Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reflections On Obama's Tour

By Jarvis Tyner

By most media accounts Barack Obama’s tour of Iraq, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Western Europe was a big success. The visits showed his worldwide popularity is very broad and ranges from people in the street, to US military personnel, to heads of state.

Obama’s visit to Iraq – to the regret of Bush and McCain no doubt – revealed that the al-Maliki government supports his timetable for withdrawal. This was a big plus for the Democratic candidate for president.

His speech in Berlin drew an amazing 200,000 people and by almost all accounts was a triumph for the senator.

The tour also showed what everybody knew, namely, that George W. Bush is probably the most disliked US president in history. To embrace Obama is in itself a militant protest against the Bush neo-conservative policies. The war in Iraq destroyed most of the good will and solidarity with the US administration that existed after the September 11th 2001 attack. McCain’s notion of 100 years in Iraq along with his militaristic world outlook to most means perpetual war and aggression. The cast of Bushite characters that surround the Republican nominee and his commitment to continue Bush’s basic anti-working-class economic and social policies makes his presidency a continuation of the Bush nightmare and perhaps worse.

Berlin was perhaps the apex of the trip as measured by the sheer size of the audience that tuned out to hear him. There were many important and positive points made in Obama’s speech. The high points were when he called for peace and social and economic justice – these words drew the most applause.

He called for an end to the war in Iraq to prolonged applause. When he called for an end to torture and discussed the elimination of all nuclear weapons in the context of relations with Iranian the roar from the crowd was deafening. The same response occurred when he called for welcoming immigrants and breaking down the barriers based on regions, race, religions and citizenship. The Democratic presumptive nominee called for bottom up economic growth that wouldn’t just benefit the super rich and emphasized negotiation and building bridges when dealing with adversaries, again to vigorous applause. The same when he called for the peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and for end to the genocide in Darfur.

The speech was in a different league from what McCain has been saying in both form and content. Still, there were also more than a few by now weary and overused strains from the past. Obama echoed Kennedy and an even Reagan in drawing on Cold War language even claiming capitalism had won the “battle of ideas.” This did not fit his image as an agent of change. It is no small matter that these words did not get the same level of applause.

People may have wondered that while he mentioned the Berlin wall coming down in the US there is a wall of economic and racial oppression being built on the Mexico border.

And if negotiations are viable in Iran why not in Afghanistan where the fight to defeat the Taliban and El Quada could cost tens of thousands more lives? It is time for a new era of international relations, and to eliminate all nuclear weapons. It is time for cooperation to eliminate poverty and racism.

These issues will not go away and will sharpen the debate and struggle in the post election period. In the meantime it must not divert the broad anti-ultra-right coalition from defeating McCain in November. That is the first priority.

It goes without saying that George W. Bush has set a very low threshold for world leadership. The world will give a great cry of relief if McCain is defeated. All democratic and progressive people will profoundly welcome the restoration of a level of sanity to US foreign and domestic policy worldwide.

With his trip to the Middle East and Western Europe Barack Obama established his credentials as a world figure. He stepped into a vacuum that the failed presidency of George W. Bush has created. McCain is unable to fill that vacuum.

A recent Gallop poll shows Obama’s lead has grown to nine points in response to his trip.

John McCain’s campaign is pretty much reduced to personal attacks, racism and McCarthyism because he is losing the debate. McCain says he would rather lose an election then lose a war – as I see it looks like he is on his way to losing both.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Southwestern Communists Study Together

Communist club leaders held an educational retreat in El Paso on July 19 and 20. National Committee Member Sue Webb, who had come in from Rhode Island to facilitate the meeting, said that similar retreats were being held all over the United States. Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas were included in El Paso.

After introductions, the group of 30 dug into serious questions such as “What is the role of Communists?” Sue Webb reviewed the basic strategies developed by American Communists and explained their Marxist-Leninist basis. She contrasted the Party’s election strategy, one of empowering the working class, with the general sectarianism of other “leftists.”

Of course, the ongoing elections provided the examples for most of the discussion. Webb asked, “How are Communists different in their work within other groups?” Responses included: “Optimistic,” “Have real solutions,” “Promoting unity rather than trying to take over,” “Not idealistic but materialist,” and, “Thinking beyond November.”

A great deal of thought and discussion went into the present operation of our Communist clubs and how they might be improved. For the most part, the leaders were satisfied with their present operations. However, people can always improve, and a number of suggestions came out of the discussion.

The Southwestern Communists had no complaints about inactivity. Rather, the main problem seemed to have been that individual members are doing too much as they try to meet the many challenges and opportunities presented in American political life today. It is difficult to establish and follow priorities when there is so much to do!

The point was made that having successful Communist clubs has to take priority over the urgent demands of other activities. “If the working class doesn’t have the Communist Party to lead it beyond capitalism,” said one participant, “then we are going to have to do these other things over and over and over until we die!” Reforms and improvements, even major accomplishments like ending a war, are temporary fixes unless society can move into a better way of operating.

Democracy was a major topic. It is fundamental to the successful operation of Communist clubs, and it is a major strategic goal of all Communist activities. As democracy spreads, our working people’s majority is empowered.

At the end of the second day, the group evaluated their experience. Almost all of it was positive, but several people made the point that our study group might have benefited from being smaller. The problem is that so many people are interested in solving today’s solutions that more people showed up than had been planned for.

Sue Webb summarized, “I am really impressed with the participation of everybody here. My sense is that everybody has gotten a lot out of it, and I know I have.”

Although the meeting’s purpose was to use our science to study and understand contemporary developments, at least one little nod to old tradition was maintained. At the very end, the group joined in rousing song, “The Internationale!”

-- Jim Lane, Communist Party of Texas

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

First step for autoworkers: win in November

Autoworkers are fighting two enemies at once: the companies themselves who are closing plants and slashing wages and benefits, and a far right Republican government whose anti-worker and free trade agenda greases the wheel for companies to move production out of the country.

“We have the flexibility to source all of our business to other locations around the world and we have the right to do so” said American Axle CEO Dick Dauch. Work for what I say or I’ll give your job to someone else he said. He did just that forcing huge concessions on the union.

Labor needs a Democratic landslide in the November elections – a landslide that sends a message to the next President and Congress that relief for working people is needed and a landslide that will give working people the leverage to stop and reverse the corporate attack.

And if the auto companies won’t operate the plants, let’s nationalize them! Couldn’t these skilled, disciplined, highly productive workers build trains, buses, fuel efficient cars, or in some way greatly contribute to the rebuilding of our country’s infrastructure?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Workers Get It

By Scott Marshall

I went to my local Walgreens and had a very interesting conversation at checkout. The very friendly clerk leaned over close and told me under her breath that “corporate” had ordered the store to take all Obama material out of the store. Until then Obama’s book “Audacity of Hope” was on display near the checkout isle. “And,” she added, “they made us take off our Obama buttons. So much for freedom of speech.” I asked to see the manager and she asked me to wait until another visit so it wouldn’t come back on her. I called the Walgreens and complained. The person I spoke to passed it off as “corporate policy.” So maybe you want to give Walgreens a call and ask them what’s up with selling a book.

But the second part of my conversation with the clerk really got me thinking. She asked me if I had heard what the McCain high-up said about us being a country of whiners – that the bad economy was all in our heads. “He should come over and visit my house and family if he thinks economic hard times are all in our heads,” she said.

For people who think that average working people aren’t closely following the presidential campaign this should be a sign. Yea it’s anecdotal, but most of us are increasingly having this kind of well informed discussions with our friends, neighbors and co-workers – people are tuned in and paying attention to the issues. That bodes well for Obama. Remember when George Bush senior didn’t know what a check-out scanner was?

As I left we agreed that corporate Walgreens policy wasn’t going to save the election for McCain, just show people more vividly which side McCain is on.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Should the left celebrate the 4th of July?

by Santi Suthinithet (reprinted from the People's Weekly World Newspaper)

Should Independence Day be a cause of celebration for Americans? What does this commemoration of the Declaration of Independence really mean in a nation whose history is tainted with criminal wars, greed, racism and slavery?

On July 5, 1852, the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass didn’t mince words in his landmark speech “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”:

“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” he asked. “A day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” He went on to call slaveholding America’s celebrations “a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

Yet he went on to conclude:

“Notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country … I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age.” He was referring to the growing abolitionist movement, which would triumph with the abolition of slavery only a decade later.

We are all still paying for the savagery of slavery and racism in America.

But at the same time the Declaration of Independence — and America’s foundation — is built on continually progressing — and revolutionary — principles as well. We are a country with a noble history of struggle for equality, secularism, liberty and civil rights.

It is too often forgotten that a radical internationalist and revolutionary named Tom Paine played a leading role in the American Revolution. Paine urged the end of monarchy, poverty, war and slavery from the beginning. His brilliant pamphlet “Common Sense,” issued on January 10, 1776, was considered the manifesto of the revolution. It strongly influenced Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence six months later, which in turn became the guiding principles for the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Karl Marx saw the American fight for independence as “the first impulse … to the European revolutions of the eighteenth century” and said its declaration “informed the whole world of the foundation of an independent great Democratic Republic on the American continent.” He called it the “first Declaration of the Rights of Man.”

Almost two centuries later in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh called the opening words of the Declaration of Independence “immortal.”

And look where we are today — what has been accomplished.

An excerpt from Barack Obama’s groundbreaking “Towards a More Perfect Union” speech represents what is truly great about this country—and yet is still too often taken for granted.

Obama, noting his ancestors and diverse background, said, “For as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

He did not skirt over the contradictions between the founding ideals of America and the realities of our past and present, yet he pointed to the potential at our nation’s core:

“The answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution — a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.”

No words on a parchment would be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights as citizens of the United States. Generations of Americans fought hard — through protests and struggles, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk — to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their times.

Unfortunately, in some circles on the American left, it’s not politically correct to take pride in America and our shared history.

Obviously, there’s a big difference between being a proud American and being a vulgar chauvinist or jingoist.

But not one democratic or socialist movement or revolution in history inspired its people by encouraging them to hate their country.

During the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks’ slogan was “Bread! Peace! Land!” not “Screw Russia!” They did not direct their anger at Russia or its people but at the autocratic and corrupt czar and his allies.

And of course, love of country and national unity played essential roles in the revolutionary movements of countries such as Cuba and Vietnam.

So, for the Fourth of July, Independence Day, let’s remember the true revolutionary traditions of America.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Look at the Whole Message

Is Obama correct on every issue or every appointment? Of course not, but we should not lose sight of the essence of his campaign. Re-read his speech in Philly on race for one of the most profound insights on race, class, and unity that any person, let alone a major politician, has ever uttered.

Literally every paragraph has some gem but look at this one:

“This time, we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, and every walk of life. This time, we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.”

The attack on Obama is going to be swift and hard and one part of the attack will be to tell us that he or his policies are “flawed.” To me, this sounds like company propaganda telling me how the union isn’t really working for us – when they’d really like no union at all. These diversions are for a reason – to keep people from seeing the essence of his campaign: ending divisions that blind people from recognizing their common interests, or, as Obama said in his speech, divisions that distract attention from “the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

By a hair

Thursday's US Supreme Court ruling that prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba have constitutional rights (habeas corpus rights) to challenge their confinement before a judge in US courts was a major defeat for the Bush administration. It was also a notable victory for those struggling to end these shameful torture practices - not to mention shut down Guantanamo and other "chambers of horror" once and for all.

The narrowness of the vote (5-4), however, is a sober reminder of the tenuousness of democratic rights in the hands of this deeply divided court and underscores once again the crucial importance of the presidential elections. The next president will almost surely name a replacement for one or more retiring justices on the present court.

Furthermore, the most likely retirees are justices that have consistently challenged the legalities of the policies of the Bush administration, while the least likely are justices (Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito) that have stridently supported them. In fact, all of the latter plan to be fixtures on the court for a long time to come.

If the math is simple, the dangers are frightening. One more conservative judge on the Supreme Court bench will lock in for an indefinite period a majority grouping on the court that will eagerly give legal sanction to authoritarian rule - fascist-like rule, I believe, is not too strong a word. No rights or legal precedents won in the course of centuries of unremitting struggle will be safe.

Here is another reason, and a big one at that, why the outcome of the presidential elections counts a lot. And yet, I am not convinced that millions of Americans have completely grasped this undeniable fact. Yes, the court's makeup is a concern for many, but is it a dire concern?

I don't think so. Does this bother me? Of course it does, but this is no time to panic. We have over 1500 days to make the case that who sits on the courts matters and that the next president's nominee(s) to the court will have far reaching consequences for our country's future.