WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH LABOR TODAY?
I was glad to find, on my daily "net" searches, the article by Htun Lin in your November issue, on "Strikes for Health." Though I'm not a true Marxist, I'm glad to find people taking the position he put forth because, as the UFCW strike is showing, this country is approaching a crisis which we finally have to do something about.
My initial response to the signs of socioeconomic inequality--the statistics, political trends, changes in neighborhoods and so on--was to expect either the free market system to work it out on its own, or smart people to figure it out. But it hit home when I lost my job. I also had a lot of time to look around and see what is actually going on out there from the UFCW strike to Wal-Mart's "super-centers." I'm growing fearful--and angry. I suspect part of the problem is that people on the bottom are not making their voices heard where they need to be heard. I'm reaching out to find others who feel the same way, to exchange ideas and figure out how we can do something about what's happening in America.
--Henry Browne, California
I'm in an ad-hoc non-profit organization that just got two corporate types in. They introduced new vocabulary and now instead of "outreach" we have "marketing." At first it seemed harmless enough, those are just words. But the more that ideology creeps in, the more the discussion gets reduced to how much money is available for a project. So I hear "if the marketing is good, we may have a little profit left from the project." That turns non-profit into for-profit private enterprise.
--Still a non-profit worker, California
For decades everyone has known what a "McJob" is. When it was officially put in the dictionary, McDonalds claimed it infringed on their trademark, but living language is more democratic than any corporate spin. Until now, Wal-Mart has been the largest purveyor of "McJobs," but now unionized retail grocery workers are in the fight of their lives to keep health benefits and stop two-tier wages as their employers seem determined to match Wal-Mart's standard for exploiting labor.
--Strike supporter, Oakland
The economy is really bad these days. Elk Grove Village has one of the biggest industrial parks in the country. My brother is working near O'Hare Airport. He told me recently that every day, when he looks out his window, he sees another business closing down and disappearing. He's definitely worried about his own job.
On the picket line at the Mass Transit Authority in Los Angeles, workers were connecting both the situation in this country and the war in Iraq with the struggle for healthcare. One worker said the struggle for a better health care system is turning into a national struggle. "We need a national health insurance program," he said. Another worker added that "the government is spending a lot of money for the war machine, but not for the benefits of citizens here." Still another declared, "All workers are fighting against the same enemy, the big corporations."
When they saw the copies of N&L we were distributing one MTA worker said it was the first time in his life that he saw a paper that prints the ideas and expressions of workers the same way they were expressed.
--Strike Supporter, Los Angeles
TEAR DOWN THE WALL
When I read how the 400-mile barrier, which includes an electric fence, concrete walls, trenches "and other obstacles," being built by the Israeli government will totally surround 12 Palestinian communities, leaving residents able to leave only through gates controlled by Israeli security forces, all I could think of was the Warsaw Ghetto. That was when the Nazis walled in the Jewish section of Poland and starved and murdered the men, women and children within its walls. Even as those Jews were being starved to death, they were able to mount an effective resistance. This wall, which the whole world condemns, will certainly only deepen Palestinians' resolve to fight for freedom.
--Another Jew against the Occupation, Memphis
The article in the November issue of N&L concerning imperialism came as a ring to my fingers because I had been talking with a friend who is an economist about the situation of the U.S. and its global domination. He agreed with me on everything except the idea that the U.S. is a debtor nation or that other nations would lend money to a nation that does not have any solvency. I sent him a copy of Peter Hudis' article on "What is new in today's imperialism?" as evidence of my point of view.
Many of the so-called Left cannot see the transformation of imperialism into its different stages. They live in the past and are still dealing with "Imperialism, Highest Stage of Capitalism" as it was written by Lenin. At the time it was written it was a master work. But I consider it to be the same question Raya Dunayevskaya challenged us to answer: are we continuators or are we just followers?
--Marcos, Los Angeles
Kudos to you for your article on "What is new in today's imperialism?" It really filled in the blanks as far as explaining the motivations of the power elite and the role capital plays in the current endless "war on terrorism."
The U.S. has become the most feared nation in the world thanks to Bush. I thought the second most dangerous nation was Israel. Any religious extremist (fundamentalist) in charge of a nation with nuclear weapons poses the scary potential of the end of civilization because, when threatened sufficiently, the religious fundamentalist becomes fanatic and frantic.
Peter Hudis' analysis in the November essay is right on. However, it is only in the last two paragraphs that he gets to what I think should have been half the text: how are we going to get out from under the present system? We don't need to convince people that things are bad. We need to work out an alternative.
--Urszula Wislanka, Oakland
CLOSING THE SOA
Over ten thousand gathered this year outside the gates of Ft. Benning, Ga. in the most diverse demonstration yet of opposition to the School of the Americas--a combat-training school for Latin American soldiers, whose graduates have tortured, raped, or assassinated hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans. Since protests against the SOA began over ten years ago, 170 people have served prison sentences for civil disobedience.
This year, in addition to the thousands gathered in Georgia, thousands of others gathered in Miami to protest the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and 200,000 gathered in London during Bush's visit to protest the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The three mobilizations released a joint statement of solidarity. As Fr. Roy Bourgeois, founder of SOA/Watch put it, "Our struggles are interconnected. From the SOA, to FTAA, to the invasion of Iraq, our government's foreign policy is serving the interests of a few, and making us a lot of enemies."
--SOA Protester, Chicago
FOCUSING ON DIALECTICS
NEWS & LETTERS' primary focus on dialectics was at first so confusing as to drive me away from such theoretical considerations. As time has progressed, however, I find myself further intrigued by the synthesis of conflicting and contradictory theses. Prevailing ideology today prefers good and evil, up and down, hot and cold. I fell under the sway of this kind of polarity with no inkling of the connections that must be found and studied. I feel that by now I have been intellectually actualized because of reading N&L.
--Michael S., Texas
I especially enjoy reading the articles on Hegel. I find your criticisms of our international leaders food for thought, but the total condemnation seems like a Trotskyite indulgence that is completely undialectical. The negation of the negation is a common phenomenon in nature and life. What's so deep about that? Mao had a saying, "a good thing can turn into bad, a bad thing into good." Of course, you're dialoging with a confirmed Maoist, so maybe you'll just write me off. Thanks for your efforts anyhow, and keep on working to keep the pot stirred up.
--V.M.N., Los Angeles
WORLDWIDE STRUGGLES FOR WOMEN'S LIBERATION
Sheila Sahar's article in the November issue of N&L on Shirin Ebadi, who just won a Nobel Peace Prize, set her in a context that shows her as completely indigenous to the Iranian women's struggle for freedom.
I keep thinking of the hundreds of thousands of women who have become victims of sexual violence since the civil war began in Congo in 1998. Abandoned by their families and ostracized by their communities, victims in many areas are uniting to provide support to each other. With some support from the United Nations and various women's groups, they have collected money for each other and perform traditional purification rituals so their sisters can be readmitted to society. Of special importance is how hundreds marched to Goma earlier this year to protest the culture of rape.
--Women's Liberationist, Michigan
In Texas, where I live, the crime of rape is only a third degree felony punishable by two to ten years in prison, while burglary to steal a few material items is a second degree felony punishable by two to 20 years. Rape where serious bodily injury is inflicted is a second degree felony, but non-sexual assault is a first degree felony punishable by five to 99 years. In other words, in this traditionally patriarchal state, a rapist faces less punishment than someone who steals a horse or a few head of livestock! Yet today more than at any other time in the history of Western society, women have the potential ability to seize control by majority vote and force a true gender equality on this nation. I would like to see a national demonstration organized for gender equality in 2004.
--A male for equality, Texas
VOICES AS REASON FROM WITHIN THE PRISON WALLS
As individuals we have to figure out our priorities on an individual basis. That means thinking for ourselves and asking questions for ourselves. It has been the authorities, the political, religious, educational authorities who have attempted to comfort us by regulating our free thought and giving orders, rules, regulations by informing and forming in our minds their view of reality. To rethink for yourself you must question the questionable and learn in a state of open mindedness. Society is a voluntary association of persons for common ends. If our thoughts are regulated and/or programmed, we have no voluntary association, so we have no real society.
--Prisoner, North Carolina
Yours is by far the best "underground" newspaper out there. Its journalistic integrity is superb and it offers perspectives the mainstream media refuses to cover. While I find the Marxist writings a bit esoteric, they have caused me to change my viewpoints on a lot of issues and that was all to the good. Please tell the donor who sponsors my sub that it allows 15 to 20 people "inside the walls" to get truth and insight every issue.
It is very hard to be incarcerated. But to be incarcerated and kept blinded to what is really going on in the world is much worse. Thank you for a journal that keeps me in the world.
N&L presents information and points of view that I often ponder but rarely see or hear from politically correct mainstream media outlets. The diverse points of view you present are all rooted in the battles against injustice and oppression. In America we should never have to worry about the basic necessities like food, shelter and clothing. That should be provided for all citizens as long as billions of dollars are available and continue to be sent to other nations each year. That does not mean we should not have to work to earn a living. But I believe that in that kind of society, so long as one is physically and mentally capable of doing some kind of work to contribute to the well-being of his community or nation, if he refuses to contribute it would indicate a serious and deeper mental issue. That is an entirely different question. Thanks for continually challenging my ideas.
--Black Cheyenne prisoner, Texas
One of the little known facts of prison life is that people have to stop going to doctors because of the required co-pay. Many deaths result that could have been avoided. The problem is that many get only $8 a month to spend for necessities, and their co-pay is $7.50. Some of us in segregation don't even get the $8 others might.
--Sick and tired prisoner, Wisconsin
The Supermax prison in Boscobel has been controversial from the time it was built. There is no outside recreation at all. I haven't seen the sky for seven months, nor have I had any fresh air in all that time. They have a "recreation" area which is a concrete room with a small outside vent about 10 feet up from which you may catch a glimpse of the sky if you are lucky. All the authorities think about is locking people down in a modern concentration camp.
THE BLACK DIMENSION AND THE NEEDED AMERICAN REVOLUTION
The importance of Raya Dunayevskaya's Political Letter on AMERICAN CIVILIZATION ON TRIAL in the November issue is that she is talking about the todayness and one-worldedness of history--living history. It's not just a question of not repeating history. In the history of freedom struggles, high points are reached. We need to know those as jumping off places for our struggles today.
--History Student, Tennessee
John Alan is correct in his article on "Black Latin America" (N&L, October, 2003) that the struggle of the "Latinos" is the same struggle as that of the Black people. There are places in Latin America where the majority are Black, as in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Brazil. Many people refer to Latin America as only those countries where Spanish is spoken, but that is not correct. In other areas the majority are descendants of native people or mixed with different races. But the struggles are the same as those of the Black people in Africa and the U.S.
--Dominican American, California
I was introduced to N&L by a long-time friend and saw the excerpts you published on revolutionary Black struggles and ideas from your new publication on DIALECTICS OF BLACK FREEDOM STRUGGLES and I can't wait to read it, because democracy is the voice of the people.
--B.H., Rustburg, Va.
I've been thoroughly impressed with the quality and subject matter addressed in NEWS & LETTERS. What is the most striking to me is that issues that are prominent to a Black Have Not in America are seen and written about not only by Black people. The service you provide in your efforts to resuscitate intellect is priceless. My brain is salivating thinking of how I could receive copies of your new pamphlets on the Black dimension. I am worse than indigent since my litigation in federal court concerning prisoner rights has brought reprisals with it so that 100% of any money sent to me is garnisheed. Is there any way you could find a donor to pay the cost of those two pamphlets for me?
It was important to have the article on the banning of DX abortions in the November issue of N&L, but I disagree that it is "the most far-reaching limit on abortion since it was legalized by the Supreme Court in 1973." It is the first time an actual procedure has been outlawed, and no doubt the Right will try to follow that up with more. But when the Hyde Amendment cut off abortion funding for poor women, that affected many more women than banning late term abortion. So do parental consent laws. It is because we were unable to stop those truly far-reaching limits on our right to abortion that the Right was emboldened to take this next step in attacking abortion rights and to cross the line by banning an actual procedure that, until now, had held firm.
--Women's Action Coalition member, Memphis
SOUTH AFRICA'S ANTI-TERROR LAW
In a massive attack that will change the face of South Africa forever, the new Anti-Terror Act (PROCONDEMATARA, for short!) will, among other things, make illegal strikes and demonstrations "terrorist" and open unions and workers to civil suits by monopoly capital. It will usher in the rule of decree by the Presidency and amounts to a permanent state of emergency in SA in the interests of imperialism. We have made a special appeal to the union leadership to come out publicly against this attack on the working class. To date, their silence has been deafening!
--Anti-War Coalition, Salt River, South Africa
ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT AND BUSH'S PYRRHIC VICTORY
What kind of victory is it other than Pyrrhic when every day brings reports of more U.S. soldiers killed since Bush declared the war over, using his photo-op on the USS Lincoln to make it dramatic? And when his military commanders are now casually predicting we will be in Iraq until 2006?
I was shocked when I heard Daniel Schorr's commentary on NPR that the Senate could vote "unrecorded" to pass the $87 billion Iraq war appropriation. Have I been on the wrong planet? I never knew they could do this! What else have they hidden their votes on? How can we get it changed? The only "bright spot," if you could call it that, in the fact that all but six senators chickened out of having their vote recorded, is that it shows they do fear public opinion on funding the war.
--Alarmed citizen, Detroit
In view of the wide-spread concerns over the war in Iraq, I have been urging people here to approach their members of Parliament to express their views and ask them to support the following two points: 1) it is time for Mr. Blair to go; 2) it is time to bring the troops home. The House of Commons has been misled on the occupation of Iraq. The breach of international law it represents does not bode well for the future. We need to re-open the question of the war and achieve its speedy conclusion.
--Patrick Duffy, England
ANGOLA 3 VICTORY
The Angola 3 won a victory with regard to the civil law front of their struggle on Oct. 20, when the Supreme Court denied Louisiana's attempt to dismiss their challenge to continued solitary confinement in Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox are demanding that they be returned to the general prison population after almost 32 years of life in a small cell for all but one hour a day, depriving them of human contact and personal property. Theirs is believed to be the longest solitary confinement in U.S. history. Robert King Wilkerson, the third plaintiff in the case, was finally freed in 2001 when a state judge overturned his conviction. Woodfox and Wallace, however, are still on lockdown. A legal team is pushing their cases forward in both the civil and criminal courts. The ACLU of Louisiana is representing the Angola 3 in the civil matter. Their attorney says a trial date will probably be set for sometime early next year. "We're going to win," he said.
--Beth Shaw, Chicago
Published by News and Letters Committees