Series of articles on the intense struggle culminating in the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution and on the world historic achievements that it produced under Bolshevik leadership.
March-April 2018 No. 107 & May-June 2018 No. 108 DOUBLE ISSUE
Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
A MAY DAY 2018 Greeting and Salute
to the High School Youth Protesting Violence in Public Schools and Communities Across the USA
— from RAY LIGHT and CINDY SHEEHAN —
We are encouraged that tens of thousands of high school youth left their schools and took to the streets to protest the fact that, even in school, our youth, holding the future of our country in their hands, are not safe from an epidemic of violence that is sweeping across the USA. The youth are finally beginning to get the message, the wisdom, that Martin Luther King, Jr. had come to realize and courageously shared in the year before his assassination fifty years ago: “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government.” (MLK Speech at Riverside Church, April 4, 1967)
Many thousands of Afro-American youth, Latinos and other youth of color and many white youth had already realized that their lives are not being sufficiently protected, defended, nurtured and cherished by the current adults among the 99% who make U.S. society run. But, seduced by the phony democratic rhetoric of slick and demagogic and lying (mostly Democratic Party) politicians, almost all the youth bought the idea that the U.S. monopoly capitalist system was the best political-economic system possible and that somehow they as individuals would get through OK. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, this big lie even infected the Afro-American and Latino youth, with their mass incarceration and dead-end jobs and with the epidemic of internal community violence as well as police occupation violence.
On Valentine’s Day this year, a 19 year-old murdered 17 students and school personnel at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. It was just the latest in the epidemic of mass school shootings in the USA in recent years. This Valentine’s Day Massacre showed the real murderous heart of this country and it was a heartbreaking discovery for many!
In 2016 Parkland, FL, a city of 31 thousand, had been voted “Florida’s safest city.” It was a privileged city with a privileged youth. And yet – it “could happen here!” Indeed, after six decades of U.S. imperialist global hegemony and the creation of “an Evil Empire,” it is only “natural” that the USA would be the most violent country on earth. In the tragedy’s aftermath, Parkland, Florida’s high school students recognized that the powers that be in the USA do not care about them. Even more disturbing, they recognized that their parents and adult family members and community leaders were too compromised to really fight the powers that be, even in defense of their own children!
For, after President Trump bragged in his campaign that he could shoot someone down in cold blood and still be elected, becoming a cheerleader for the epidemic of violence as well as for stirring chauvinist ethnic enmity, he had indeed been elected by these adults. So, too, the “Republicrats,” the Democrats and Republicans elected to the U.S. Congress, clearly showed their unwillingness to stand up to the National Rifle Association, the NRA, and the gun manufacturers
behind them. And they refused to resist the massive bribery and corruption associated with the military-industrial complex and its interconnection with imperialist war abroad and the militarization of U.S. society at home.
Now, in the aftermath of Parkland’s tragedy, many high school youth of the USA have expressed some initial “independence” from the two corporate political parties that represent the Wall Street ruling class and its global U.S. Empire and this includes the Trump Empire too. While this is extremely positive, in reality, it is only a small step politically.
It is noteworthy that, after Republican George W. Bush unleashed the U.S. war of terror on the world in the name of avenging the Twin Towers, it was the Democratic Barack Obama Regime that retained Bush’s Secretary of Defense and continued Bush’s terror war. Obama/Clinton carried out the barbaric overthrow of the Gadafi Regime in Libya, the first major U.S. military incursion against the peoples of the African continent. Yet, many of the youth now designated as “leaders” of this spontaneous upsurge are spouting the Democratic Party line, trying to channel all this justified outrage into the dead-end street of voting for Democrats in the Fall.
A tremendous mobilization of Afro-American youth in the Black Lives Matter Movement rose up all over the USA after the unprovoked murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida and then the powerful emergence of the Ferguson, Missouri movement following the police murder of Michael Brown. And the Black Lives Matter Movement certainly laid the basis for the massive protest of high school youth of all ethnicities following the Valentine’s Day Massacre in Parkland, FL. But the Black Lives Matter Movement never linked up with the oppressed peoples of the rest of the world against the U.S. government’s imperialist wars on the peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. It never took to heart Martin Luther King’s wisdom and courage in opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam: “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government.”
So, Afro-American youth, living in desperate conditions and with meager prospects for the future continued to join the U.S. military, the international force that is policing, occupying and oppressing the peoples of color all over the rest of the world. And, where hired, they continued to join the local police forces directly oppressing/occupying their own communities, police departments oftentimes armed with military weapons given outright to them by the bloated U.S. military that has so much money that it cannot spend it fast enough.
With the new upsurge of high school youth against violence, it
is time to take the step to discourage participation in the armed services, which are also the main source of domestic police recruits and to reject and oppose Wall Street’s imperialist wars, the most important source of the violence that afflicts our society from top to bottom.
MAY DAY celebrates the solidarity of the working people of every nation of the world. Led by the international working class, it is a celebration of human solidarity, of LOVE for humanity. Together with The Revolutionary Organization of Labor-USA we invite and encourage the awakening high school youth of the USA to join the nearest celebration of MAY DAY by labor unions, anti-imperialist organizations and/or revolutionary working class organizations in your area.
In the Spirit of May Day–
Let’s Oppose U.S.-led imperialist wars abroad and the epidemic of violence at home!
Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples Unite!
We Have Nothing to Lose But Our Chains – We Have a World to Win!
The Revolutionary Organization of Labor-USA
(April 17, 2018)
The NRA: Bastion of White Supremacy
by CASEY COLE
In the immediate aftermath of the Parkland High School shooting in Florida, National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre took the stage at the right wing CPAC conference to deliver a fiery, hateful speech rife with red baiting and anti-socialist rantings straight from Joseph McCarthy’s playbook.
But let’s be real: The NRA has very little to do with gun rights and a whole lot to do with white supremacy. When Philando Castile was murdered by a cop in front of his family in July 2016 with a legally concealed weapon and the permit to back it up the NRA remained absolutely silent! When Ronald Reagan enacted the first gun control laws in the nation while governor of California in order to specifically target the Black Panther party, the NRA endorsed the law! The NRA leadership clearly raises “gun rights” to cover up its real agenda – reactionary politics and gun manufacturer’s mega-profits.
The Roof Family: Birds of a Feather?
by PEARL HAINES with RAY LIGHT
In response to the national “walk-out” of high school students in protest of gun violence on March 14, Morgan Roof, the sister of the perpetrator of the Charleston 9 massacre, Dylann Roof, was quoted threatening young Afro-American students on Snapchat as follows: “Your walking out for the allowed time of 17 min, they are letting you do this, nothing is gonna change what you think it’s gonna do? I hope it’s a trap and y’all get shot we know it’s fixing to be nothing but black people walkin out anyway.”
Let’s remember how the monopoly capitalist media had created sympathy towards the parents of the white supremacist terrorist Roof in 2015. Back then, we were told that Roof’s parents were allegedly blindsided by the virulent racial hatred that their son holds. After Morgan Roof’s comment, it’s once again clear that white murderers and their families are given the benefit of the doubt and empathy by the ruling class media and culture, while the lives of Afro-American victims of police murder are scrutinized and vilified.
Moreover, the news about the bone-chilling white supremacist utterance of Roof’s sister underscores that the “forgiveness” by some of the nine church bible study victims’ family members in Charleston toward the cold-blooded killer Roof, promoted, “preached” and praised by the sinister President Obama with his “spontaneous” singing of “Amazing Grace” etc., represents the perpetuation of a slave mentality among many Afro-American people well into the twenty-first century. It is an important shackle that must be broken on the path to Afro-American national liberation.
Do you know who said it??
“I read the report ... of the 1919 riot in Chicago and it is as if I were reading the report of the investigating committee on the Harlem riot of ‘35, the report of the investigating committee on the Harlem riot of ‘43, the report of the McCone Commission on the Watts riot. I must in candor say to you members of this Commission—it is a kind of Alice in Wonderland—the same moving picture re-shown over and over again, the same analysis, the same recommendations, and the same inaction.”
Hint: The Kerner Commission was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson following the 1967 Newark and Detroit uprisings, among the most potent Afro-American urban uprisings of the 1960’s and more than 150 other civil uprisings across the USA in 1967. Fifty years ago, in March 1968, the Kerner Commission Report was published and immediately sold a few million copies! Its executive summary includes the mystery quote which was excerpted from the expert testimony given to the Commission by arguably the most prominent Afro-American social scientist of the time.
–Still stumped? See below for answer.
Dr. Kenneth Clark, was a prominent social scientist whose research had informed the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown versus the Board of Education that outlawed segregation in public education. In 1968 his excerpted remarks provided a strong push by the bi-partisan Kerner Commission members and staff to have President Johnson implement some of the more than one hundred programmatic and policy interventions (including raising the minimum wage and creating 2 million public and private sector jobs) to alleviate the severe distress under which the Afro-American people were forced to live in the USA.
Because of the strong liberation movement of the Afro-American people in the late 1960’s, the Kerner Commission, headed by Illinois Governor Otto Kerner and New York City Mayor John Lindsay, more than any other high-profile government commission before or since, placed the responsibility for the urban uprisings not on the protesters but on “white racism.” Yet, as the Afro-American national liberation movement went into decline, the fine words and proposals of this commission and Dr. Clark’s historical warning were not followed up any better than the previous ones cited by Dr. Clark. Indeed, fifty years later, Dr. Clark’s words would still be on point today. Indeed, economic inequality has actually widened since 1968. And the rampant police brutality that triggered so many of the urban uprisings of 1967 are still a plague in the occupied Afro-American communities throughout the USA.
|DR. KENNETH CLARK|
Billy Graham: In Memoriam
by CASEY COLE
Reverend Billy Graham passed away on February 21, 2018 and was immediately deified and lauded as a “hero” by the U.S. corporate media. Let us be clear on Graham’s legacy: the only gospel Graham followed was that of war, hate, and unfettered capitalism. It is absolutely undeniable that Graham played this role for the irredeemably corrupt and bloodthirsty machine of U.S. imperialism. And he played it for well over half a century.
Graham never met a war he didn’t like. He openly supported every U.S.-backed military campaign since the Korean War. In 1969, Graham penned a secret letter to Richard Nixon urging him to bomb dikes in North Vietnam in a way that “could overnight destroy the economy of North Vietnam” while also committing an act of open genocide against the Vietnamese people with an estimated one million dead. (“When Billy Graham Urged Nixon to Kill a Million People” https://www.counterpunch.org/2013/11/01/when-billy-graham-urged-nixon-to-kill-a-million-people/) Graham then went on to invite Nixon on his “crusade” in Knoxville, Tennessee shortly after the Ohio National Guard had massacred four students at Kent State University for protesting the bombing of Cambodia. (“Protests and Progress: Nixon visit puts Knoxville on National Stage,” Knox News) He also publicly attacked Martin Luther King, Jr.’s criticism of the war in Vietnam as “an affront to the thousands of loyal Negro troops who are in Vietnam. (“The Prince of War: Billy Graham’s Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire” by Cecil Bothwell) When George H.W. Bush invaded Iraq in the first Gulf War, the Reverend purportedly urged him on by claiming Saddam Hussein was the anti-Christ. Graham has been a trusted “spiritual” adviser for U.S. imperialism and every U.S. president from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama.
Billy Graham has also been pivotal in sowing dissension among sectors of the U.S. working class by acting as a catalyst in the so-called Culture Wars in U.S. politics. Graham worked tirelessly to keep the working class divided on issues around homosexuality, gay rights, and abortion in order to keep us distracted and fighting one another instead of the true enemy – capital. On the issue of labor unions, Graham stated in a rally in 1952 that the Garden of Eden would have, “no union dues, no labor leaders, no snakes, no disease, and that a Christian worker would not stoop to take unfair advantage of his bosses by joining a union. (“Billy Graham, America’s Pastor?” Washington Post, 2-22-18)
Graham, promoted as a figure in sympathy with the Civil Rights movement, was in favor of segregation until the Brown v. Board of Education ruling and simply saw which way the wind was blowing. In fact, the “white moderate” invoked several times in Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is widely believed to be a direct reference to Graham: “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice.
Billy Graham even styled his crusade as if it were a product to be peddled and has widely been quoting as saying: “We are selling the greatest product on earth. Why shouldn’t we promote it as we promote a bar of soap?”
Graham has been portrayed as a beloved and non controversial figure in U.S. politics for the vast majority of his career: he has been lauded as “God’s Ambassador” while blessing crimes against humanity; praised for his role in the Civil Rights Era while actively sabotaging the efforts of the Afro-American people to fight for freedom; and beloved by many whom he is credited with “bringing closer to Christ” while actually sowing working class division and worshiping the almighty dollar — all this on behalf of the U.S. Empire.
|Graham with Richard M. Nixon|
The Current State of U.S. Society
and of the U.S. Empire’s Government
by RAY LIGHT
The first quarter of 2018 has brought much political turbulence and disruption both to the rulers and the ruled in the USA. Because U.S. imperialism is still the main bulwark of world capitalism, what has been going on in the USA these days has real significance for the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples of the world, as well.
Fundamentally, what has been occurring in the USA over these several months reflects the fact that the U.S. Empire continues its decline.
- Chaos among the Rulers-
Previously, we have discussed the contradiction between President Trump’s constant effort to defend the Trump Family Empire and his relative indifference to the interests of the Wall Street ruling class, i.e. the strategic interests of the U.S. Empire. The Trump Regime itself has included representatives of both the Trump Empire and the U.S. Empire. This is reflected in the continual lurching of the Trump Regime from one crisis to the next and the continued paralysis of the “Republicrat” Congress, dutifully trying to serve the U.S. ruling class, rather than the Trump dynasty.
As a result of this contradiction, the firings and resignations of top Trump Executive Branch officials have greatly accelerated.
Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, Trump’s chief economic adviser, one of the top Goldman-Sachs officials who moved into the Trump Regime, resigned after objecting to Trump’s decision to place tariffs on steel and aluminum. It is possible that Cohn’s resignation is a signal that Goldman-Sachs and Wall Street may be coming to the conclusion that they have squeezed as much out of Trump as they are going to get and are beginning to bail out or even turn on him. It is also noteworthy that his replacement, Larry Kudlow, also expressed disagreement with Trump’s tariff announcement prior to coming over from his cable news job. What makes Kudlow’s appointment even more “peculiar” is the fact that Kudlow’s only major economic policy agreement with Trump is on “tax breaks for the rich”, the one victory already “accomplished” by the Trump Regime with Congress. (And it was done under Cohn’s leadership.) Rather than for adherence to any economic “principles” whatsoever, clearly Kudlow was chosen for his loyalty to Trump and the Trump Empire and not to the U.S. Empire.
Trump abruptly fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the
|TILLERSON, TRUMP, MCMASTER|
Finally, General H.R. McMaster resigned as Trump’s National Security Adviser amid rumors that Trump was planning to fire him soon. And, as with Secretary of State Tillerson who was dismissed, Trump first announced McMaster’s departure via a public tweet. Trump has chosen John Bolton as his new National Security Chief. Bolton, like Kudlow was also tapped from cable news and has the reputation that “he has never met a war he didn’t like.” Also, both Kudlow and Bolton have been upgraded to directly reporting to Trump instead of reporting to Chief of Staff John Kelly, effectively downgrading Kelly in the Executive Branch hierarchy.
Among the so-called “grown-ups” in the Trump Regime that have supposedly tried to keep a lid on Trump’s erratic behavior in the first 15 months, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson and Gary Cohn are all gone and John Kelly seems to be on the way out, leaving only Secretary of Defense General “Mad dog” Mattis still apparently having standing.
Trump’s handling of his top advisers and cabinet members reflects his need to consolidate his power to be answerable to no one. For he is driving toward the autocratic power that would make him a dictator free to pillage and plunder without any accountability.* Trump represents “blowback” on the U.S. Empire of all the “tin horn dictators” that U.S. imperialism has sponsored for decades all over the world.
*In arguably the clearest example yet of Trump’s pursuit of the Trump Empire’s agenda priority for maximum profits, Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin was fired by Trump clearly because he resisted the privatization of the massive Veterans Administration. Most veteran organizations, other than the Koch brothers - sponsored one, concerned about the possible dismantling of VA health care, are opposing Trump’s nominee of his own personal White House physician, Navy Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, who has no experience running a large organization.
Also, in the past several months, the FBI investigation into the Russia-Trump campaign connection has allowed Mueller’s forces to examine Trump’s corrupt business connections along with potential campaign finance law violations. This investigation has continued to close in on the President.
Several major players in Trump’s 2016 campaign have already been indicted including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Now his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, had his law office, home and hotel room raided by the FBI. Cohen’s communications activity with Trump (and his other two (!) clients’ records) were seized. This led to the discovery that Fox Network’s Sean Hannity was one of Cohen’s two other clients. Hannity has had phenomenal access to the airwaves where he has boosted Trump and attacked Clinton, without anyone knowing about his connections with Trump’s “team.” Hannity’s failure to disclose his personal connection to the Trump campaign also seems clearly to constitute illegal activity.
Despite the fact that both Houses of the U.S. Congress have had Republican majorities during Trump’s first 15 months, the only success they’ve achieved has been so-called tax reform, the long anticipated boondoggle for the rich 1%. Moreover, Trump, and the U.S. Congress led by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were unable to “repeal and replace” the “affordable care act” over the past year. Consequently, they were unable to carry out the Republican plan to use the billions of dollars “saved” by eliminating millions of people from health care coverage and use the proceeds to pay for the tax breaks for the super-rich. Since the tax reform, therefore, even the Republican-controlled responsible Congressional research committees are advising Congress that the combination of tax breaks and military spending increases make the U.S. budget they recently passed “unsustainable.”
In this situation, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, third in the line of Presidential succession, and only forty years old, has announced that he is not running for re-election to Congress! This reflects several things: 1. Ryan thinks it will be an uphill battle to win re-election personally; and that it will be an uphill battle to lead the Republican Party to a 2018 House victory. 2. Ryan does not want to be mixed up in Trump’s (monkey) business. 3. Ryan recognizes that the only Republican Congressional victory under Trump, namely, the tax break for the super-rich, will be exposed as the boondoggle for the wealthy and a resulting government financial crisis for the 99% of us; and Ryan wants to live politically to run for office another day.
Thus, Congressional paralysis combined with Trump’s autocratic rule is making it increasingly difficult for the ruling class to rule in the old way. And with Trump’s incessant drive toward a one-man dictatorship and his growing violations of constitutional law, there is certainly a danger of a fascist coup by the Trump forces or by military brass in defense of Trump or in opposition to Trump or any of several other scenarios.
Immediately after the 2016 election, I wrote that international forces, including major reactionary and/or progressive powers and their allies, could take advantage of the weaker and more erratic leadership of the U.S. Empire that the Trump Regime would offer. This was also the case for whatever revolutionary forces outside the USA were “together enough” to take advantage of the situation. This vulnerability of the U.S. Empire with Trump at the helm still pertains to this date for external adversaries of U.S. imperialism.
-Motion among the Ruled-
Meanwhile, there has been much restlessness and movement among the masses of the U.S. population. The 99% of us clearly sense something is fundamentally wrong and are feeling the harsh, oppressive hand of an increasingly autocratic government led by Trump and enabled by the corrupt “Republicrat” (Democratic and Republican) politicians in Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
According to the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, “One in five Americans have protested in the streets or participated in political rallies since the beginning of 2016. Of those, 19 percent said they had never before joined a march or a political gathering.” (Washington Post, 4-6-18, “Rallying Nation,” Mary Jordan and Scott Clement) While some of the recently involved have come out to support Trump and reaction, the large majority are protesting at least somewhat against the powers that be.
--Women are fighting back--
Trump’s continual public projection as President of blatant disrespect and outright sexual abuse of women has been accentuated by a series of scandals involving payment to sex partners of “hush money,” some evidently illegally provided from Trump campaign contributions. On January 20, 2018, there were large demonstrations led by and peopled by women from all classes and backgrounds against arguably the most openly misogynistic president in U.S. history. It was the one-year anniversary of the truly massive demonstrations predominantly made up of women protesting Trump on the day of his inauguration. The Trump-led assault on U.S. woman had already led in the fall of 2017 to the take-down of film industry mogul Harvey Weinstein and the explosive growth of a #Me Too movement that has continued to bring down other male supremacists and sexual predators in powerful political and cultural positions in U.S. society. The 2018 Academy Awards show and other cultural award shows became platforms for mass education emphasizing that women should and would no longer take abuse. Women are fighting back.
This growing culture of resistance to the powers that be, especially among women, though still at a low political level, has been a tremendously healthy development for U.S. society. It played an undeniably significant role in the wonderful uprising (“out of nowhere”) of the (predominantly women) West Virginia school workers who launched a strike against the state legislature on February 22. Supported by the parents, students and most of the people of the state of West Virginia, in the heart of the oppressed Appalachian region, the strike by the three unions (the AFT and NEA major teacher union affiliates and a school employees union) was a “bottom up” and “illegal” strike which was not in the control of union bureaucrats. [See the article on “the State of the U.S. Labor Movement, Part 2” found elsewhere in this issue.]
Furthermore, the strikers showed a determination not to be
|STRIKING TEACHERS IN W. VA|
Thus, a truly massive cultural shift among women is already producing a higher level of struggle within the U.S. labor movement and among the U.S. working class in general.
--Youth are rising up in their own defense--
A similar cultural shift regarding protesting against the powers that be in the streets is developing among the U.S. youth on a wider scale than has been seen at least since the 1960’s.
On February 14, the epidemic of mass school shootings, including in privileged neighborhoods across the USA, spread to a 2018 Valentine’s Day Massacre that erupted at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The response has been an outpouring of tens of thousands of high school youth who took to the streets to protest a U.S. society that is so hate-filled and violent, that it cannot provide safety to its children, even its privileged children, in school. And the youth largely organized most of these street demonstrations themselves.
While, no doubt, building upon the strong Afro-American-centered Black Lives Matter movement developed (with the aid of cell phone camera technology) in response to the systemic police brutality and murder of Afro-American youths and Latino and other (particularly male) youths of color, this new upsurge involves U.S. youth across the spectrum of the 99%. Like the women’s movement, the youth movement, too, is starting with a very low level of political understanding as is quite natural in a society that lived for decades to one extent or another in alliance with U.S. imperialism and at the expense of the world’s workers and oppressed.
In our greeting and salute to the high school youth, [reprinted starting on the front page of this Newsletter] we invite them to join May Day demonstrations in their local areas celebrating their human solidarity with the working people of the whole world. We call on the youth to reject and repudiate the imperialist violence, hatred and war of the U.S. Empire that, according to Martin Luther King, Jr., (already in 1967) had made “my own government the biggest purveyor of violence in the world.” The establishment of connections of brotherhood and sisterhood of the U.S. youth with the working class youth and oppressed youth of the rest of the world is one of the most important elements that will transform the USA into a land of peace and love for all humanity.
The Attempt to Elevate Billy Graham to Sainthood and the Latest U.S. War Crime Against Syria
Billy Graham died at his home in North Carolina on February 20 at the age of 99. On February 24, there was a massive motorcade carrying Graham’s body through the western half of North Carolina. Along the parade route, crowds of mostly white folks gathered along the highway exits and bypasses in reverence to this iconic figure. His body lay in state at his Charlotte headquarters. Then he was buried on March 2 at a private funeral in his home village base of Montreat, North Carolina.
The U.S. ruling class made sure to use the week-long opportunity to promote an outpouring of support for the imperialist status quo. For Billy Graham was arguably the Christian minister who most effectively united U.S. Protestantism and U.S. Catholicism, the two main strands of white Christian population that form the religious base of U.S. imperialist reaction. As Wall Street Journal columnist and savvy Republican pundit, Peggy Noonan, noted, “as the big thing now is that we hold together as a nation and not split apart, Graham’s ecumenical force should be noted among his achievements.” (WSJ, 2/24-2/25/18)
From U.S. Presidents Truman until Trump, they all prayed with and supported the Missionary of Mass Murder and Empire. Indeed, it is no accident that Billy Graham owed the most important boost to his then fledgling career as a minister to the infamous newspaper empire mogul, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst’s greatest claim to fame was that he was largely responsible for starting the Spanish-American War in 1898! Hearst was the most famous war-monger in U.S. history; and the U.S. victory over Spain by which the USA came to possess Cuba, Puerto Rico and ultimately the Philippines sealed the imperialist destiny of the USA.
Author Neil Young wrote in the Los Angeles Times (2-22-18) that in September 1949, Reverend Graham “was already thinking about leaving the ministry after a series of disappointing revivals in other cities” prior to his arrival in Los Angeles. He recommitted to his ministry when he was “met by a group of Los Angeles businessmen who were ready to sponsor his next crusade. Graham was now able to finance an enormous tent that would host more than 350,000 Californians. The city’s press reported constantly on the events inside the Canvas Cathedral.” Young continues: “When William Randolph Hearst learned of the many celebrities who were answering Graham’s altar call, he sent a two-word telegram to the editor of every newspaper he owned: ‘Puff Graham.’ Graham’s face was soon on front pages across the country.” (L.A. Times, “Billy Graham: Made in L.A.”) This was the watershed event that made his career.
Two of the worst presidents with whom Billy Graham was especially close were Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. (In a separate article on Graham’s death in this Newsletter, comrade Casey Cole documents Reverend Billy Graham’s proposal to president Nixon that he carry out a major war crime against the Vietnamese people that would have cost a million Vietnamese lives!)
One of the world’s other great, modern war criminals was George W. Bush. Bush credited Billy Graham with giving him the religious strength to quit drinking. And, according to Bush, “Perhaps his [Graham’s] most meaningful service came on September 14, 2001. After the 9/11 attacks I asked Billy to lead the ecumenical service at Washington National Cathedral.” Bush was the U.S. president who ushered in the unauthorized unlimited War of Terror on the peoples of the world allegedly in response to the 9/11 attacks.
By the time Donald Trump became President, Billy Graham was in his late 90’s. His son and corporate religious heir, Reverend Franklin Graham, has been among Trump’s most loyal supporters since the 2016 election. According to the Huffington Post (1-25-17), among other things, Franklin Graham participated in Trump’s “Thank You” tour and gave a Bible reading at Trump’s inauguration.
Following the latest U.S. war crime against the Syrian people, Franklin Graham called on the U.S. population to carry out Trump’s directive to pray for our troops and allies and Reverend Graham the younger gave the order to also pray for Trump. Thus, Franklin Graham is functioning as a General in Trump’s Religious Army.
Despite Trump’s fascistic attacks on those of us within the heartland of U.S. imperialism, he has been much less aggressive internationally than his two predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. One year ago, Cindy Sheehan and I signed a May Day leaflet entitled, “[Condemn] President Trump’s Criminal Missile Attack on the Sovereign State of Syria.” We observed the following: “In 2013, Obama and Clinton tried to launch a U.S./British war on Assad and Syria. The British Parliament and the U.S. people, including many “red state” supporters, successfully blocked the event. And Vladimir Putin of all people saved Obama from a major political defeat when he convinced Assad to turn over his stores of poison gas, etc. But the military strategy of Wall Street imperialism remained as follows: to remove the Assad Regime from Syria so that Iran, the main regional competitor for Saudi Arabia (and U.S. imperialism) in the oil-rich Middle East, would be vulnerable to be bombed, invaded and defeated by the Israeli settler regime in combination with U.S. imperialism. This would have the effect of pushing Russian influence back out of the Middle East and leaving the U.S. Empire once again in a position to dictate to much of the rest of the world.”
Regarding Trump’s April 2017 unprovoked bombing of Syria, we also observed: “Finally, after being hidden away from the U.S. public for the past five months since the election, Hillary Clinton, … incredibly reappeared hours before Trump’s war crime against Syria. Even more incredible, she seemed to ‘go public’ in order to give Trump the very specific direction to try to destroy the Syrian air force, the very course Trump then followed!” So in the 2017 U.S. bombing attack on Syria it was the Democratic “loser” Clinton who led the Republican winner Trump. And many Democratic bigwigs, including Congressional leaders Pelosi and Schumer, as well as mainstream Republicans, praised Trump’s war crime as “presidential.” And even so-called progressives such as Bernie Sanders and Noam Chomsky condemned Assad and justified Trump’s war crime.
In April 2018, almost exactly one year later, Trump along with British Prime Minister May and French President Macron, launched more than one hundred missiles in an unprovoked attack on Syria, committing another war crime. Once again, the justification was alleged Assad Regime chemical weapon attacks on “his own” people. This time a day before the media allegations about chemical weapons appeared Trump had announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of Syria! Moreover, as Professor Jose Maria Sison, Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) has pointed out, “A chemical attack by the Syrian government in Eastern Ghouta defies any logic. The region has just recently been liberated by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA). The Syrian government has basically won the war recovering most of the territory it had lost to the terrorist groups trained, armed and financed by the US-led coalition in a futile attempt to effect regime change in Syria.” (“ILPS Condemns US, UK and France for missile attack against Syria”) Comrade Sison concludes: “The pretext for perpetrating this war crime is clearly a false flag operation.”
And yet Trump immediately reversed course and joined his French and British counterparts in the act of war. Trump may well have been pressured by the encroaching FBI investigation of his campaign finances and connection to Russia. Whatever Trump’s motive for reversing course, Macron and May, as well as Trump, took this drastic action without waiting for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who responded to an invitation from the Assad government to carry out an investigation of the alleged chemical attack in Douma. Moreover, the three leaders launched the attack on their own individual authority without waiting one day to give their Parliament/Congress the opportunity to debate and, in the case of the U.S. Congress, vote the action up or down. Very dangerous and dictatorial conduct by the leaders of all three powers.
Letting “the cat out of the bag,” Macron bragged that, “Ten days ago President Trump wanted the United States of America to withdraw from Syria. We convinced him to remain.” So once again, in attacking Syria, Trump was a more reluctant war criminal than more social-democratic and mainstream political figures who, like Hillary Clinton, are ever ready to carry out unprovoked attacks in pursuit of maximum profits and territory on behalf of their global capitalist masters.
Clearly, it is not only the Trump Empire, but even more, the Wall Street Empire that is the main source of imperialist war and violence that the people of the USA and the world must defeat to make a better world for our children, our families, our communities and our human family everywhere on earth.
The U.S. Labor Movement:
The 2017 AFL-CIO Convention and Beyond
(Part Two of Two Part Series)
by MIKE S.
Attended by approximately 600 delegates representing fifty-six national unions as well as a number of State AFL-CIO Federations and Local Central labor bodies, the 2017 Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO convened in St Louis, MO from October 22-26. The AFL-CIO is the largest U.S. federation of trade unions, claiming to represent some 12 million “organized” workers. The convention is held every four years and sets the direction of the Federation for the coming years and elects the top three positions of leadership of the organization.
Given the dismal record of the U.S. labor movement with its diminishing clout and numbers, the honest working class fighter would have legitimately hoped for a convention that would set a course of rebuilding a weak and disoriented labor movement and increasing the fighting capacity of the U.S. working class vis a vis Wall Street bosses and corporate America. Such a hope was quickly dashed on the rocks of a labor bureaucracy, which is connected by a thousand threads to the capitalist system and its Democratic Party’s political wing.
In 1927 William Z. Foster, outstanding trade unionist and leader of the Communist Party USA, described the labor bureaucrats of his day which equally applies to today: “The modern top trade union leaders are pampered servants of capitalism, well-paid betrayers of the working class. Their aims and ideals have been divorced from those of the rank and file; their prime purpose is to advance their own interests regardless of those of the workers ... The conservative trade union leadership, seeking first of all to protect its fat sinecures, has distinct group, if not class, interests in conflict with those of the workers.” (American Trade Unionism, Selected Writings, 1947, by William Z. Foster.)
For the most elite union bureaucrats, the 2017 AFL-CIO Convention was terrific. The three top leaders of the AFL-CIO, President Richard Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, and Executive Vice-President Tefere Gebre were returned unopposed to office and their high salaried positions which place them in the top 1% income bracket. The top positions pay around $300,000/year plus benefits and perks. A leader who is in office for 20 years can retire with approximately 60% of salary - $180,000/year! These are the very same leaders of the last four years who led the working class from one defeat to the next (with the one notable exception of organized labor’s united participation in the successful anti-TPP fight). The very small, more “progressive wing” of the AFL-CIO affiliated unions were far too weak to mount any serious challenge to the entrenched labor bureaucrats or for a movement of change within the AFL-CIO.
But for the working class and oppressed masses, facing rapidly deteriorating economic conditions and a lack of good jobs, decent healthcare, dignified and secure retirements, along with increasing political marginalization, it was a convention that substituted, phrase-mongering and a highly orchestrated, “smooth” running convention for serious debate, self-criticism, and a sober assessment of workers’ weakening position vis a vis the Wall Street rulers and a militant path forward for the U.S. working class.*
*Specific references in this article to actions of the convention were based on the written proceedings, videos and resolutions published on the official AFL-CIO website.
2017 Convention = Business as Usual
Along with some positive resolutions on paper, some militant sounding speeches, as well as sincere pro-working class sentiments expressed by a number of delegates, the delegates (and the workers following the convention proceedings) were fed a strong dose of national chauvinism, China bashing and “buy American”, especially as it relates to the defense industry.**
**Following the tremendously positive anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) 1999 “Battle in Seattle” and its significant step forward for international working class solidarity of U.S. workers, Ray O. Light exposed that it was AFL-CIO “China Bashing” that turned the U.S. workers back into the embrace of U.S. imperialism and their pro-WTO policies.
Since the convention, AFL-CIO President Trumka and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard are tripping over themselves in support of the new “protectionist” tariffs on Steel and Aluminum announced by U.S. President Donald Trump, a protectionist and national chauvinist position that divides U.S. workers from the rest of the international working class.
International working class solidarity was further undermined at the Convention with the uncritical lauding by the AFL-CIO top leadership of the U.S. State Department-funded, and AFL-CIO run, Solidarity Center. This was the same Solidarity Center that supported the U.S. imperialist-led 2002 short-lived coup against the popular and pro-worker government of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
In addition, the main international convention speaker was Guy Ryder, the head of the United Nations International Labor Organization. Gushing with praise, Ryder told the “big lie” of the U.S. government’s “historic” role in advocating for workers’ rights around the world. This is the very U.S. government that in defense of the super-profits of imperialism and finance capital, financially and militarily backs the most brutal anti-worker, anti-people dictatorships and has been the bloody assassin of many militant working class fighters throughout the world, from Central and South America to South Africa and the Philippines. (Remember the School of the Americas, the Georgia-based U.S. CIA/military training ground of right wing death squads throughout Latin America.)
A resolution on the urgent crisis of climate change was watered down to meaningless platitudes in deference to the reactionary building trade union leadership and their embrace of the fossil fuel industry and the building of pipelines.
Based on the corrupting influence of the money and perks of union owned, run or jointly managed health insurance plans, the convention could not even bring itself to take a decisive stand for a single payer-based health care system, i.e. “Medicare for All.”
The most touted resolution showcased by the leadership at the convention, entitled a “Workers’ Bill of Rights,” was a narrow and uninspired eight point “platform.” Comrade Ray Light exposed the 2013 AFL-CIO convention’s theme of “inclusiveness” with non-traditional community allies as actually serving to weaken the rights and authority of current union members both in relation to their bosses and the union bureaucrats. By contrast, the 2017 Convention virtually wiped out the needed relationship with allies! Nowhere in the “Workers’ Bill of Rights” is there any reference to the importance of the relationship between labor and civil rights or the fight for social justice.
One example is the call for “Quality Health Care regardless of income, job or a pre-existing condition.” This is a defense of the current and inadequate Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a far cry from the just demand for true national “single payer” healthcare. Another example is the plank, “Voice in Democracy: To freely exercise our democratic voices through voting ...”, thus promoting the grand illusion of “U.S. democracy” and making no call to defend the voting rights of workers, Afro-Americans, and immigrants which are under severe attack. Nor does it call for the elimination of corporate and billionaire monies used to buy and sell U.S. elections.
Furthermore, this “Workers’ Bill of Rights” continues the “rebranding” of the labor movement with the bogus “freedom” message: “Freedom to Join Together: With our co-workers for better wages and working conditions, whether we are in a union or not.” (My emphasis) The AFL-CIO, the federation of 56 unions, at the “head” of the organized U.S. working class, cannot even promote the need for workers to join and build unions as vital self-defense organizations against the capitalist class! So much for being on the cutting edge of the needs and demands of the working class!
Is the AFL-CIO a Middle Class Organization?
Then again, with all the talk of the “middle class” at the convention one would not have been sure they were attending a gathering of “working class” leaders representing working class organizations. For example, AFL-CIO President Trumka had this to say in his acceptance speech upon re-election: “Sinister forces have banded together with their political influence and their money to try to weaken the beating heart of a strong, independent labor movement and a thriving middle class that rises together.” (My emphasis.) In case the reader thinks this was just an aberration, a mistaken comment, Trumka continued, “Over the past eight years, we have strengthened our unions so we can build new ladders up to the middle class.” (My emphasis again.) And Trumka was not alone. Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler opined in her acceptance speech “We built the middle class.” (My emphasis.) So according to the leaders of the organized section of the working class, the basis for existence of trade unions, their reason for being, is to build the middle class - at a time when the working class needs good working class jobs and more class pride, class consciousness, self-respect, militancy and worker solidarity!
The delegates were fed plenty of “big talk” and bravado. AFL-CIO president Trumka bragged that the working class was on the march and more unified than ever. Taunting the U.S. ruling class, which for the moment is running roughshod over the working class, he proclaimed, “Our opponents are tough. They’re well-heeled and ruthless. But their deep pockets can’t overcome our deep passion for a fairer and more just nation. I say, bring it on!” (My emphasis) At a time of working class weakness and disorganization, how many workers are begging for more attacks from our class enemies?!
Political Independence at Last?
There was much talk of “political independence,” highlighted as one of the fundamental “themes” of the convention. (To the extent the bourgeois media paid any attention to the AFL-CIO convention, they took note of this position.) Pressured by the growing sentiments within the rank and file of organized labor, and among the working class as a whole, that the political system is rigged, (sentiments that certainly played out in the 2016 presidential election), Trumka called on the delegates to fight together “For a fiercely independent movement ...” In the name of such independence, no politicians were invited to speak at the convention, highly unusual for an AFL-CIO Convention. A resolution titled, “An Independent Political Voice” stated, “The time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils.” Another resolution, “Exploring New Directions for Labor in Electoral Politics” advocated that “... the AFL-CIO also pursues a strategy of advancing our core issues through referenda and ballot initiatives and propositions at the statewide and local level; studies the viability of independent and third-party politics ...” These are welcome words from an institution in service to the Democratic Party and the monopoly capitalist system it represents. Certainly a real break with the Democratic Party would be a huge step forward for organized labor in the United States.
But before the working class reader gets too hopeful, let’s analyze what really happened.
The hype of keeping elected politicians away was likely a maneuver to keep Senator Bernie Sanders from speaking to the convention. The two largest unions of the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and AFT, were early and staunch supporters of Hillary Clinton and are major players in the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Along with the Democratic Party apparatus they cast the blame at the feet of Sanders for “dividing” the Democratic party and placing Trump into the White House. (In reality it was the social democrats of these large unions who paved the way for the Trump presidency.) Apparently, these union leaders insisted that Sanders not be allowed to address the convention and they hold the purse strings to back up their demand. Senator Sanders, even as a loyal representative of the “left-wing” of the imperialist Democratic Party, has been the AFL-CIO’s most reliable labor ally in Congress. To keep Sanders out, the AFL-CIO leaders had to keep everyone else out.
As regards whether the labor misleaders would implement the two resolutions on “independent politics” (both of which appeared to have strong support from the delegates), the working class got the immediate answer less than a week after the convention – and clearly it will be up to the rank and file to bring any of these positive resolutions to life with “bottom-up” organizing and mobilizing.
On November 1st, the Democratic Party leadership unveiled the second phase of what they’ve dubbed their “Better Deal” platform.
It focused entirely on “pro-union” provisions such as, “Streamline the NLRB procedure to secure worker freedoms and effectively prevent violations”, “Protect the integrity of union elections against coercive captive audience meetings”, “Ban state laws that undermine worker freedoms to join together and negotiate,” and “Use federal purchasing power and policy to help expand opportunities to negotiate.”
These proposals (all small positive steps if they were legislated) are being made at a time when they are virtually impossible to translate into action and legislation. Indeed, when the Democratic Party controlled the White House and the House of Representatives and had a veto-proof majority (60) in the Senate in 2008, no similar proposals were promoted and legislated! In this light, this “Better Deal” is a Democratic Party con game on the working class.
Before his suitcase was unpacked from the St. Louis Convention, where he declared AFL-CIO “political independence,” Trumka was standing at a November 1st press conference in a lovefest with the Democrats as he declared, “And today we’re here to talk about how the Democrats have also listened and responded with a true workers’ rights agenda as part of the “Better Deal.” (The official record of the Convention proceedings reflects no debate, discussion or resolutions in support of the Democratic Party “Better Deal” platform or how the labor movement should relate to it.)
Trumka continued to lavish more praise, “I want to thank Leader Schumer and Leader Pelosi and everyone up here today with us. These are true champions of working people at a time when too many politicians have lost their way. We see their leadership every day, and it has led to these very important proposals ... Changing the rigged rules of our economy by uniting behind the labor proposals in the ‘better deal’ is the right step forward. Not only for the labor movement, but for the Democratic Party, for our country and for our economy.”
2017 AFL-CIO Convention Postscript
In early January 2018 the AFL-CIO issued a press release announcing that Julie Greene was hired by the Federation to head the AFL-CIO’s “Mobilization Hub”, i.e. to elect political candidates that “stand with working people.” Since 2014 Greene served as the director of the Office of the Secretary of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and director of the Office of Democratic National Committee Leadership. In the revolving door of the AFL-CIO and Democratic Party, prior to 2014 she served as deputy political director of the AFL-CIO.
Summarizing the AFL-CIO Convention over four years ago, Ray Light, leader of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor-USA (ROL-USA), wrote: “Unfortunately, the 2013 AFL-CIO convention was in the classic social democratic class collaborationist tradition of ‘letting off steam.’ It provided the delegates with ‘bells and whistles’ to give the appearance that something hopeful and constructive for the workers, at least among the members of the unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO, will result. U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism hopes that such a convention will help keep the U.S. working class contained within the limits of the current organized labor movement that refuses to break with the ‘Republicrat’ political duopoly and especially the Democratic Party wing of the Wall Street ruling class as organized labor continues to grow ever weaker.” (“2013 AFL-CIO Convention: ‘Inclusiveness’ on the Road to Ruin”, Ray O’ Light Newsletter, November-December 2013, Number 81)
Four years later, the 2017 AFL-CIO convention represented more of the same dead-end for the U.S. working class.
West Virginia School Workers Lighting the Path and “Fighting the Powers That Be!”
Lenin in “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism” (1916) described the “labor lieutenants of the capitalist class” as those “who have been bribed out of imperialist super-profits and converted into watchdogs of capitalism and corrupters of the labor movement.” And as the AFL-CIO officialdom continues to lead the working class “On the Road to Ruin” the corporate rulers have become that much more aggressive and successful in exploiting the U.S. working class. Income inequality stands at an all-time high and corporate profits are at record levels while the working class and the oppressed face ever increasing austerity (less income and economic security, diminished benefits, fewer rights, and even falling life expectancy.)
In this context of increasing capitalist exploitation, there are hopeful signs that the U.S. working class is beginning to stir and fight back. The series of Ray O’ Light Newsletter articles on the “AFL-CIO’s Road to Ruin” pointed out the significance of “green shoots” of new class struggle stirrings of workers in the aircraft, auto, truck transportation, communications and postal industry and the organized striving for “living wages” of the working poor in the fast food and retail industries.
In late February, AFSCME and the AFL-CIO called a national “day of action” in opposition to the anticipated Supreme Court “Janus” ruling that would ban “fair share” dues that unions can collect from public sector workers for the costs of negotiations and enforcement of collective bargaining agreements. While such a ruling would represent another setback to the unions and the working class, the labor bureaucrats have little more to offer than wringing their hands at the potential loss of members, loss of income and loss of political (i.e. Democratic Party) influence. The national day of action turned out to be a feeble and failed attempt at rallying the working class.
Virtually at the same moment, 34,000 West Virginia teachers and school service workers, with no legal right to strike, no legal collective bargaining rights and no union contracts, had a different answer to the courts and government which are sticking it to the workers. Educators and school service workers, from custodians to cafeteria staff, engaged in a nine day illegal statewide strike, fueled by rank and file leaders and members and uniting workers from three different unions. Parents and students, deeply concerned for the need for quality education, overwhelmingly supported the workers.
The workers and their supporters built on a rich West Virginia history of union struggle steeped in bloody class warfare in the coalfields of oppressed Appalachia. From the streets they engaged in true “collective bargaining” directly with the powers that be! And when the elected politicians promised a deal and encouraged them to return to work, and some union leaders joined in this effort to cool-out and suppress the movement, the teachers and school workers stood firm and remained on strike until their demands that included an immediate 5% raise and a freeze on health insurance costs was signed, sealed and delivered – and, in solidarity, ensured that these gains were extended to all West Virginia state workers.
Exposing the class collaborationist character of the current leadership of organized labor, there was virtual AFL-CIO silence on the strike and no calls for union solidarity until Trumka put out a press release on March 6th, the same day the victorious strike was over! American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten’s response was to leverage the courage and determination of the West Virginia workers to appeal and plead with the “powers that be” into “reconsidering” their attacks on public sector unions.
These reactions of the labor bureaucrats to the extremely positive development of the West Virginia strike, underscore the conclusions enumerated in the final article of ROL-USA’s “AFL-CIO Road to Ruin” series (July-August 2014, Ray O’ Light Newsletter #85) “The current AFL-CIO leadership is key to the U.S. imperialist efforts to keep the U.S. working class marching without protest to impoverishment. However, there is a growing restlessness among all strata of the U.S. working class, including its organized sector whose standard of living and jobs are drying up at an alarming rate. Thus, the importance of the ROL-USA and other revolutionary-minded activists sharing the message: In opposition to the bureaucratic leadership of the AFL-CIO: The Path to Working Class Gains against Wall Street capital and ultimately for Power for the U.S. working class over capital has to begin with this:
‘We’ve Got to Fight the Powers That Be!!!’”
|BY THE REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION OF LABOR, USA|
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