deserved a bigger say in the deal’s content. So on Wednesday, Feb. 28, workers continued to picket, with shouts of “We’re not letting anybody cross this line!” Some who voted for Trump and Republicans in the last election now point to betrayal by the rich, shouting, “Make ‘em pay in May!” when election primaries are held. (USA Today, March 1)Under state law, public sector strikes are illegal, but West Virginia workers know labor history. The Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 in Logan County was the largest labor uprising in U.S. history, with 10,000 armed coal miners confronting 3,000 police and strikebreakers. Throughout the 20th century the United Mine Workers was a mighty force, with wildcat strikes common, including thousands during the 1970s. Some strikers are wearing the red neckerchiefs that miners wore during the 1921 revolt.On Thursday, March 1, the workers defiantly began their second week on strike. One union member told WW that most strikers want big businesses, especially Big Oil, taxed at a higher rate so the state can pay education workers better wages and benefits.On March 2, 3 and 5, militant rallies drew thousands to the state capital, Charleston. On March 2, hundreds of students marched to support their teachers, holding signs and chanting, “Teachers stand for us, we stand for teachers.” They have joined teachers in occupying the Capitol building interior for multiple days.Mond Jones, a Workers World Party organizer for the Defeat Austerity conference in Detroit on March 24, described his day in West Virginia: “On the morning of March 5 we had breakfast just inside West Virginia. The teachers at nearby tables had on strike T-shirts. They said it’s easier to organize a strike now with social media. At the Capitol there were about 10,000 people — 4,000 occupying inside and 6,000 outside. They were mostly women, all very militant. Our literature was well-received. All the unions had a strong presence, along with the Retired Teachers Association.”Jerry Goldberg, of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition in Detroit, told the rallying strikers: “We are with you 100 percent.”This historic struggle is not just between pro-union workers and anti-union politicians. It’s labor vs. capital. All West Virginia workers face dangers to their health and livelihoods from the predations of Big Oil and Big Banking. The state’s 2018 Executive Budget Report states: “The percentage of each citizen’s income allocated to payment of state debt to the banks and financial institutions is 2.8 percent or $1,020 per citizen.”Fighting for the unionUnions benefit everyone. Their structure offers combat assistance, resources and organizational communication. Unions enable members to connect and build militancy from the ground up.While worker anger has been widespread at top union leaders, who appeared ready to end the strike prematurely, strikers are reacting positively to the unions’ official announcement that the walkout would continue until the 5 percent raise becomes law. They fought to have unions and they are fighting to make them fight.Teacher and union activist Phil, demonstrating at the Capitol building on March 1, told WW: “There’s been lots of anti-union talk from ultra-left and conservatives. Folks need to fight within their unions, to make them more progressive and class conscious. We need to radicalize and transform unions from within at the local level.“Some believe the association leaders are negotiating directly with the governor. It’s really the legislators striking the deals and selling out the workers. These politicians have the interests of energy companies and private capital.“The struggle of education workers and teachers is a class struggle for social justice, a social struggle against racism and capitalism and against austerity. We hope to build the idea of class consciousness through the participation of local unions. When people drop out of unions, we don’t build class consciousness. Hopefully, after this struggle, people will continue to participate and strengthen and radicalize their unions.”Despite failings in upper-level leadership, the union is not the enemy. The enemy is the billionaire capitalist class!Solidarity multiplies Tremendous solidarity has come from other unions: Teamsters, Mine Workers, Communication Workers and even unions in other countries.The Southern Workers Assembly issued a solidarity message: “In the days as we await the Supreme Court decision on the Janus case, which would effectively make public sector workers in all states right-to-work, we are reminded that even workers in the RTW states, concentrated in the U.S. South, can build their unions, fightback and win. The type of mass rank-n-file action displayed by WV educators is an example for us all to follow.”More solidarity messages have flowed in, including from the Boston School Bus Drivers Union, United Steelworkers Local 8751; Harvard TPS Coalition, a group of union cooks, custodians and clerical workers at Harvard University supporting immigrant workers losing temporary protective status; and New York-based Parents for Improved School Transportation.The West Virginia example is already being followed. About 1,400 members of the Communication Workers in West Virginia and Ashburn, Va., walked out March 4 at midnight and are striking Frontier Communications. Many of them were learning about strikes by picketing alongside teachers. They are fighting for job security as Frontier has eliminated 500 jobs since acquiring Verizon landlines in 2010.The world is watching the class war in West Virginia. Power to the rank-and-file union members directing their burning anger against the viciousness of the capitalist system!Otis Grotewohl contributed to this article.WW photoFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more




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