Archive for the ‘United States – history’ Category

“A gunman clad in all black, with a ballistic vest strapped to his chest and a military-style rifle in his hands, opened fire on parishioners at a Sunday service at a small Baptist church in rural Texas, killing at least 26 people and turning this tiny town east of San Antonio into the scene of the country’s newest mass horror.” – New York Times

by Don Franks

In the present climate it’s easy to forget the fact, but United States history is extremely rich in democratic and radical traditions. Along with giant landmarks such as the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam war movement and Stonewall there’s the legacy of a radical US labour movement. The heroism of the IWW, where countless organisers were hounded and several of them tortured to death and the struggles of farmworkers, rail workers, miners, eruptions like the Great Flint sit down strike of the 1930s.

In terms of selfless devotion to other human beings, many thousands of working class Americans have a record second to none.

Today, our constant image of the United States is of a deranged people mindlessly and viciously at war with each other.

It has been sixteen years since the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the US government has maintained a   (more…)

Advertisements

Below we’re running an article on a strike that took place in Detroit in 1987.  We’re running it because of what workers here in NZ, and readers around the world, can learn from this dispute.  It’s one where the workers said a resounding “No!” to the company’s demands that they sacrifice conditions and benefits and to the union leaders whose starting point was to make concessions to the employers – and get in the way of workers being able to fight!

This strike against health care giant Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went against the wider trend in the US workplace at the time, which was to make concessions and not resist, a trend which is very much dominant in the New Zealand workplace thirty years later.  It was also marked by a large degree of rank-and-file control over the struggle and a continuous battle for workers to maintain this control in the face of manoeuvres by the union bureaucracy to take it over – and bring it to an end.

The BCBSM strike also won support from other workers, most particularly auto workers and a number of local officials in the auto workers’ union. 

The Spark is an American Marxist workers’ group which was active in the strike, Detroit historically being one of their main centres of activity. 

by The Spark

Thirty years ago, workers at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) went on strike. Chants of “No contract, no work!” and “Don’t get sick tonight: Blue Cross is on strike!” filled the air in downtown Detroit and at other statewide locations. The strike of approximately 4,000 workers began in September 1987, immediately preceding Labor Day. The strike was not over until winter moved in, eighty-three days later, in November.

The healthcare giant, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, dominated the Michigan health care industry and controlled around 70 percent of the industry statewide at that time. It was demanding major concessions at the bargaining table, taking advantage of the fact that the new 1987 contract would now cover all four local unions in offices around Michigan in a Master Labor Agreement. The company viewed it as an opportunity to impose the worst from all of the former agreements, and then some. They were a paternalistic employer; the majority of employees were women and, like public employees, were considered lucky to have decent benefits that included time off for taking care of family needs, and health care as well. Of course, the wages were not equivalent to wages earned by manufacturing workforces that were predominately male.

In the concessionary drive, earlier unspoken agreements regarding benefits as a trade-off for wages were forgotten, as the bosses came after all they could get. Benefits were at the front of their list. Always a company that believed in the stick before the carrot, BCBSM looked to impose drastic cuts in workers’ sick time off provisions and to eliminate policies that gave women workers some needed flexibility in work start times and in taking increments of time off to attend to personal and family needs. While wages were an issue in the strike, the elimination of time-off provisions and the flexibility to be able to avoid discipline and firing while still maintaining their second job, the family, was foremost in women workers’ minds.

The largest number of workers were housed in Detroit, with almost 3,000 unionized employees and almost as many more who were salaried workers, called “exempts,” meaning they couldn’t be in the union. While the union was comprised of clerical, office and professional employees, the majority of the professionals were non-union. Many of them were not particularly well paid. But they were (more…)

Incinerating Hiroshima

by Don Franks

US President Donald Trump now threatens to “totally destroy” North Korea’s country of 26 million people.

This from the leader of the only power that ever used nuclear weapons.

Trump isn’t a one-off nutcase. He follows in the tradition of President Truman.

When the Japanese refused a US ultimatum to surrender unconditionally, Truman ordered the dropping of an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.  On August 6, announcing the dropping of the bomb, he again demanded Japan’s surrender, warning it to “expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

Three days later, on August 9 1945, a second atomic bomb was dropped, this time on Nagasaki.

Within the first two to four months following the bombings, the acute effects had killed (more…)

Confederate statue comes down in Durham, North Carolina during anti-racist/anti-fascist protest. Picture: CNN.

by The Spark

Trump tweeted that “our history and culture” are being “ripped apart” by the removal of Confederate monuments and statues.

Which history? Whose culture?

These monuments to the “Confederacy” were not erected out of respect to the hundreds of thousands of laboring people, North and South, black and white, who died in the Civil War.

Nor do they commemorate the many poor whites and ex-slaves who joined together to run local Reconstruction governments after the Civil War – establishing medical clinics for the poor population, setting up the first ever public schools for the children of the poor.

The “Confederate” monuments came later, a quarter to a half a century after the end of the Civil War. They were paid for by the same plantation aristocracy whose money supported the growth of (more…)

The following statement is from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, August 15:

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine mourns the martyr Heather Heyer and wishes speedy healing to the wounded anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia in the United States as they confronted a racist, fascist rally on Saturday, August 12. The martyr and the wounded are part of the global list of those who have fallen in the struggles of all peoples to confront racist powers and they will always be remembered as such.

Contrary to the assertions of some corporate media in the United States, the fascist rally in Virginia in “defense” of a Confederate statue is not a divergence from U.S. ruling politics but a reflection of them. The United States has always been built on the genocide of Indigenous people and the theft of Indigenous land, the genocidal confiscation of Black lives and Black labor and the globally murderous power of capitalism and imperialism.

The rise of these kinds of demonstrations of racism are also an expression of the crisis of U.S. capitalism and imperialism in the Trump era, as well as the “debate” of the two (more…)

The following piece is an extract from a longer article by Phil Hearse that appeared in International Viewpoint, an online Marxist publication, last Thursday (August 10).

For the people of North Korea, warnings from their leadership about the United States seem all too real. During the Korean war (1950-53) the whole of the North was bombed flat and according to some estimates a third of its population died.

Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden explains that although much of the propaganda of today’s North Korean regime is preposterous and idiotic, the hatred of America is often genuine and based on memories of the Korean war:

“The hate, though, is not all manufactured. It is rooted in a fact-based narrative, one that North Korea obsessively remembers and the United States blithely forgets.

“The story dates to the early 1950s, when the U.S. Air Force, in response to the North Korean invasion that started the Korean War, bombed and napalmed cities, towns and villages across the North. It was mostly easy pickings for the Air Force, whose B-29s faced little or no opposition on many missions.

“The bombing was long, leisurely and (more…)

Earlier this week (July 23) marked the 50th anniversary of the urban rebellion in Detroit, Michigan.  This was the era of explosions in the deprived black communities of urban America, opening with the rebellion in Harlem (New York) on the east Coast in 1964, the Watts ghetto (Los Angeles) on the west coast in 1965 and continuing in many places in between through the rest of the 1960s, with the biggest explosions coming with the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.  Below, we’re running a piece by the comrades of the US Marxist group The Spark; this was the editorial that appeared in the current round of all their fortnightly workplace bulletins. 

by The Spark

In 1965, Detroit’s then mayor declared that the revolt in Watts couldn’t happen in “his city”. In 2017, Detroit’s current mayor declared that 1967 wasn’t an uprising. But it DID happen, and it WAS an uprising, an uprising of oppressed people. Before it was over, the Detroit revolt of 1967 would become the largest of any uprising in 20th century America. It was “the fire next time” that James Baldwin had written about in 1962.

In 1967 – no matter how many marches, how many court cases, how many laws – unemployment continued. Impoverishment drained people. Cops went into neighborhoods like an occupying army. There was a vast powder keg of unmet needs and grievances.

All it took was an “ordinary” incident of (more…)