From the March-April 2019 issue of News & Letters
WORKERS STRIKE BACK
Regarding “Unity in Los Angeles teachers’ strike” in the Jan.-Feb. N&L, I heard that the strike won some demands but little was conceded on excess class size. Charter operators hope that public education will continue to be squeezed both financially and by the working conditions that drag teachers down. And they don’t want just 50% of Los Angeles schools to become charters; they want it all, as in New Orleans, where the Black community is fighting to keep the last public high school in the city from going charter.
Regarding “Trump Aids Capitalism’s Attack on Labor; Workers Strike Back” (Jan.-Feb. N&L): Teacher strikes keep spreading—already this year to Denver, Oakland, Los Angeles, and another set of Chicago charter schools. Whoever thought the working class put Trump in power should listen to the strikers. I heard them talking loud and clear about how Trump and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel are on the side of a rich elite who have been closing and privatizing and chartering public schools, doubling down on a racist, class-divided educational system and starving out education for the masses. At a strike rally I heard the teachers and other school staff talking very explicitly about class solidarity.
GENOCIDE AND FACEBOOK
Facebook banned four ethnic armed Myanmar-based groups from its site recently. Freedom of speech progressive activists have good points of criticism. They ask what is the definition of terrorism? Why ban certain armed groups, such as “nonstate actors” yet not ban “state actors” who have committed genocide? Would Zuckerberg’s Facebook have banned Tutsi pages while allowing state propaganda from the genocidal Hutu government during the Rwandan genocide?
Following the historic victory at the International Court of Justice at The Hague which found that Britain had acted unlawfully in its decolonization of Mauritius, we just wanted to express our appreciation in LALIT for the support of the N&L team in publishing articles and echoing on this issue among your members. The judgment at the ICJ is a very strong criticism of the UK. Certainly worth a read – and perhaps worth circulating to those you know will be interested. The link is: https://www.lalitmauritius.org/modules/documents/files/LalitMauritius-eddea82ad2755b24c4e168c5fc2ebd40.pdf. And here is a short video clip on LALIT’s reaction to the Chagos ICJ findings: https://www.lalitmauritius.org/en/videos.html?videoid=70
Alain Ah Vee
SYRIAN REVOLUTION UNDER FIRE
There wasn’t a revolution in Syria that began in 2011, it was an inter-imperialist conflict through and through. It’s true that Bashar al-Assad and Russia do represent an imperialist bloc, but it appears the essay’s (“How Dead Thought Failed Syrian Revolution’s Living History,” Jan.-Feb. N&L) characterization of there being a Syrian “revolution” at all rests on a glaring absence of an analysis of the role of U.S. imperialism in the conflict.
Those on the Left who deny the existence of the Syrian revolution prove the essay’s point. When Hassan Ali Akleh set himself on fire in Hasakeh, Syria, to protest the Assad regime, echoing Mohamed Bouazizi, was that an “inter-imperialist conflict”? When 15 boys under age 15 wrote graffiti on walls in Daraa with revolutionary slogans they had heard from Tunisia and Egypt, was that an “inter-imperialist conflict”? When the children were tortured in detention, was that an “inter-imperialist conflict”? When their family members gathered to demand their release, was that an “inter-imperialist conflict”? When people in Syria formed Local Coordinating Committees, was that an “inter-imperialist conflict”? Were the banners of Kafranbel an “inter-imperialist conflict”?
Syria solidarity activist
The Anti-War Committees in Solidarity with the Struggles for Self-Determination came together to challenge the leaderships of the coalitions, ANSWER and UNAC among others, which defend Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s genocidal repression of the democratic struggle in Syria. We refuse to accept leaders who engage in atrocity denial who are morally compromised by their apologies for genocide. We propose that a new coalition needs to be built. We believe that international solidarity with democratic struggles for self-determination is the only alternative to the bloody farce of the “War on Terror,” sectarian violence, wars, occupations and dictatorships. With regard to events in Venezuela, we see the same leftist leaderships adopting uncritical support for Nicolás Maduro. Rejecting Trump’s threats and machinations is a matter of principle, but Maduro offers no solution to the Venezuelan people. On the contrary, the chavista regime has empowered the military, the agent of the corruption that has contributed significantly to the scarcity of food and medicines. We have done many rallies and events in Chicago and in Northwest Indiana. The comrades of News and Letters Committees have always stood with us. You can find us on Facebook.
Securing the right of the mentally ill to give informed consent regarding their medications is significant, which was the burden of the film reviewed in the Jan-Feb. N&L (“Review of ‘55 Steps’”). These rights will provide greater dignity not just for the patients but their families and friends, too. It should also help break down the divisions between doctors and patients and help everyone realize that medical care is a two-way street among human beings.
DEBATING YELLOW VESTS
The kind of over generalizations appearing in “French ‘Yellow Vests’” (Jan.-Feb. N&L) is like jumping to conclusions about who they vote for. Take the gilet jaunes’ fear and hostility toward journalists. One night at the Occupy Oakland camp, a reporter came up to a group of us. I was the only person willing to talk to her, while my friends all gave me the stink eye. I think my friends were right. The gilets jaunes do not want any self-appointed spokespeople or having the press appoint them.
Bay Area, Calif.
When a movement is new and spontaneous it demands the widest discussion. How someone “voted” is not necessarily a guide. I know of white auto workers in Detroit who voted for the racist George Wallace but had a different perspective during strikes against automation. Eric Drouet quickly disassociated Yellow Vests from its Paris adherents who met with Luigi Di Maio, a leader of Italy’s anti-immigrant, anti-Europe ruling coalition. Drouet criticized the Yellow Vests who, when they spotted the French Jewish intellectual Alain Finkielkraut, shouted anti-Semitic epithets. Gerry Emmett’s early warning in this respect is well-taken. What should be heard with much greater care than French President Emmanuel Macron’s or Marine Le Pen’s or Drouet’s criticism are the mass demonstrations throughout France on Feb. 19 against its growing anti-Semitism. No human being can be silent about speaking out against Europe’s growing retrogression into a racist nationalism, which under similar economic conditions in the 20th century sucked the world into two global conflagrations and unspeakable inhumanity.
“French ‘Yellow Vests’” reveals what I thought when mainstream media briefly covered these protests, but gave no context for them. The Far Right can use the same tactics and strategies the masses use, for a far more sinister purpose. It is very helpful to read about the ways the gilet jaunes have been appropriated. There are many in Europe who oppose a Far-Right agenda, like those Holocaust survivors in the Netherlands we rarely hear about who stand in solidarity with Palestinians for human and women’s freedom, rights and dignity. With whom can we stand in France?
Susan Van Gelder
“Anti-Semitism Mars Women’s March” (Jan.-Feb. N&L) shows very concretely (unfortunately) how faulty thinking can mislead people into completely unacceptable conclusions: “We attack the forces of evil, not the people doing evil.” WHAT? Very well refuted: “[I]t is an excuse not to have principles, not to fight hatred, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, when fighting it makes you uncomfortable. The ‘forces of evil’ that the WMI claim they ‘attack’ are carried out by human beings committed to spreading this ‘evil.’” Debate and discussion over differences are important, but principles of humanism cannot be compromised, especially when someone like Farrakhan has such a long history of anti-human thought, writing and behavior, going back to his unproved association with the assassination of Malcolm X, as Malcolm was breaking with narrow Black nationalism and moving toward humanism. By the way, the Nation of Islam is now buying up property in Detroit, joining many capitalist land speculators making money off low-income Detroit residents.
There’s been quite a debate about your editorial, “Catholic Church’s sins laid bare” (Sept.-Oct. 2018 N&L), especially its conclusion about “the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church.” We keep seeing scandal after scandal showing the harm done by the Church. In a very short time the disregard the Church has had for abused children has been added to: now we are seeing the Church’s disregard for abused nuns, for women raped by priests and bishops, many forced to abort. Now we are hearing from those children of priests and bishops and how inhumanly they have been treated. This is in an institution pervaded with sexism and contempt for elementary human rights like birth control and abortion. How long will it take for people to say enough is enough?
WHY READ NEWS & LETTERS?
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Timir Basu, Editor of Frontier
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