Archive for the ‘At the coalface’ Category

by The Spark

September 20 marked one year since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. President Trump referred back to that storm, and the death count on the island, when he was warning people in North and South Carolina to flee Hurricane Florence.

He said that the death count in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria – reported in recent studies to be over 3,000 people – was fake.

Trump defiantly excluded any number larger than the handful originally reported, including all the people who died after the storm as a result of the failure of the US government, backed by Wall Street, to provide the massive federal emergency aid required to stop the death toll from rising.

Puerto Rico is an island about the size of Connecticut with a population of about 3 million people. It is a territory of the US, acquired through US military occupation. While citizens of the US, Puerto Ricans have no representatives in Congress. Since the US invasion, the island has been used by U.S. corporations as a source of cheap labor.

Working class people have a far lower standard of living there than in any state in the US. The poverty imposed on the Puerto Rican population by US imperialism means that (more…)

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by Robert Clough

As the Zionist campaign against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and alleged anti-Semitism in the Labour Party reached fever pitch in July, the passage of the racist Nation-State of the Jewish People Bill through the Israeli Knesset exposes the fundamental truth that Israel is a racist, apartheid state. Yet to say this, according to the Zionist press and the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs, is to be anti-Semitic, and they want to enshrine this in the Labour Party’s anti-Semitism code of conduct. Outrageously, Corbyn has not publicly condemned this censorship attempt at a time when the Palestinian people are suffering accelerated ethnic cleansing on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. By his silence, Corbyn has allowed the Zionists both inside and outside the Labour Party to get away with their lies, and has hung the Palestinian people out to dry.

The latest round of the Zionist campaign started with the presentation of a draft code of conduct on anti-Semitism to a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) on 3 July. The document used the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, but excluded four IHRA-defined examples of anti-Semitism, of which the important ones for the Zionists are ‘denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, eg by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour’ and ‘applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’. These are the basis for attempts to ban events associated with Israeli Apartheid Week, or suppress description of Israel as a colonial-settler state. Yet until recently, the Zionists never specifically mentioned them since it would lay bare their real intention – to censor opposition to the Israeli state.

Zionists mobilise

The exclusions aroused virulent opposition from Zionist organisations such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and, within the Labour Party, from the Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), whose director is a former official in the Israeli London embassy. When on 17 July, the NEC formally adopted the code of conduct, the Zionists went into overdrive to denounce both the NEC decision and Corbyn. LFI chair Joan Ryan tweeted that: ‘the NEC has decided to prioritise the rights of those who seek to demonise and delegitimise the state of Israel…’ This is the LFI which issued a statement blaming the Palestinians for the massacre of 14 May when Israeli snipers shot down over 1,200 Palestinian protesters, killing 62.

LFI MP Margaret Hodge took the Zionist campaign to a new level when on the evening of the NEC meeting she confronted Corbyn in parliament and shouted that he was a ‘fucking anti-Semite and racist’. Even though this was an obvious lie, her fellow MPs rallied around her and denounced any attempt to discipline her for using abusive language; the overwhelming majority had already condemned the code of conduct at a meeting prior to the NEC decision. The Guardian gave over a column to Hodge to justify her aggression. Throughout the piece, she did what all Zionists do: conflate Zionism with Judaism so that condemnation of Zionism becomes anti-Jewish and therefore anti-Semitic. She concluded by saying that ‘I stand by my action as well as my words’.

Israel: an apartheid state

On 19 July, the Israeli Knesset approved the Nation-State of the Jewish People Bill, which not only formally relegates the legal status of Palestinian people living in Israel to that of second-class citizens, but also endorses ethnic cleansing by stating: (more…)

The last week of August marked the 50th anniversary of the (in)famous 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago.  Thousands of people turned up outside the convention to protest the war being waged by the United States, via a Democratic Party administration, on the people of Vietnam.  The Democratic Party mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, turned his cops on the protesters, hundreds of whom were injured in police assaults.  The Illinois National Guard was also turned out, to supplement the armed cops.  This party convention was yet more proof, if any was needed, that the Democratic Party is no vehicle for progressive change in the United States, any more than the Labour Party is in New Zealand (or Britain or Australia).

by The Spark

In 1968, the Democratic Party met in Convention in Chicago to nominate its presidential candidate. This is the Convention that has gone down in history – in the words of Hodding Carter, one of its participants – as the work of “a party that had lost its mind.”

For most people who still remember, the 1968 Convention is associated with the 14-minute live telecast from the streets of Chicago, showing police clubbing and viciously kicking unarmed demonstrators, people who had come to protest the U.S. war on Viet Nam and the Democrats who were carrying it out. Some of those people, bloody on the ground, were shown yelling, “the whole world is watching.”

Or people remember from inside the Convention, Chicago’s mayor, Richard Daley, yelling “fuck you” to Senator Abraham Ribicoff from Connecticut, who had criticized “Boss Daley’s” cops.

In fact, the 1968 Democratic convention should go down in history as the symbol of the inability of the Democratic Party to respond to the deep problems of this country – even at the very moment when social forces were urgently pushing those problems forward.

A Country on Fire

Opposition inside this country to the U.S. war on Viet Nam had become so strong that (more…)

by The Spark

Prisoners in at least 17 states are on strike, protesting the severely inhumane conditions in prisons. Three hundred inmates in Nova Scotia, Canada have also joined the strike. The strike began on August 21, the anniversary of the killing of George Jackson by prison guards in Soledad, California, in 1971, and is scheduled to run until September 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison rebellion in New York that same year.

The strike is taking place in kitchens, laundries, prison grounds – anywhere prisoners do work. By refusing to work, the strikers are trying to draw attention to the dire problems they face every day: the extremely low pay they get, the overcrowding, the treatment of inmates by guards and prison officials. But strikers’ demands also include greater access to rehabilitation and education, and changes in sentencing laws.

Prisoners are demanding (more…)

Kim Moody, On New Terrain: how capital reshaped the battleground of class war, Chicago, Haymarket Press, 2017, US$18; reviewed by Guy Miller

On November 8, 1954, US (Republican Party) President Dwight Eisenhower wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish Social Security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. . . their numbers are negligible, and they are stupid.”

On August 3, 2018, the headline on the New York Times front page blared: “The Downside of Apple’s $1 Trillion Valuation: Income Inequality May Grow as Mega-Firms Dominate Economy.”

How we got from November, 1954 to August, 2018 is the story Kim Moody’s book, On New Terrain, tells well, and in great detail.

The Old Terrain

After being discharged from the U.S. Army, I entered the blue-collar work force in late 1967.  My fellow workers and I started with the basic assumption that decent-paying jobs were our birthright.  We also believed that our standard of living would always be on an unending upward trajectory.

Jobs were plentiful. Quit your job during the lunch hour and there was a chance you would have a new one that afternoon. We were a mixed demographic of Vietnam era veterans, young black nationalists,  counter culture youth, and older workers with the victories of the rise of the CIO still  imprinted in our memory banks.

Fifteen-minute coffee breaks routinely stretched to 25 minutes, a half-hour lunch meant 45 minutes away from work.  Assembly line moving too fast?  Simple solution: stop it by any means necessary.  Two-day weekends often ballooned into three days, thanks to the “bridge”, that is, calling off work on Fridays or Mondays.  With or without a union, we called the shots, or at least many of them.  It was almost too good to last, and it didn’t.

Shifting Terrain

As the war in Vietnam began to wind down, the American capitalist class saw itself besieged on several fronts: (more…)

Occupying the Ministry of Justice, London

by Floyd Codlin

“We are not the dirt, we clean”, is the slogan from United Voices of the World (UVW,) a relatively new union that is making a big industrial splash in Britain. UVW is a members-led, campaigning trade union, which supports and empowers the most vulnerable groups of precarious, low-paid and predominantly migrant workers in the country. The union was founded in 2014, rapidly gaining media attention and popular support with a series of high-profile victories for workers serving Sothebys, Harrods and the London School of Economics. Their members work overwhelmingly in London’s ubiquitous outsourced industries, which include cleaning, portering, security, and retail, waiters and bar staff.

UVW has campaigned for all members to receive at least the London Living Wage (£10.20 per hour as of November 2017), contractual sick pay and other rights, dignified and safe conditions, and general respect. They’ve also challenged outsourcing itself, which creates two-tier workforces in order to slash wage bills and deny important rights. Most recently, from 7th-8th of August 2018, UVW cleaners went on strike at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) for the London Living wage of £10.20 per hour and sick pay.

There are two things that go to make UVW so unusual; one is the fact that (more…)

Below is a statement by Dr Swee Ang, who was the medical doctor on the al-Awda, the freedom flotilla ship delivering medical supplies to the besieged people of Gaza; among those assaulted and tasered was Mike Treen, the national director of Unite trade union in NZ and a veteran activist in progressive causes from opposition to the Vietnam War to anti-apartheid activities and support for the Palestinian cause.

The statement, made on August 4, has appeared in a number of places; we took it from the blog of veteran British anti-imperialist and socialist activist Tony Greenstein.  We’ve added subheads to break up the text a bit more.

by Dr Swee Ang

The last leg of the journey of al-Awda (the boat of return) was scheduled to reach Gaza on 29 July 2018. We were on target to reach Gaza that evening. There are 22 on board including crew with USD15,000 of antibiotics and bandages for Gaza. At 12.31 pm we received a missed call from a number beginning with +81… Mikkel was steering the boat at that time. The phone rang again with the message that we were trespassing into Israeli waters. Mikkel replied that we were in International waters and had right of innocent passage according to maritime laws. The accusation of trespassing was repeated again and again with Mikkel repeating the message that we were sailing in international waters. This carried on for about half an hour, while Awda was 42 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza.

Prior to the beginning of this last leg, we had spent 2 days learning non-violent actions and had prepared ourselves in anticipation of Israeli invasion of our boat. Vulnerable individuals especially those with medical conditions were to sit at the rear of the top deck with their hands on the deck table. The leader of this group was Gerd, a 75 year old elite Norwegian athlete and she had the help of Lucia a Spanish nurse in her group.

The people who were to provide non-violent barrier to the Israelis coming on deck and taking over the boat formed 3 rows – two rows of threes and the third row of 2 persons blocking the wheel house door to protect the wheel house for as long as possible. There were runners between the wheel house and the rear of the deck. The leader of the boat Zohar and I were at the two ends of the toilets corridor where we looked out at the horizon and inform all of any sightings of armed boats. I laughed at Zohar and said we are the Toilet Brigade, but I think Zohar did not find it very funny. It was probably bad taste under the circumstances. I also would be able to help as a runner and will have accessibility to all parts of the deck in view of being the doctor on board.

The attack begins

Soon we saw at least three large Israeli warships on the horizon with 5 or more speed boats (zodiacs) zooming towards us. As the Zodiacs approached I saw that they carried soldiers with machine guns and there was on board the boats large machine guns mounted on a stand pointing at our boat. From my lookout point the first Israeli soldier climbed on board to the cabin level and climbed up the boat ladder to the top deck. His face was masked with a white cloth and following him were many others, all masked. They were all armed with machine guns and small cameras on their chests.

Tasered

They immediately made to the wheel house overcoming the first row by twisting the arms of the participants, lifting Sarah up and throwing her away.  Joergen the chef was large to be manhandled so he was tasered before being (more…)