Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the U.S. By Nikolas Kozloff Palgrave Macmillan, 2006 Reviewed By: Thomas RigginsRead Now
Blast From the Past (November 2006)
Introduction: This book review is from the Political Affairs (CP theoretical journal of 15 years ago) before the magazine was liquidated by the revisionist Sam Webb clique controlling the CP. It is for newer comrades interested in the historical background to the present U.S. hostility to the Maduro government.
Kozloff's book is a good introduction to Chávez and is generally positive in its treatment of the man and his movement. Unfortunately, Palgrave Macmillan has chosen to market it as if it were a series of exposes in the tradition of the National Enquirer. The book jacket asks "Is Hugo Chávez the Messiah?" "Is George W. Bush afraid of him?" The publisher's press release tells us that Chávez is moving to "control post-Castro Cuba" and this book will give us an "expert analysis of this complicated and dangerous man."
After that come on, I was prepared for a right wing assault on Chávez and his policies. The book, however, turns out to be a reasoned historical presentation of Chávez's rise to power and the social context which produced him-- i.e., the racist pro-US Venezuelan elite and its alliance with US imperialism in an effort to keep the vast majority Venezuelans in poverty and substandard living conditions so that it can live a privileged first world life of luxury and comfort while the people struggle in third world conditions of squalor.
"A damning United Nations report in the early 1960s concluded," Kozloff writes, "that Venezuela has one of the most unequal income distributions in the world." The publisher's marketing department should not have promoted a scholarly book this way, especially as there is nothing in the book that resembles the statements and claims I quoted above from their promos.
Chávez believes one of the reasons for the poverty in his country is the implementation of the Washington Consensus by the IMF and the World Bank. "The consensus," the author states, " stressed deregulation, privatization of state industries, implementation of austerity plans and trade liberalization." In other words, it was a major instrument of class warfare utilized by US Imperialism and its allies in the Venezuelan ruling class.
It should also be noted that the people are supposed to just passively accept the consensus, but if they don't the US provides training and support for the military (the School of the Americas is just one example) to be used to repress any social movements that threaten US hegemony.
Chávez came to power as a result of elections in 1998 in which he won "56.2 percent of the vote, the largest margin won by any candidate in the nation's history." If the word "democracy" refers to anything at all then it refers to what the Chávez government represents in Venezuela. Yet, as we all know, the Bush administration and the US media constantly treat Chávez as some sort of authoritarian undemocratic tyrant. Bush can only dream of having the type of popular support for his policies as Chávez has for his.
Kozloff recounts the now familiar story of the 2002 coup attempt against the Chávez government, carried out by business interests and elements of the military close to the US, and how massive public demonstrations, as well as loyalist military factions, restored Chávez to power after two days. He and his party the MVR (Movimiento Quinta Republica) then consolidated power through national and regional state elections that left him with a solid majority.
A new popular constitution was adopted which has an article (115) that states that "private property must serve the public good and general interest." The government can give compensation and then expropriate any company that violates this article. This article has been used against both foreign companies and members of the Venezuelan elite and is one of the most progressive, and most hated, laws enacted by the Chávez government.
One of the reasons for Chávez's success is the support he has in the military. The Venezuelan military is unique in South America in not having an officer caste made up almost exclusively of upper class elements from the ruling elite. "Indeed," the author points out, "in Venezuela most of the senior officers come from poor urban and rural backgrounds." They are sympathetic to Chávez both because he shares their social background and because his policies are popular with the people.
Another source of Chávez's success and popularity is due to the oil riches for which Venezuela is justly famous. The high oil prices since Chávez took office has allowed him to fund many programs to help the poor. "Oil wealth" has been "channeled into social programs for education, healthcare, and job creation."
Chávez has been greatly influenced by the thought of Simon Bolivar and even calls his project the "Bolivarian Revolution." Bolivar, the great South American liberator who led the struggle for independence from Spain, envisioned a large republic made of what are today Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Panama. Chávez wants to bring about closer alliances with this block, both economically and politically, as a way to counterbalance U.S. domination in the region. Needless to say, the U.S. considers this to be a real threat to its "national interests" (code for U.S. corporate interests).
Another ideal Chávez has picked up from Bolivar is concern for the well being of the indigenous peoples of the area. Having effectively destroyed the independence of indigenous cultures and peoples in its own territory the US now exports its anti-Indian policies to South America where it colludes with both local and international capital to oppose the rights of the indigenous peoples. Indian's demands for autonomy and respect for their native territories and land and mineral rights pose problems to big American multinationals and their plans to exploit the oil and other natural resources of the region.
Kozloff writes that, "Washington views the Andean region as the 'hottest' area in Latin America, because of emerging indigenous movements in Bolivia and Ecuador." The author also reports that "In the post- 9/11 world, the United States has equated indigenous movements with terrorism."
This is an amazing statement. That the U.S. government considers the local Indian peoples in Latin America as "terrorists" when they resist oil drilling by American companies in their forests and agricultural areas is truly outrageous and is a cynical and hypocritical use of 9/11 in support of corporate greed.
Kozloff cites the following as evidence: "In a December 2004 report issued by the U.S. National Intelligence Council entitled "Global Trends 2020-- Mapping the Global Future," the government depicts both indigenous activism and Islamic radicalism as threats to U.S. national security." The common link between Indians and Islamicists is, of course, the presence of oil in the regions where they live.
Are Latin American indigenous people really a threat to U.S. interests? Only if "threat" means democratic control of their own lives and "interests" mean "corporate interests." An indigenous legislator from Bolivia, Ricardo Diaz, is quoted as saying, "It's true that indigenous peoples are a threat, from the point of view of the political and economic powers-that-be but we aren't because our struggle is open, legal and legitimate." Anyway, how could open and legal struggle be a "terrorist threat" to the U.S. How can anyone take the pronouncements of our government seriously when it makes such claims?
Pedro Ciciliano, an anthropologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico says that the U.S. intelligence report is "exaggerated and fraught with errors typical of U.S. intelligence based on biased information. Indigenous people can be considered a threat, because they are poor and are pressing for their rights, but they don't represent a terrorist threat." I think both Diaz and Ciciliano give away too much by using the word "threat." I, at least, want to claim that no one, and certainly no people, asserting their legitimate rights can pose a threat to U.S. interests. U.S. interests are the interests of the American people and only a U.S. government that has abandoned those interests can assert that it is "threatened" by the rights of others.
This book documents many other struggles besides those going on in Venezuela. There are sections dedicated to the revolutionary movements and people's fight backs in Columbia and Bolivia, as well as progressive developments in Brazil and Argentina. If you only have time to read one book on Hugo Chávez this one would be a good choice.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association.
This article was produced by Political Affairs.
How U.S. Interference in Cuba Creates a False Picture of Its Society. By: Manolo De Los Santos and Vijay PrashadRead Now
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) appears to be obsessed with Cuba. Every few days he takes to social media or makes remarks to the press about his desire to overthrow the Cuban Revolution. In recent months, Rubio has played a key role in drumming up support for anti-government protests in Cuba. On September 23, 2021, for instance, Rubio tweeted, “The brave people of Cuba lost their fear of protesting against the dictatorship that represses them. Holguín raises its voice against tyranny.” Rubio included an article about the Cuban town of Holguín in his tweet, where “a group of Cuban citizens” are planning to hold a “march against violence” on November 20. This article appeared in Diario de Cuba, a news site based in Miami, Florida, which received substantial funding from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) from 2016 to 2019, an independent nonprofit that is largely funded by “the U.S. Congress.”
A quick study of the Diario de Cuba website reveals that it regularly publishes news relating to Marco Rubio’s views against the Cuban government. According to the Diario de Cuba article shared by Rubio on the November 20 march, the initiative has been promoted by a group called Archipiélago that proposes to carry out such peaceful demonstrations throughout Cuba. Rubio has extended his support for the march and on September 29 tweeted about a request by the citizens of Guantánamo seeking similar permission to hold a march on November 20. In his tweet, he shared an article from the news site CiberCuba, which is operated from Florida and Spain. There are several other news sites reporting on Cuba that are funded by the United States government and by foundations like the Open Society and NED, including ADN Cuba, Cubanos por el Mundo, Cubita NOW, CubaNet, El Estornudo, Periodismo de Barrio, Tremenda Nota, El Toque, and YucaByte.
A wide range of these U.S. government-funded websites and politicians such as Rubio have been leading the propaganda to support more protests in Cuba. On October 5, the U.S. administration of President Joe Biden also provided support to this agenda. The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Brian Nichols tweeted, “The fight for a free press and free expression continues in Cuba.” Meanwhile, during an event hosted by Georgetown Americas Institute, Juan Gonzalez, the senior director for the Western Hemisphere at the National Security Council, criticized the Cuban government for arresting artists and protesters. “[W]hen you put artists in jail for singing and for demanding freedom, there’s something wrong with you,” he said.
On October 9, the U.S. Embassy in Havana issued a statement that criticized the Cuban government’s decision “to hold military exercises throughout the country on November 18 and 19, ending on November 20 with National Defense Day,” calling it “a blatant attempt to intimidate Cubans.” The Cuban government holds this regular exercise to prepare its 11 million citizens for multiple scenarios that range from a possible U.S. invasion to natural disasters. Normally military personnel, the civil defense forces, and members of the general population participate.
To counter this announcement, Archipiélago announced on its Facebook page that the march would now be moved to November 15 (from November 20), the day Cuban authorities are expected to open its border to tourism. Meanwhile, several U.S. government officials and U.S. elected officials gave their support to what is now being called the 15N March.
The first wave of support came from the U.S. elected officials—most of them children of Cuban exiles—who have publicly committed themselves to overthrowing the Cuban Revolution. On October 10, Florida Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar gave her support for the 15N March. The Biden administration, she told the host of a news program on a Miami television channel, must provide Cuban protesters with clandestine internet access. Two days later, on October 12, Senator Rubio criticized the Cuban government for censoring news about the march, while on October 15 Florida Congressman Carlos Giménez, the child of Cuban parents who were landowners before 1959, also tweeted in support of the march. Giménez included an article from the Hill in his tweet that referred to 15N as a “civil liberties protest.” Florida’s other senator, Rick Scott, joined Rubio in tweeting that the U.S. government “can’t sit on the sidelines during this fight for freedom in Cuba.” Scott has introduced a bill in the Senate to increase economic sanctions on Cuba. Meanwhile, the Cuban government denied permission to Archipiélago to hold the march on November 15.
Soon after, on October 16, the U.S. State Department published a statement that condemned the Cuban government’s decision to “deny permission for peaceful protests.” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price tweeted on October 16 about the U.S. support for “peaceful assembly” by the Cuban people, which was retweeted by the U.S. Embassy in Havana on the same day. On October 17, Nichols also tweeted about the Cuban denial for the 15N protest. This was retweeted by the U.S. Embassy in Havana and by Bradley Freden, interim U.S. permanent representative to the Organization of American States.
On October 20, Nichols shared a Human Rights Watch report on the July protests in Cuba to once more criticize the government for preventing peaceful marches. Two days later, on October 22, Gonzalez warned that the U.S. would have to take action if Cuba does not allow the 15N protest to take place.
The atmosphere is charged. The U.S. government and right-wing Cubans who are in the U.S. Congress have tried to define the terrain for events in mid-November in Cuba. They will ramp up pressure to overthrow the government.
Arrange an Accident
In April 2021, the National Security Archive declassified the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency top-secret documents about Cuba. These documents showed that in July 1960, the U.S. government planned to assassinate Raúl Castro by paying a Cubana Airlines pilot to crash his plane. High-level CIA officials who were part of the agency at the time (former CIA Deputy Director of Plans Tracy Barnes, former CIA head of the Western Hemisphere Division J.C. King and a former CIA officer in Cuba William J. Murray) worked with the Cuban pilot (José Raul Martínez) to ensure a “fatal accident” that would lead to the death of Raúl Castro. The pilot, however, never found the “opportunity” to carry out such an accident.
The attempt on Raúl Castro’s life is one of many projects by the U.S. government to overthrow the Cuban Revolution, including 638 attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro and the invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
Reading the CIA documents from 1960 onward, most of which are available in the CIA reading room, shows how cliched—and yet dangerous—the attempts to overthrow the Cuban Revolution by the U.S. government have been. The buildup to 15N bears all the marks of this history, one ghoulish plot both cooked up in and executed by Washington and Miami.
Manolo De Los Santos is a researcher and a political activist. For 10 years, he worked in the organization of solidarity and education programs to challenge the United States’ regime of illegal sanctions and blockades. Based out of Cuba for many years, Manolo has worked toward building international networks of people’s movements and organizations. In 2018, he became the founding director of the People’s Forum in New York City, a movement incubator for working-class communities to build unity across historic lines of division at home and abroad. He also collaborates as a researcher with Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and is a Globetrotter/Peoples Dispatch fellow.
How a False Narrative Against Government Spending Shapes Legislation. By: Sonali KolhatkarRead Now
The contents of the Build Back Better bill are extremely popular. But the relentless conservative propaganda against the bill requires a concerted effort to reshape the narrative.
The unfolding drama over a legislative battle within the Democratic Party to pass a massive bill encompassing desperately needed social services has revealed the power of narrative in our political landscape. It is not enough to put forward policy proposals that actually help people, paid for by those who can afford to pay (the wealthiest), and then try to pass those proposals into law. Relentless propaganda from conservative think tanks and their partner media outlets against the idea of government funding people’s needs has been so successful that it requires equally powerful counternarratives by progressives.
Now, several progressive lawmakers are working on such counternarratives. Senator Bernie Sanders’ office recently released a statement pointing out that many Americans know about the cost of the Build Back Better bill—an omnibus piece of legislation that embodies much of President Joe Biden’s agenda—but know little about what the bill actually includes and how it would benefit a majority of Americans.
Sanders was likely referring to an October 10 CBS News/YouGov survey revealing that nearly 60 percent of those polled knew that bill was priced at $3.5 trillion but only a paltry 10 percent knew the contents of the bill in great detail. The poll also revealed that those who knew the bill’s contents were more likely to support it, and found strong majority support for specific aspects of the bill.
Sanders specifically called out journalists, saying that a top reason for the prevailing ignorance of the bill’s contents is that “the mainstream media has done an exceptionally poor job in covering what actually is in the legislation.” He said his hope was that “mainstream media will fulfill their responsibilities.”
Unfortunately, media pundits continued to make Sanders’ point by doubling down on the costs of the Build Back Better bill. Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg responded to Sanders’ statement by resorting to a familiar trope with an op-ed whose headline said that “no one really wants to pay for it.” Goldberg wrote, “Americans in general don’t want to pay much of anything for the stuff progressives constantly say America is demanding.”
Another columnist in the Hill, Alfredo Ortiz, made a similar claim, going as far as saying, “the more that Americans learn about this historic tax and spending plan, the more they seem to oppose it.” Ortiz is the president and CEO of the Job Creators Network, a conservative pro-business advocacy group.
However, when asked, Americans know exactly who they would like to see paying for the bill—the rich. A Vox and Data for Progress poll concluded that 71 percent of those polled want to raise taxes on the nation’s richest 2 percent in order to pay for the bill—an inconvenient fact for the bill’s naysayers.
One columnist in a mainstream corporate outlet did respond responsibly to Sanders’ demand for better media coverage. Helaine Olen of the Washington Post wrote that “We (the public, journalists and some lawmakers) have focused more on the cost of the package than its contents—even though our society is all but starved of supports that other first-world nations take for granted.”
Olen went on to detail how the bill makes permanent the expanded child tax credit that Democrats pushed through earlier this year. She explained in layperson terms how child care assistance would help families and how the government could negotiate down drug prices and fund home health care for the nation’s elderly, if the bill were to pass.
In an interview, Olen admits that the criticism Sanders leveled at the mainstream media is, “certainly valid on its face.” Although she and others were covering the Build Back Better bill on a daily basis, Americans turning on their television news would “probably hear the horse-race debate” of intraparty battles among Democrats, and “very rarely will you hang around to hear what’s actually in the bill.”
She too maintains that “what’s in the bill is actually quite popular, and a lot of people would actually like it quite a bit.”
Like Sanders in the Senate, House Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and her colleagues Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Katie Porter (D-CA) have also been engaged in narrative work, publishing an op-ed at CNN explaining why they’re going to bat over the bill and actually laying out elements of the bill.
Jayapal, in particular, has been whipping up support for the bill, arguably working harder than President Biden himself in order to promote and enact his agenda.
But Biden, rather than using his presidential bully pulpit to whip his colleagues into line (as Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump so effectively showed is possible), has already started to cave on the popular bill. He has begun shopping around a much-diminished version of the bill, now priced at a mere $2 trillion, acting as more of a mediator than a leader.
Obscenely, this is a similar amount by which the nation’s richest billionaires have seen their wealth increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olen explains that, “for the past several decades, we’ve been used to this conversation where progressives are considered to be out in the wilderness and people are appealing to some mythical centrist voters.” In trying to get opposing sides of his party members to meet in the middle on the Build Back Better bill, Biden is buying into this myth.
Olen says, “We’ve always had this dynamic where it seems that the progressives need to give and the centrists are ‘the reasonable people.’” But, she adds, this is a myth. In reality, “the centrist voter would really like to see pharmaceutical price negotiations and child care support.”
Among lawmakers, “the progressives are the reasonable group, and it’s the centrists that are out of touch with the mainstream of the Democratic Party,” says Olen. She sees so-called centrists like Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) as, “out of touch with a huge chunk of the American public, and [they] are the ones really saying, ‘my way or the highway.’”
It is a point that Sanders made in calling out Manchin by name in a recent op-ed in saying that the West Virginian was among those senators who “remain in opposition” to the Build Back Better bill. Manchin shot back on Twitter denouncing Sanders as, “a self-declared independent socialist.”
For almost every claim that conservatives like Manchin—and he really ought to be called a conservative, not a centrist—make, there is a strong counterpoint that can and should be raised in defense of government spending on ordinary Americans. For example, while Manchin cited rising inflation as a reason against government spending, think tanks like the Roosevelt Institute, and numerous Nobel Prize-winning economists say that the Build Back Better bill would ease inflation.
Those seeking to squeeze Americans while boosting corporate profits and the wealth of the richest few have for years poured resources into shaping a false narrative that people don’t want tax revenues to be used to pay for things that people need. It’s time to expose and upend such a regressive theory.
Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.
This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
Mexico Will Create a State-Owned Company for Lithium Production. By: teleSURRead Now
The Mexican government has promoted that part of the profits in the energy sector be generated through national production in order to advance efforts toward economic sovereignty. | Photo: Twitter/@SENER_mx
Mexican authorities highlighted the use of lithium as an essential raw material for the manufacture of batteries.
The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to create a state-owned company for the exploration and exploitation of lithium, announced the Secretary of Energy, Rocío Nahle.
In an interview to local media, the official highlighted on Wednesday that "lithium is a strategic mineral," and gave as an example its use as a "raw material for the manufacture of electric batteries."
According to Nahle, this state-owned company would be established in the secondary law of the energy reform proposed by the Mexican president. "It is going to pass for the exploitation of lithium," she emphasized.
She also made reference to the expropriation of oil that occurred during the government of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940). "That decision, for eight decades, gave us wealth, schools, hospitals, roads, gave us preparation, essence, etcetera; with lithium it is going to be the same, without a doubt, and I believe it is going to be faster."
The construction of a state company for the exploration and extraction of lithium is proposed within the framework of the energy reform promoted by the Mexican head of state, whose main objective, according to President López Obrador, is to benefit the people rather than multinational corporations.
The Mexican government has promoted that part of the profits in the sector be generated through national production in order to begin on a path towards economic sovereignty.
This article was produced by teleSUR.
Cuba Now Part of China’s Belt and Road Energy Alliance. By: Orinoco TribuneRead Now
Featured image: Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi and Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez leave after a news conference at Diaoyutai state guesthouse on May 29, 2019 in Beijing, China. Photo: Florence Lo/Pool/Gerry Images.
Cuba joined the Alliance for Energy of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project to build an international mega-platform for cooperation and exchange under the principle of shared profit. The announcement was issued by the Cuban Foreign Ministry in a statement this Monday, October 18.
The Cuban ambassador in Beijing, Carlos Miguel Pereira, highlighted the importance of the initiative for the expansion and diversification of collaboration in the energy sector, to collectively overcome the challenges faced worldwide.
The diplomat ratified Cuba’s commitment to contribute to sustainable progress, and invited Chinese companies and institutions, and the rest of the partnership’s members, to work in fields such as the promotion of green energy and inclusive access to energy services.
The Cuban Minister of Energy and Mines, Liván Arronte, elaborated on the development of renewable energy sources in Cuba, with the purpose of promoting the efficient use of these resources and achieving independence in this sector.
Arronte called for increased international cooperation and solidarity in favor of countries in the Global South to face today’s ecological and environmental challenges and meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
China views cooperation in eco-civilization as a key component of the BRI and adopted a series of green measures in infrastructure, energy, and finance to support participating countries with funds, technology, and development of productive capacity.
The integration of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative across Latin America and the Caribbean was further deepened with agreements between China and other countries in the region that make up the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
The Belt and Road Energy Alliance began in October 2018 during the Belt and Road Energy Ministerial Conference in Suzhou, and was officially launched in Beijing in April 2019. The Alliance currently holds 29 member countries.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
This article is produced by Orinoco Tribune.
Unions cheer resurrection of Michigan’s prevailing wage law protecting construction worker pay. By: Marty MulcahyRead Now
Construction workers and other building tradespeople rally outside the Michigan Capitol, Jan. 10, 2018, in Lansing, to show opposition to Republican legislation repealing 'prevailing wage' pay protections. In a win for unions, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has reversed the GOP's repeal. | Dale G. Young / Detroit News via AP
LANSING, Mich. (PAI)—And just like that, Michigan’s prevailing wage law made a comeback.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Michigan will again require contractors to pay prevailing wage on state-sponsored taxpayer-funded construction projects. Prevailing wage has been the single most important law that governs construction worker wages, but efforts by conservative lawmakers over the years reduced the number of states with it to 24.
The prior Republican regime in Lansing repealed Michigan’s prevailing wage in June 2018. Whitmer’s restoration ensures any construction worker working on a state-sponsored construction project receives a wage that “prevails” in their locality. Her order does not cover locally funded projects.
But prevailing wage laws deter out-of-area contractors from importing lower-paid, out-of-area workers, thus undermining local wage scales in an effort to underbid local contractors.
“By reinstating prevailing wage, we are ensuring working people get treated with dignity and respect, which starts with a fair wage,” Whitmer said. “As governor, I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with working people and unions.
“By reinstating prevailing wage, we are ensuring working people can earn a decent standard of living, saving taxpayers money and time on crucial infrastructure projects, and offering Michigan a highly trained workforce to rely on as we build up our roads and bridges, replace lead pipes, install high-speed internet, and more.”
Whitmer made the announcement in the friendly confines of the Lansing-based Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 333 Training Center, in front of union members and other supporters of the law.
“The actions that have been taken today help to restore confidence by workers and employers alike,” said Steve Claywell, president of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. “The restoring of prevailing wage provides a fair and equal bidding process allowing for highly trained men and women to be paid a good wage. We appreciate the courage of this governor and stand ready to build Michigan with her.”
“There’s no reason a contractor on a public project should find a competitive edge on the backs of workers, it’s just simply not right,” said host Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 333 Business Manager Price Dobernick. “Good contractors that choose to take care of their employees should not have to compete against such unscrupulous contractors,” said Dobernick, who is also president of the Michigan Pipe Trade Association.
He emphasized prevailing wage helps both union and nonunion workers. And pointing to the constant drumbeat of the shortage of construction workers, he said prevailing wage is a recruitment tool that “helps training centers like this one across the state of Michigan thrive.”
Whitmer’s announcement “is excellent news for every single resident of Michigan,” said state AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber. “Requiring a prevailing wage to be paid in state contracting means safe, quality construction projects completed by highly skilled workers. It means working women and men getting paid a decent wage that can support a family.
“It means no more race to the bottom to find the cheapest labor while companies pad their bottom line. It also means a fair competitive bidding process for contractors. Michigan families will be better off because of Gov. Whitmer’s action today.”
The citizen’s petition drive and subsequent 2018 vote in the legislature to repeal prevailing wage took advantage of a quirk in the state constitution that allows the passage of laws by bypassing the governor’s veto. Whitmer’s order reinstating prevailing wage also seeks to take advantage of a possible quirk in the language of the repeal legislation. That measure repealed the law but didn’t have language preventing it from being employed again.
Whitmer issued an executive directive to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (DTMB), which oversees state procurement, to incorporate prevailing wages when negotiating state construction projects. She did not say, and a check of DTMB’s website did not show, how many workers toiled on state-funded construction in the most recent fiscal year.
State Republican leaders and the state affiliate of the National Federation of Independent Business—a notorious right-wing lobby—protested. NFIB’s assistant state director, Amanda Fisher, called Whitmer’s action “so blatant in her abuse of power.” Whitmer “actually believes it is in her constitutional purview to reinstate a law repealed by the legislature through an initiative petition.”
The Michigan ABC and its conservative backers didn’t spend three years, and an estimated $4 million on two prevailing wage repeal efforts—the first one failed because of signature irregularities, the second one nearly did—to let Whitmer’s decision stand without a court battle. ABC-Michigan President Jimmy Greene called her order illegal but admitted to the Detroit Free Press he could not point to any studies or data showing the state has saved money on construction projects since the prevailing wage law was repealed.
The latest such report, from the Labor Department in GOP-dominated Indiana, found eliminating the minimum wage standards for construction workers on public works projects had “no significant impact” on overall project costs.
Marty Mulcahy is the managing editor of The Building Tradesman.
This article was produced by People's World.
Book Review: The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans, by Chris Beard. Reviewed By: Thomas RigginsRead Now
MONKEYS AND MARXISM
That we have all evolved from the monkeys is not a new thought for Marxists. When Darwin first suggested this with the publication in 1859 of The Origin of Species Marx and Engels were quick to give their support to his ideas. They hailed his book as a great scientific advance. A few years later Engels wrote about human origins himself, in an unfinished essay called "The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man" and now included in his The Dialectics of Nature.
What Engels had to say, while technically out of date, is not so far off the mark as many people might think. For example, in Engels’ day the Earth was thought to be about 100 or so million years old not the 4.5 billion years we think today. Thus Engels’ writes:
“Many hundreds of thousands of years ago, during an epoch, not yet definitely determinable,... the Tertiary period... a particularly highly-developed race of anthropoid apes lived somewhere in the tropical zone-- probably on a great continent that has now sunk to the bottom of the Indian Ocean..... They were completely covered with hair, they had beards and pointed ears, and they lived in bands in the trees.”
German (in which Engels wrote) uses the same word for "monkey" and "ape." Engels is basing himself on Darwin and is describing the early anthropoid ancestors of what we now know to be the great apes and humans. The Tertiary period is today measured in millions not hundreds of thousands years, and there is no lost continent on the bottom of the Indian Ocean. Engels wrote before we knew about continental drift. These bands did live in a tropical environment only it was in Asia, more specifically in places such as China and neighboring areas.
Engels further says that "Hundreds of thousands of years.... certainly elapsed before human society arose out of a troupe of tree climbing monkeys. Engels’ is correct if we substitute "tens of millions" for his "hundreds of thousands." Engels was definitely on the right tract, but we have learned a great deal more about this monkey troupe, these dawn monkeys, since the 1870s when his essay was written. It would be nice to have some updated information.
This has been done for us by Chris Beard notably the winner of a MacArthur "genius grant" but who makes his living by being the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
The vertebrates he is especially interested in are us, or more particularly our relatives and fellow primates the apes and monkeys-- both the quick and the dead. His book is a well written, minimally technical, popular account of the most recent discoveries, many made by Dr. Beard himself, and theories concerning our origins and evolutionary development.
What we want to know is, who are these "dawn monkeys" and what have they it to do with us? Early on we are informed that "virtually all paleoanthropologists" believe that the lineage leading to humans developed in Africa between five and seven million years ago. It was in this two million year fuzzy time period, between the 7 and 5, that the animals that eventually became us split off from the common ancestor that we share with the chimpanzees. In other words J. Fred Muggs and Donald Trump had the same great, great, etc., for many more greats, grandparents (as do we all).
Beard is interested in pushing back the knowledge of our origins to even more remote time periods. If human primates diverged from apes, where did those apes come from? Have we found enough fossils to answer this question? Not only the "where" question but how long ago as well-- certainly the apes and their ancestors must have developed many millions of years before we and the chimpanzees separated and went our different ways.
A little time perspective is needed here. The dominance of the Age of Dinosaurs ended about 65 million years ago (mya) at the end of the geologic period called the Mesozoic. The period called the Cenozoic (Recent Life ) then began. This period is divided into seven divisions: the Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, and Holocene. The Eocene (dawn period) beginning about 55 mya and lasting until about 35 mya is where we are headed, incidentally, as the name of Beard’s book indicates.
There are around 35 species of living primates and the Eocene fossil primates mostly look like the "primitive" primates of today (the prosimians). But today we also have a group that, since it includes us, we like to call the "higher primates"-- these are the "anthropoids" and includes the monkeys, apes, and humans.
Now since we humans came from the apes, we have found that the apes came from the monkeys, so if we find the earliest monkey, that is if we find the earliest anthropoid we will push our family tree back to that point. Beard writes, "one of the most controversial issues in paleoanthropology today is how, when, and where the first anthropoids-- the common ancestors of monkeys, apes, and people-- evolved."
Beard has a "bold new hypothesis," based on recent fossil discoveries he has made in China, that will upset the hitherto existing scientific consensus regarding anthropoid origins. His theory moves the origin of the anthropoids from Africa to Asia and adds tens of millions of years to the age of this lineage. These new ideas all depend on the fossils Beard has called "the dawn monkey" (Eosimias) and how they are to be interpreted.
It appears that it won’t be an easy task that Beard has set himself since, as he says, for "the past several decades, all undisputed early anthropoids had been discovered in Africa" mostly due to the work of Dr. Elwyn Simons of Duke University working in the Fayum oasis in Egypt. So, a revolutionary new paradigm is afoot!
Beard says that his views are in the minority (this is because all new theories start out this way) but he gives three solid reasons to support his views. First, there is a small prosimian (pre-monkey like primate such as the lemur of today) known as a tarsier which seems to be closest in evolution to the first anthropoids. Beard thinks that their geological range points to an Asian origin for the first anthropoids. Based on the most recent DNA evidence he concludes that "the simplest hypothesis requires us to view tarsiers and anthropoids as descendants of a common ancestor." No tarsier or tarsier relatives "have ever been found in Africa. Second, there are fossils from Burma, found decades ago, which appear to be primitive anthropoids, and finally, Beard’s own discovery of Eosimias in China which he says is definitely a primitive anthropoid and is older than any African anthropoid discovery(except for one, as we shall see)..
The African anthropoids date from the next geological era, the Oligocene, while Eosimias dates from the Eocene era, many millions of years earlier. The dawn monkey’s remains show that it is intermediate between the prosimians of today and the modern monkeys. It is thus a real candidate as the ancestor of all modern anthropoids-- i.e., all living monkeys, apes, and humans.
After several chapters in which Beard discusses the ways in which primate fossils are classified and also their distribution in Asia, Europe, North America and Africa, he concludes that the African Oligocene anthropoid remains are too modern to represent the originating ancestors of modern anthropoids. Therefore we "have no choice but to plunge back into the mysterious void known as the Eocene." The void is "mysterious" because of the paucity of primate fossils in this era as compared with the Oligocene. Nevertheless, if the Oligocene remains are too advanced to represent transitional forms between the prosimians and the anthropoids, then it is to the Eocene that we must turn to look for such transitional forms. Here we should be mindful of a basic evolutionary rule, namely, "that similar features indicate descent from a common ancestor." This is a rule not a law but, except for examples of convergent and parallel evolution, it generally holds.
In two very interesting chapters ("Received Wisdom" and "The Birth of a Ghost Linage"), Beard discusses three of the most influential theories of anthropoid origins as well as more techniques used by paleontologists and paleoanthropologists in sorting out and classifying fossils. This is all very interesting and very nontechnical. A "ghost lineage" is a hypothetical set of fossils that should be intermediate between a "primitive" and an "advanced" form. This lineage gives us some idea of what we should expect to find in the deduction is correct. If we find such fossils-- very good-- it is evidence that our theory may be correct.
Beard claims that the tarsiers and the ur-anthropoids (ur= first) branched off from each other (that is from a common ancestor) at least 50 million years ago. So he needs to construct a ghost linage-- say from some early tarsier like creature to the Oligocene type monkeys and then see if he can find a fossil to verify the lineage. This is where Eosimias comes in.
It was in China that Beard and his associates and Chinese paleoanthropologists all working together came upon the fossil remains of a small marmoset sized primate with the distinctly hypostisized anthropoid characteristics they were on the lookout for. The remains predated the oldest African remains from the Fayum by at least 10 million years.
Beard waxes, I think, a little too poetically over this discovery:
“China’s historic role as the cradle of one of the world’s great and enduring civilizations might now be extended tens of millions of years back in time, to an interval when the earliest members of the most diverse and successful branch of modern primates-- the anthropoids-- were just beginning to evolve the diagnostic features (like bigger brains, robustly constructed jaws, and associated changes in behavior and ecology) that would ensure their biological success.”
In the world of the Eocene, when Africa, Europe, Asia, and India were separated from one another by water, the world of 50 million years ago, it doesn’t make much sense to talk of "China." Be that as it may, in today’s world, Chinese scientists can be proud of the essential role they played in this discovery-- which was actually made by Chinese members of the team.
Beard’s theory, however compelling, was not supported by a sufficient range of fossil evidence to convince the majority of scientists working in this field. Therefore, after its initial presentation, he and his collaborators and Chinese associates spent four years doing intensive field work in China. The result of this activity was the discovery of many new fossil primates, including anthropoids and different species of Eosimias. Now Beard had the evidence he needed to shore up his hypothesis of anthropoid origins.
"Our knowledge of Eosimias-- an animal that I had only recently ushered onto the scientific stage," he writes, "had improved rapidly and immensely. Eosimias had been introduced to the paleoanthropological community as a humble waif of a fossil whose claim to anthropoid status dangled by the thread of two scrappy jaws. Now, its place near the base of the great anthropoid branch of the primate family tree rested on a firm anatomical foundation.... No other fossil bearing on the very root of the anthropoid family tree can marshal such an extensive litany of anatomical features to support its pivotal evolutionary position."
This information, according to Beard, overthrows the heretofore established orthodoxy regarding the origin of the anthropoid line. The orthodox theory, based on the theories of Le Gros Clarke a generation ago, held that the anthropoid line (and the hominid line eventually arising out of it) arose in Africa some 34 million years ago at the Eocene/Oligocene border. The ancestral ape that gave rise to gorillas, chimpanzees and humans dates from the Miocene, the next geological age. Beard’s evidence, however, transplants the origin of anthropoids in both time and place: to the Paleocene/Eocene border around 55 million years ago-- 20 million years earlier than previously thought. Now that several species of Eosimias have subsequently been discovered, Beard can confidently assert that eosimiids are "the most primitive anthropoids currently known."
Nevertheless, we should remember that while our ancestors originated in Asia, these "Asian anthropoids remained persistently primitive, while their African relatives evolved into increasingly advanced species" including us.
Now there is a fly in this ointment. Namely, the remains of an even older anthropoid than Eosimias have been found in Morocco. This is Altiatlasius koulchii from the Paleocene. How can Beard maintain that anthropoids originated in Asia if the oldest anthropoid remains ever discovered (Altiatlasius) are actually from Africa? The chapter "Into the African Melting Pot" deals with this problem. The short answer is that primitive anthropoids migrated from Asia to Africa earlier, by a factor of millions of years, than anyone had previously thought. Beard bases this on the fact that while Asia can show the development of the anthropoid line from the split with a common ancestor of the tarsiers, i.e., out of a tarsiod line, Africa not only doesn’t have any fossil tarsiers, it doesn’t have any primates at all antecedent to Altiatlasius. "Accordingly, Altiatlasius does not indicate that anthropoids originated in Africa. Rather, it signals that Asian anthropoids arrived there at a surprisingly early date."
Beard’s last chapter ("Paleoanthropology and Pithecophobia") reminds us that even though the anthropoids may have arisen first in Asia, our own branch of the anthropoid line has distinctly African origins. In this chapter the author recounts the history, basically in the early 20th Century, of trying to prove that humans evolved independently of the great apes, the early culmination if you will of the African anthropoids.
Because of DNA analysis the scientific consensus today is that humans and chimpanzees branched off from a common ancestor about seven million years ago. This would be just around the Miocene/Pliocene border-- the Pliocene would have begun about five or six mya and ended about 1mya with the start of the Pleistocene.
All of the early 20th Century programs to establish a non-ape ancestor for humans, Beard points out, were mostly motivated by racism, commitments to theories of eugenics, religious prejudices, and human arrogance. In a final coda Beard laments the fact that "pithecophobia" is still a force to be reckoned with. He suggests it may be behind the continuing human attitude of absolute superiority to and difference from all other animals. One of the negative attitudes resulting from this is that there are not enough serious attempts being made to prevent the extinction of gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild (their numbers had declined by 50% from 1980 to 2000 — mostly killed by humans for the "bushmeat" trade). This decline is accelerating due to climate change. It is estimated that by 2060 80% of the present populations (2021) will be gone. I will quote Beard’s parting words: "Humanity as a whole is embedded within a rich biological tapestry. The living legacy of that common evolutionary journey deserves to be celebrated rather than despised. Pithecophobia in all of its manifestations conflicts with our own deep roots." The only salvation is to create the world Marx, Engels and Lenin told us was possible.
The Hunt for the Dawn Monkey: Unearthing the Origins of Monkeys, Apes, and Humans, Chris Beard, University of California Press, 2004.
Postscript: Beard’s book was published 17 years ago. Wikipedia 2021 says:”Most eosimiid species are documented by unique or fragmentary specimens. This, as well as the strong belief that simians originated in Africa has made it difficult for many to accept the idea that Asia played a role in early primate evolution. Although some continue to challenge the anthropoid resemblances found in Eosiimidae, extensive anatomical evidence collected over the past decade substantiates its anthropoid status.” Engels was right.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association.
“It feels like we are at the end of an era,” Bárbara Sepúlveda tells me on October 12, 2021. Sepúlveda is a member of Chile’s Constitutional Convention and of the Communist Party of Chile. The era to which Sepúlveda refers is that of General Augusto Pinochet, who led the U.S.-backed coup in 1973 that overthrew the popularly elected government of President Salvador Allende. During the Pinochet era, the military acted with impunity, and the left was assassinated and sent into exile—while big business (both Chilean and foreign) received all the blessings of the dictatorship. That’s the era that has slowly been sputtering to a halt since Pinochet’s removal in 1990 and since the Chilean people voted to throw out the dictatorship’s Constitution of 1980 and write a new one.
Neoliberalism was born in Chile, as the popular slogan goes, and it will die in Chile. This slogan seems to have come true with the ending of the Pinochet era.
But Sepúlveda is not sure about what comes next. “Everybody knows everything is uncertain,” she says frankly. “That is an opportunity to begin a new era.” The first decade and a half after Pinochet’s removal seemed bleak. Then, in 2006, a cycle of student protests rattled the country. These were led by young students, whose black-and-white school uniforms gave the protests a name--La Revolución Pingüina, or the Penguin Revolution. The young people demanded a new national curriculum as well as a reduction in public transportation fares and examination fees. When the government failed to deliver on these demands, a second cycle of protests mobilized in 2011-2013 with the same demands. Their leaders—including Camila Vallejo of the Communist Party and Giorgio Jackson of the Democratic Revolution—are now important figures of the left project in Chile. Once more in 2011-2013, the students were met with a stalemate, with the Constitution of 1980 being a barricade to their ambitions.
A third cycle of student protests began in early October 2019 following a hike in public transportation fares. The “penguins” led a campaign of fare evasion (under the slogan ¡Evade!). The protesters were met with a harsh repression campaign including violent clashes with the Chilean police. On October 18, the right-wing government, led by President Sebastián Piñera, issued a two-week state of emergency, authorizing the deployment of the Chilean Army against the protests, which only intensified. The violence used to suppress the protests resulted in the emergence of the slogan Piñera Asesino (Piñera the assassin) among protesters and their supporters.
Sepúlveda says of the 2019 mobilization that the breaking point on “October 18 moved the axis [of Chilean politics] further to the left.” Although the third cycle of protests had initially been a response to the transportation fare hike, the government’s reaction made it clear that the country faced much deeper underlying structural issues including, Sepúlveda says, “overwhelming inequality” and corruption. Sepúlveda, a lawyer who co-founded Chile’s association of feminist lawyers (ABOFEM) in 2018 and was its executive director during the 2019 protests, saw at the time that changing these structural issues could not be done from within the existing system; at the very least, the country needed a new constitution and a more progressive government. And so the protest expanded to include the demands of the feminist movement and the Indigenous movement, pushing for broader economic and social changes to address the inequality at the root.
Two Sites of Struggle
The search for the new era in Chile has two important avenues: the writing of the new constitution, which is what the 155 members of the Constitutional Convention are doing, and the presidential election to be held on November 21, 2021.
The convention began work in July 2021 by voting in its president (Elisa Loncón) and vice president (Jaime Bassa); both Loncón and Bassa lean toward the left. So far, the convention has drafted its rules, which—Sepúlveda says—is more than half the work. Discussion about substantial issues began on the symbolic date of October 18, 2021, two years after the turning point of the third wave of protests. Sepúlveda is confident that agreements on social rights—for gender parity and for the environment—will happen. She says that “social changes of [these kinds] are inevitable”—even if there will be a fight from the calcified right wing to block them. The real dispute will take place around a new development model. Will the new constitution roll back the structural austerity program that the post-Pinochet period so far has not been able to undermine?
On October 14, I spent a few hours with Giorgio Jackson, one of the student leaders from the 2011-2013 protests, who is a member of Chile’s Chamber of Deputies and a close adviser to Gabriel Boric’s presidential campaign. Boric, a leader of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) party and the Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity) coalition, is the candidate of the left in the November presidential election. Jackson shared some elements of a new development model that a Boric administration would adopt, if Boric wins the presidential election. In the first year of the next presidency, the budget of Piñera would have to be followed, so only small changes can be made. From the start, Jackson told me, a priority for the Boric government would be to push to reform the health and pension systems, two arenas of great distress for Chile’s people. Building robust public health and pensions systems will require funds, which a left government would raise from royalties on copper extraction and by ensuring better prevention of tax evasion. Such an agenda would deepen a debate over a new development model, Jackson said.
But, Jackson admits, people are uneasy with the idea of having public provision of goods. Daniel Jadue, the communist leader and mayor of Recoleta, agrees that the real dispute will be over economic and social policy. He tells me that the answers to Chile’s problems could emerge from close cooperation between municipalities. If people have a positive experience with local public provision of social goods, it might change the general sentiment of suspicion surrounding the expansion of public health and pensions systems in the country, he noted. The work of mayors such as Jadue is crucial to the overall project for the construction of a new development model.
As far as the upcoming presidential election is concerned, Piñera cannot run for reelection, and besides, he is deeply unpopular. The open fascist in the race—José Antonio Kast—is popular, but he is being challenged by the center-right’s candidate Yasna Provoste for the right-wing votes. Meanwhile, capital has begun to flee Chile in anticipation of the introduction of a more progressive constitution and the potential ushering in of a Boric presidency after the November election.
In one corner of Bárbara Sepúlveda’s living room sits her collection of Rubik’s Cubes of varying difficulty. She’s a whiz at them. Sepúlveda picks one up and toys with it. “This one is easier to do,” she says of a cube that seems impossible to untangle. The cube is a great symbol for Chile. If people like Sepúlveda, Jadue, Jackson, and Boric can find a way to solve the puzzles before them, then perhaps there will be greater clarity on Chile’s new era.
Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including "The Darker Nations" and "The Poorer Nations." His latest book is "Washington Bullets," with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.
In U.S. Foreign Policy, Realists Are Finally on the Rise. By: James W. CardenRead Now
The long unheeded and potentially bipartisan policy advocated by thinkers like the late Sherle R. Schwenninger, co-founder of the New America Foundation and my friend, may finally have its moment.
During the autumn of 2020, the United States lost one of its most brilliant, incisive, yet unheralded thinkers in Sherle R. Schwenninger.
One of Schwenninger’s many gifts was his ability to anticipate far in advance trends that would shape U.S. foreign policy and the global political economy. He was also one of the first thinkers to promote an alternative to the stale liberal internationalism and neoconservatism that have dominated the foreign policy discussion in Washington. According to Schwenninger, “The progressive realist critique… centered around international law; non-intervention; disarmament; and winding down the worst excesses of the post-9/11 period.” Though he sadly did not live to see it, perhaps history is finally moving in Schwenninger’s direction as far as U.S. foreign policy is concerned.
The idea, progressive realism, was the focus of a special issue of the Nation on foreign policy that was edited by Schwenninger during the week Donald Trump took office in January 2017.
In an unsigned introductory note, Schwenninger wrote that “progressives would be wise to avoid two tendencies” in the coming years. He further said:
“The first is defining a progressive foreign policy as simply a rejection of whatever Trump says or does. Of course, he has already appointed some dangerous extremists to important foreign-policy positions, and Trump himself is erratic at best… But some of his statements—his calls to work with Russia, end America’s destructive wars, and create more equitable trade agreements—are not so far removed from ones that we ourselves have embraced. We will need to champion our own progressive version of these positions rather than simply reject them outright.
“The second tendency we should avoid is falling into nostalgia for the Obama era.”
The advice he offered American liberals and progressives, which now hardly needs pointing out, was resoundingly rejected.
Indeed, building a viable progressive foreign policy alternative after 2017 was made virtually impossible by the childish hysteria that marked the liberal reaction toward Trump. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, out of the entire Democratic caucus, only three—Bay Area Reps. Ro Khanna and Barbara Lee and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley—seemed receptive to such a policy, with hardly anyone else showing any enthusiasm for it. And attempts by Schwenninger and others on lobbying with stakeholders who should have been natural allies within the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign to adopt such a policy were met with frustration.
Needless to say, for years there had been hardly any enthusiasm for progressive realist ideas at the leading think tanks and graduate schools of international relations in Washington. This was particularly true with regard to the New America Foundation, the think tank Schwenninger founded in the 1990s with Michael Lind, Ted Halstead and Walter Russell Mead, which is now known as New America.
The direction New America took in recent years was something of a sore spot for the otherwise equanimous Schwenninger, who was appalled by the turn it took in the years since it was taken over by Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as foreign policy adviser under Hillary Clinton’s State Department. It was Slaughter who turned the organization into a well-funded platform for the very types of intellectuals Schwenninger distrusted most: Liberals in search of the next war.
By the time he and I became friends, the major organs of opinion in Washington and New York had become incredibly hostile toward the few of us who publicly objected to the idea that the U.S. must wage not only nine illegal and unconstitutional wars but a two-front cold war with Russia and China as well. Schwenninger could only shake his head at the spectacle of the otherwise intractable Trump opponents transforming themselves, in the blink of an eye, into his loudest cheerleaders when he decided to bomb Syria.
At the same time, Schwenninger caught sight of another troubling trend: the emerging alliance between Silicon Valley, the Pentagon and Wall Street. Schwenninger frequently lamented what he said was the “progressive totalitarianism” of the left when it came to foreign policy; during the Trump years, anyone who dared suggest that détente with Russia might be a sensible policy, or that, perhaps, the war in Syria was a bit more complicated than the pro-Islamist narrative being propagated by corporate media (particularly CNN and the Washington Post), would, more often than not, be immediately labeled as a Putin and/or Assad apologist… or worse.
That these attacks were coming from liberals and progressives who were consciously turning their backs on their own tradition of anti-McCarthyism made this spectacle all the more pathetic.
But something has changed over the past year or so, owing, I believe, to a change in the “atmospherics” in Washington brought about by Trump’s departure. All of a sudden, it now seems that space has opened up for those seeking to promote a kind of “Schwenningerian” foreign policy. The first mainstream group that appeared willing to do so was the Charles Koch and George Soros-funded Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, which was founded in 2019. In the years following, long-established think tanks such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Atlantic Council have established in-house programs that promote a more realistic and restrained U.S. foreign policy.
Still more encouraging, in his speech announcing the end of the 20-year occupation of Afghanistan, President Joe Biden repeatedly invoked “national interest” in defense of his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan. For Biden, this was the end of “an era of major military operations to remake other countries.”
In the speech by Biden on August 31, he further said:
“To those asking for a third decade of war in Afghanistan, I ask: What is the vital national interest?…
“I respectfully suggest you ask yourself this question: If we had been attacked on September 11, 2001, from Yemen instead of Afghanistan, would we have ever gone to war in Afghanistan—even though the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in 2001? I believe the honest answer is ‘no.’ That’s because we had no vital national interest in Afghanistan other than to prevent an attack on America’s homeland and our friends.
“The fundamental obligation of a President, in my opinion, is to defend and protect America.…
“I simply do not believe that the safety and security of America is enhanced by continuing to deploy thousands of American troops and spending billions of dollars a year in Afghanistan.”
In doing so, Biden seems to have adopted a number of themes that scholars like Schwenninger have long advocated.
Though he sadly did not live to see it, perhaps history is finally moving in Schwenninger’s direction as far as U.S. foreign policy is concerned.
James W. Carden is a writing fellow at Globetrotter and a former adviser to the U.S. State Department. Previously, he was a contributing writer on foreign affairs at the Nation, and his work has also appeared in the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft, the American Conservative, Asia Times, and more.
Shocking Death on Set Shows What’s at Stake in IATSE Film and TV Crew Contract Fight. By: Sarah HughesRead Now
In September, 99 percent of voting IATSE members authorized a strike over dangerous—or even deadly—working conditions. Photo: Twitter user @runolgarun
The union representing 60,000 film and television crew workers reached a tentative agreement with Hollywood producers October 16. The deal averted a first-ever national strike by the Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE), which was set to begin the next night—at least for the time being. The contracts will be voted on in the next several weeks.
Matthew Loeb, IATSE president since 2008, hailed the agreement as “historic.” But though Loeb calls the agreement a “Hollywood ending,” for the tens of thousands of members who voted to authorize a strike, the credits aren’t rolling yet. Initial responses on social media seem mixed at best, and many members are publicly calling on their colleagues to vote no.
IATSE has never called a national strike in its 128 years. But film and TV workers were eager to make history this year to end some of the industry’s most exploitative practices. In September, 99 percent of voting members authorized a strike, with a huge 90 percent turnout. Two different master agreements covering 36 locals both expired, and the strike authorization tally includes both: the Hollywood Basic, which covers Los Angeles projects, and the Area Standards Agreement, which covers work outside of LA and NYC.
“Below-the-line” crew like grips, designers, makeup artists, and camera operators are anxious to end common practices like “Fraturdays”—long Friday shoots that go all night and continue into Saturday; weeks with multiple 15-plus hour days; and missed meal and bathroom breaks. Producers routinely pay the contractual penalties rather than provide breaks.
Leading up to the strike vote, a new Instagram account, @IA_stories, exploded with horror stories submitted by crew members. Contributors described car accidents from falling asleep at the wheel after long shoots, infections from delayed bathroom breaks, and the emotional toll of working while bereaved, hours after the birth of a child, or through family emergencies, just to keep their jobs.
The pandemic had changed workers’ expectations of what might be possible. In March 2020, the film industry ground to a halt. When it resumed a few months later, health and safety protocols scaled back production capacity. Fewer people could be on set at a time, days were shorter, and crews got a glimpse of a better work-life balance.
Another major issue was the need to cover a $400 million projected deficit in the Pension and Health Plan, partially the result of outdated agreements with “new media” companies who make streaming content.
Many of the agreement’s details hadn’t been released as of press time. But the union is publicizing a few of the improvements and the concessions it fought off. Some of the lowest-paid workers, like script coordinators and writers’ assistants who currently make $16 an hour, will reportedly see their wages rise to $23.50 next year and to $26 over the three-year contract.
The deal provides for a 10-hour “turnaround,” the minimum time you have from the end of your shift until your next call time, and weekend rest periods of at least 54 or 32 hours, depending on the job.
An old carve-out for streaming services, once considered risky “new media” but now dominated by profitable giants like Amazon and Netflix, has let these services pay less than the studios. The tentative agreement promises improvements there, as well as diversity initiatives, expanded sick leave, and additional penalties for skipped meal breaks. IATSE reportedly maintained the pension eligibility standard—now 400 hours a year—which the studios had proposed raising to 950 hours.
But expectations were heightened when IATSE members got a taste of their power during the strike authorization vote and the outpouring of public support. Some feel that the tentative agreement doesn't reflect this newfound strength.
"[The union started the negotiations] thinking they had a minor league team, and then realizing you have Michael Jordan in his prime," said Fae Weichel, a first assistant camera and member of Local 600.
Member Naomi Markman is not satisfied. “Ten hours [off work] is not enough,” she wrote to Labor Notes. “And there are major carve-outs where turnarounds can be eight hours. Fraturdays will continue. Exhausted driving will continue.” She feels the penalties for skipping meal breaks are still just a slap on the wrist, especially compared to studio profits.
“We asked for conditions that would allow us to live our lives,” Markman wrote. “To see our families. To sleep a reasonable amount. This ‘deal’ gives us none of that.”
PRESSURE TO TOE THE LINE
President Loeb is the chief negotiator for all the contracts. In the 2018 negotiations he engaged in a public, rancorous fight with a local leader who spoke out against a tentative agreement—Cathy Repola, the executive director of the Motion Pictures Editors Guild Local 700.
Repola issued a video and letter to members arguing that the agreement didn’t go far enough on the demands for working conditions and excluded Editors from some provisions. She and the local bargaining team recommended a no vote. Local 700 was the only local to vote down the agreement, which still passed.
Soon after, Repola was removed from her positions on IATSE’s pension and health boards, positions appointed by Matt Loeb.
During negotiations, Loeb and all the union locals maintain a media blackout. The effect was that members heard little about what was proposed or agreed to until after the strike had been called off. Bargaining had started in the spring and had included pandemic “return-to-work” negotiations as well, leaving members confused about what was on the table and when.
Labor Notes obtained a video of Mike Loomer, a Local 44 executive board member, explaining to members that to “leak” updates would violate the National Labor Relations Act requirement to bargain in good faith.
The NLRA does not require a media blackout for good faith bargaining. Negotiators must adhere to the ground rules decided by the teams, but locals in industries from schools to newsrooms to health care manage to provide members with regular updates; some even open up bargaining sessions to general member participation.
In 2018 the Area Standards Agreement was settled a few months after the Hollywood Basic Agreement, but IATSE tweeted on October 20 that the two agreements would vote concurrently this time. They're negotiating that agreement now, based on the Hollywood Basic pattern.
The contract is voted on by an “electoral college-style board,” as described by Variety. Members of 36 locals will vote; the majority in each local will determine whether all of their delegates vote yes or no. A contract that receives a popular majority of “no” votes could be ratified anyway. Voting dates have not yet been announced.
In 2018, the Cinematographers Guild, Local 600, topped the delegate count with 76, followed by the Editors Guild, with 73. The smallest, Local 884, had just two.
Members aren’t getting much information from the IA about what would happen if they voted no. Some are worried about “how strong we would be if we returned to the table,” according to Weichel, or whether a no vote would automatically lead to a strike. (It would not.)
But whatever the outcome, IATSE members appear to be emerging from the pandemic and from this contract battle with a greater sense of power. “This is a turning point for IATSE,” said Weichel, a leader in the union’s young worker committee. “Regardless of this vote, I am very excited for the next round.”
Update: an earlier version of this article referred to "script supervisors" as some of the lowest-paid workers in the industry. This has been changed to "script coordinators" for accuracy.
Luis Feliz Leon contributed reporting to this article.
Sarah Hughes is a staff writer and organizer at Labor Notes.
This article was produced by Labor Notes.
Woodward and Costa’s book ‘Peril’ shows Trump as Mussolini-in-waiting. By: Joe SimsRead Now
The dictator and the wanna-be, Mussolini and Trump. | Photos: Mussolini public domain / Trump campaign
Trump & Co. had a five-point plan to undo the presidential election and overthrow the government. They sought to:
The mob that stormed the Capitol on that fateful day in January was the spear’s edge of the assault.
The main features of these chilling designs are described in the book Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
It could have worked. And it would have worked had the ever-loyal, browbeaten vice president succumbed and been “brave,” in the words of Trump. The White House occupant pushed Pence to unilaterally declare Electoral College votes invalid, at one point proffering a “wouldn’t-it-be-cool-to-have-that-kind-of-power” temptation. As proposed in a now infamous how-to memo on overthrowing the government devised by Trump lawyer John Eastman, the election, then, would have been decided in the House, where the GOP holds a slim margin in state delegations.
Such an action would have undoubtedly precipitated a constitutional crisis with hitherto unthinkable consequences, including the employment of the Insurrection Act, martial law, and worse—a scenario adhering closely to the Communist movement’s classic description of a key element in fascism’s ascent to power—the substitution of one state form of government by another.
“The accession to power of fascism is not an ordinary succession of one bourgeois government by another, but a substitution of one state form of class domination of the bourgeoisie—bourgeois democracy—by another form—open terrorist dictatorship,” wrote Georgi Dimitrov in his United Front: The Struggle Against Fascism and War.
Those who continue to think the fascist danger overblown or mask it in classless, “authoritarian,” and “white nationalist” vagaries, would do well to consider that some closest to the process, while late in sounding the alarm, had no such misgivings about terminology. Why is this important? Because in battle, it’s vital to know who you’re fighting against and on what terrain to engage them. “Authoritarian white nationalism,” a bourgeois liberal term if there ever was one, tells us nothing about the class and social forces behind the Trump counterrevolution, in other words, who is footing the bills and pulling the strings. Fascism, on the other hand, as defined in Marxist terms, points to banking and other capital as the chief culprits.
With respect to understanding what’s at stake, the alarmed Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn is described in Peril as “studying up on fascist histories with a focus on Italy. He saw Trump as America’s Benito Mussolini in waiting.”
The book also relates a story told by Congressman Adam Smith of Washington State. Smith, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, enjoyed the unhappy experience of boarding a commercial flight home filled with January 6th insurrectionists, several of whom spoke openly about something called 6MWE—6 Million Wasn’t Enough—a reference to the Jews murdered by Hitler. Smith also shared the experience with Joint Chiefs chair Mark Milley in a phone conversation on January 8th. He later told colleagues, “My fear with Trump was always that he was going to engineer a fascist takeover of the country.”
After January 6th, Milley, who later apologized after donning battle fatigues and joining Trump in the infamous Bible-toting walk across a Lafayette Square cleared by force, compiled a list of several fascist organizations that presented a clear and present danger to the Republic. On the list were 6MWE, Extreme Tea Party, QAnon, Patriot Movement, We the People Movement, Nazis, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, NewsMax, and Epoch Times.
As Woodward and Costa write: “Some were the new Brown Shirts, a U.S. version Milley concluded, of the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party that supported Hitler. It was a planned revolution. Steve Bannon’s vision coming to life. Bring it all down, blow it up, burn it, and emerge with power.”
Bannon himself is reported to have told Trump, “We’re going to bury Biden on January 6th, fucking bury him.”
Even Trump’s CIA directors—people who know a thing or two about fascist coups—saw the danger. Secretary of State Pompeo, reacting to the Sidney Powell and Giuliani team’s stewardship of Trump’s post-election legal fight, said, “The crazies are taking over.” The CIA’s Gina Haspel warned Milley, “We’re on the way to a right-wing coup.”
Importantly, Woodward and Costa mention a little-reported statement by the Joint Chiefs, joining the choir of those condemning January 6th. “The violent riot in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021, was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process,” the statement read. “We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition, and insurrection.”
The Joint Chiefs go on to say that the newly elected president “will” take office on January 20th.
Yes, after shamelessly enabling, coddling, and defending Trump, key members of his administration seem to have broken with him as, to use Dimitrov’s phrase, the soon-to-be ex-president attempted to substitute one form of state power for another. Milley, in particular, is cast in a heroic light, standing up to Trump repeatedly, on debates ranging from attacking Iran to placing active-duty troops on U.S. streets during the mass democratic people’s uprising after George Floyd’s murder.
What led up to these ruptures, however, is anyone’s guess. And that’s where Peril fails as a journalistic history of the 2020 election. By focusing almost exclusively on the Republican and Democratic high command, the well-known class and social forces acting in both background and foreground are obscured from sight. The book does not consider, for example, to what degree the Chamber of Commerce’s decision to accept the election results influenced the actors, the impact of interventions by Wall Street, or even the coverage provided by Fox News, which is given little attention save Trump’s anger at their early call of the Arizona election for Biden.
As a moment in time, January 6th was much more than, as Mike Pence recently termed it, “a day in January.” Birthed on that same day was also the insurrection’s antithesis and remedy: the election of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the great state of Georgia and the movement that made it happen. While mentioned in Peril, it’s done only in passing as the authors’ gaze remained fixated on high, missing almost completely what’s taking place at the grassroots—but then again that’s bourgeois journalism.
Still, there’s a lot revealed in Woodward and Costa’s treatment and many more threads to be unraveled, including an interesting tidbit about GOP strategy from House minority leader Kevin McCarthy who, when celebrating last November’s Congressional wins, remarked, “You know who I’m going to recruit? Small business owners…. They have a passion; they can see what abuse government can do to your own life.” Historically, small businesses, in country after country have been the mass base of fascist movements.
Thus as the country seeks to understand and defend itself against a present and ongoing fascist danger, Peril will be an important resource, despite its blind spots.
Peril, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa
Simon and Schuster, September 2021
Hardcover and Kindle editions
Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA (2019-). He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.
This article was produced by People's World.
'Let's Put a Wrench in Things Now': Deere Workers Strike as Company Rakes in Record Profits. By: Jonah FurmanRead Now
Members of UAW Local 74 at John Deere's Ottumwa Works are among 10,000 workers on strike at the farm equipment maker. Photo: Chris Laursen
Ten thousand John Deere workers in Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas launched an open-ended strike October 14.
The strike came after workers overwhelmingly voted down a first tentative agreement negotiated by the Auto Workers (UAW). Among the over 90 percent of members voting, 90 percent voted no.
Members’ frustrations ranged from inadequate wage increases to an end to the pension for new hires, switching to a “Choice Plus” plan that many felt was scant on details. And they feel emboldened by a tight labor market and pandemic-related parts shortages that have made it hard for Deere to build up inventory.
At Deere’s Tractor Cab & Assembly Operations in Waterloo, Iowa, the 8000 tractor line—which workers refer to as the “money-maker”—was already over 800 units behind schedule at the start of the strike, according to Dana Thibadeau, a third-shift steward. That line produces tractors that can cost up to $800,000.
“When you factor in the pandemic, being deemed essential workers, and in our case, having a company turning a record profit, the CEO giving himself a 160 percent raise, and giving a 17 percent dividend raise, we kinda feel like we’re left to kick rocks,” said a UAW member at Iowa's Davenport Works who asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Deere is in the midst of its most profitable year ever. The farm and construction equipment manufacturer expects to rake in $5.7 to $5.9 billion in net income this year, far exceeding its previous high of $3.5 billion in 2013.
This is the first strike for nearly all current Deere workers, though some recall walking the picket lines with their parents and grandparents during the last Deere strike, a five-month walkout that began in 1986.
GOT TO SEE THE CONTRACT
A tentative agreement was initially announced October 1, hours after the contract expiration was extended. Members had been expecting to strike that night, and many were frustrated with an agreement that they felt would just allow Deere to build up more inventory before a potential strike.
Workers have long been dissatisfied with the union’s secretive bargaining process. The last contract, in 2015, passed by fewer than 200 votes. Many members were frustrated at the time that they only got to see the details—in a highlights document—during their two-hour ratification meetings.
“Everything is always a damn secret with them,” said Trever Bergeron, an iron pourer with Local 838 at the Waterloo foundry. “We are the last thing they think about.”
Since then, according to Chris Laursen, former president of Local 74 in Ottumwa, Iowa, some local presidents had pushed amendments at the UAW’s Deere Council (made up of all the Deere locals) to guarantee that members would get to see the full contract—not just highlights—well in advance of the vote. Laursen himself put forward a resolution in 2019 to release the contract at least a week before a ratification vote. It failed, but eventually, a motion was passed guaranteeing members would get to see the contract three days ahead.
Members also got to hear the company’s initial offer, which contained a host of concessions, at strike authorization meetings in September. Deere proposed ending the plant closure moratorium, doing away with overtime pay after eight hours, eliminating seniority-based wage progressions, forcing workers to pay 20 percent of their health insurance premiums, and many other draconian concessions.
“That was a slap in the face,” said the Davenport member. “Some company folks were trying to rationalize it: this is just the first offer, you never accept the first offer. If someone were selling a home for $160,000, and your first offer was $40,000, that would break down the good-faith negotiations.”
Members voted 99 percent to authorize a strike.
A THIRD TIER
Deere backed down from most of these concessions at the bargaining table. The agreement members rejected on October 14 would have maintained the current premium-free health insurance plan. It also would have reinstated the cost-of-living adjustment, which was eliminated in the previous contract.
But it introduced a new major concession: no pensions for new hires.
Deere already has two tiers of workers: “pre-97” and “post-97.” In 1997, Deere lowered wages, health care benefits, and pensions for all new hires and eliminated their post-retirement health care. This division of the workforce has for many defined their work experience; the most active hub of rank-and-file communication is the “Post 97” Facebook group. Many of those hired after 1997 have long hoped to win back retiree health care.
The tentative agreement would have created a third tier, a concession many workers are unwilling to accept. “We’ve been fighting against this pre-97, post-97 bullshit for years,” said Thibadeau. “And then we're going to do it again? To the new hires? What on earth?”
The new tier wasn’t the only clause that got members fired up. The tentative agreement included an 11 percent raise over six years, including a 5 percent raise in year one. In 2022, 2024, and 2026, workers would have received 2 percent lump sums instead of wage increases.
That wasn’t enough for most Deere workers, who are fed up with watching the company’s profits, dividends, and executive pay soar while their own wages stagnate. “Maybe it looks like, ‘Hey, five percent seems somewhat reasonable, but it’s just over a dollar an hour, and it’s comparable to what people in 1997 were making,” said Brad Lake, a 14-year Deere employee with Local 838.
Under the 2012 contract, pre-1997 hires in the most common pay grade were making a base wage of $20.86. In the current offer, the company is offering post-1997 hires in the same pay grade a base wage of $20.80, nine years later.
At the ratification meeting in Milan, Illinois, Local 79 education chair Dave Parkin emphasized the divergence between the company’s profits and workers’ incomes: “In 1997, Deere reported a net income of $817 million. In 2021, they are projected to make $5.7 billion.” Meanwhile, the starting wage at Deere has gone from just under $15 in 1997 to just over $20 in the current offer. “While Deere profit has grown almost 700 percent since 1997, our buying power has shrunk by 35 percent,” Parkin told members.
In a flyer distributed at the plants just before the strike, headlined “Making the Best Wages BETTER,” Deere claimed that workers typically make $60,000 a year, and that the new contract would bring workers up to almost $72,000 per year. But that figure assumes year-round full-time work—ignoring Deere’s common seasonal layoffs, which can range from weeks to months.
Workers’ compensation is also dependent on a complicated piece-rate system known as the “Continuous Improvement Pay Plan” (CIPP, pronounced “kip”). Deere’s figure assumes that workers are performing at a rate of 120 percent of the target set by management—but many departments are failing to reach their quotas, given parts shortages and the fact that management wants productivity to increase by 2 percent every six months, making targets harder to hit.
One worker shared their annual pay with Labor Notes: they made less than $40,000 in 2020, and have worked at the company for over a decade. For some, CIPP provides big payouts that can take workers past the $60,000 figure. But many see little to no CIPP money at all. “What you can potentially make on paper versus what is guaranteed and what you come home with are three different numbers,” said the Davenport member.
CALL AN AMBULANCE
Deere is attempting to run the plants with salaried employees—some engineers but many white-collar office workers as well. According to one of these workers, some had to buy steel-toed boots in preparation for their strikebreaking deployment.
Just hours into the strike, an ambulance had already been called at the Drivetrain Operations in Waterloo. At the Tractor Cab and Assembly Operations across town, a salaried worker crashed a tractor into a pole on the first day. In Coffeyville, Kansas, members on the picket line reported hearing alarms repeatedly going off in the plant, and it was rumored that a salaried employee attempting to operate the furnace had been calling members and retirees for advice.
White-collar Deere workers, who are not union members, have their own gripes. Deere cut hundreds of salaried jobs in 2020 and forced some of the remaining employees into lower pay grades and contractor status, according to salaried workers. Now, hundreds of these workers find themselves working 12-hour days, six days a week, in jobs they are not trained for and did not sign up for. About 650 were reassigned to the Parts Distribution Center in Milan, Illinois.
“If Deere wanted to piss off all of their employees simultaneously, they've done a very good job of doing so,” one white-collar worker wrote to Labor Notes.
Since they went on strike, members have been maintaining 24/7 picket lines. Locals have printed shirts that read “DEEMED ESSENTIAL IN 2020. PROVE IT IN 2021. CAN’T BUILD IT FROM HOME.”
On October 18, the strike's fifth day, several locals made a push for large morning pickets. In Waterloo, members reported a three-hour backup of salaried workers and management employees attempting to cross the line; in Davenport, two and a half hours. A mass “show of force” last night by Local 865 at Deere’s Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois, drew 1,000 picketers and stretched for 15 blocks, according to one striker’s estimate.
Wall Street sounds worried. Bank of America’s analysis on day one of the strike was headlined, “Deere likely has limited appetite for extended strike.”
Workers were conscious of the financial implications as well. “The fiscal year for Deere ends October 31, so this puts a real cramp on them at the end of the quarter and end of the year.” said Lake. “That was a huge issue of why we wanted to do it now. Because if we give them another extension they’re going to finish out their fiscal year, and this’ll be all on their 2022 books, so let’s put a wrench in things now.”
“The quicker we can put a financial dent on them, the better off we are when it comes to showing them that we mean business,” said the Davenport worker.
The company plans to cut off workers’ health insurance by the end of October. The UAW, which has a $790 million strike fund, is picking up COBRA payments and providing strike pay of $275 per week.
The union and Deere resumed negotiations this week.
The Deere contract is the biggest deal negotiated by the UAW since the resignation of President Gary Jones over corruption charges in November 2019. Former Vice President Norwood Jewell, who led bargaining on the last Deere contract, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for taking illegal payments from Fiat Chrysler. While there’s been no evidence connecting the Deere negotiations to the corruption scandal, many members mistrust the International.
Yesterday, the UAW’s 400,000 active members and 600,000 retirees began voting in a mail-ballot referendum on whether to move to direct elections for the union’s top officers, rather than the delegate system that has maintained one-party control over leadership positions for the past seven decades. Anger over two-tier contracts and secretive bargaining will impact that vote.
UAW members with the Unite All Workers for Democracy reform group, who are pushing for a “yes” vote in the referendum, organized a solidarity fund to bring supplies to the Deere picketers. In the first 24 hours, they raised $45,000 from supporters.
For updates on the strike, follow @JonahFurman on Twitter.
Jonah Furman is a staff writer and organizer for Labor Notes.email@example.com
This article was produced by Labor Notes.
CPs of Australia, Britain, and U.S. condemn nuclear submarine deal. By: Communist Party USA, Communist Party of Britain, Communist Party of AustraliaRead Now
Image: frostu (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
The Communist Party of Australia, the Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Party of the USA met on 1 October to discuss the implications of the formation of AUKUS, a trilateral Australian-British-US military alliance targeting China. The three parties issued the following statement:
The Communist Party of Australia, the Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Party of the USA unequivocally condemn AUKUS, a trilateral Australian-British-US military alliance and the plan for Australia to purchase or lease nuclear-powered attack submarines.
The Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Party USA declare their support and solidarity with the Communist Party of Australia which has called on its members and supporters and all peace-loving men and women to actively oppose the Government’s decision to join the AUKUS agreement; to buy nuclear-powered submarines; to purchase cruise missiles and other offensive weapons; and for Australia to host more US troops, warships, weapons, and planes.
AUKUS is a response to changes in the global economy which are promoting a direct challenge to neoliberal norms of government across the globe. The US is determined to maintain its political and economic hegemony in the economically expanding Asia-Pacific region.
In the face of declining US economic power, AUKUS aims to tie Australia even more tightly to US imperialism’s plans to contain and control the People’s Republic of China and to consolidate Australia as a US launching pad for coercion and even war.
The US and UK feel the world slipping through their fingers, prompting ever greater aggressiveness, rather than face economic and geopolitical reality. Instead of seeking to peacefully join a multilateral world as equal partners, they are turning to military alliances to try to hold onto their fading power.
AUKUS is an aggressive and destabilizing military alliance which jettisons what vestiges of sovereignty Australia still retained. It is part of the US-led imperial system which prioritizes the rights of private investors over the sovereignty of most states.
In post-Brexit Britain AUKUS feeds Prime Minister Johnson’s dream of aggressive expansionism for a “global Britain.” The UK already has a strike group in the South China Sea. This will not be welcome, as British imperialism was particularly brutal in the Asia-Pacific region, from impoverishing India to starting the Vietnam War, to laying the basis for ethnic conflicts in Fiji and Sri Lanka and inflicting near genocide on the Aboriginal owners of Australia and the Maori of Aotearoa.
The governments of our three countries rob jobs, education, the environment, the vital health budget, welfare, and much more to pay for unnecessary war preparations that benefit only the armaments corporations.
Military spending does create some jobs but not nearly as many jobs as a comparable investment in productive industry. In the US $1 billion of federal investment in the military creates 11,200 jobs, whereas the same investment in clean energy technology would yield 16,800, in health care 17,200, and in education 26,700 jobs.
Working people need work that creates benefits for the people of the world, not work that produces more efficient people-killing machines. Rather than sinking resources into the creation of tools that further destroy resources, both people and goods, production that meets human needs is required.
Many Asia-Pacific nations have only recently emerged from a long period of oppressive European imperialism. Many view AUKUS as an attempt to re-impose an imperialist dominated military and economic hegemony in the region. Inevitably, tensions will increase, as already suggested by the Indonesian and Malaysian responses to AUKUS.
The introduction of nuclear-powered submarines opens the way for the development of an Australian nuclear power industry and for a nuclear weapons capacity. All this weakens current non-proliferation agreements and threatens independence, security, and the environment in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Communist Party of Australia, the Communist Party of Britain, and the Communist Party of the USA join with peace and environmental movements, trade unions, churches, welfare and aid organizations, and many other groups around the world to demand:
►No war on China. No new Cold War on China.
►Australia, the UK, and the USA must sign and implement the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
►An end to military alliances and their replacement with multilateralism, diplomacy, and cooperation with China to address the existential threats of the pandemic and the climate crisis.
►Cuts to military budgets and an end to the economic drain of military spending and its replacement with profitable peace-time economies creating useful consumer goods.
Nothing less than the future of our planet depends on ending the new Cold War between the United States and China.
Communist Party USA, Communist Party of Britain, Communist Party of Australia
this article was produced by CPUSA.
Strike! By: Joe SimsRead Now
Image: Jared Cummings, Kellogg Union Members Appreciation Page (Facebook).
The class struggle is sharpening. Workers all across the country are striking and engaging in other job actions, large and small. Fed up with company attempts to impose two-tier wages, long hours, and inadequate pay, despite rising productivity and skyrocketing corporate profits, unions in several industries have had it. Now they’re marching on the picket lines. As late as last weekend, over 100,000 workers had voted to authorize strikes, and over 169 have occurred so far this year, the largest uptick since the wave of job actions in 2018–19. The AFL-CIO has aptly labeled this month #striketober.
There is deep anger, unrest, and growing militancy among the working class. Why? Companies want more while labor is repeatedly asked to do with less. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “manufacturing sector labor productivity increased 8.0 percent in the second quarter of 2021, as output increased 5.5 percent and hours worked decreased 2.3 percent.”
Overall, productivity “grew an average of 3 per cent in the first half of 2021. Unit labour costs fell 0.8 per cent during the same period.”
But at what cost to the worker? Wages are too low to pay for the rising cost of housing, hours are too long to allow adequate time for caregiving, and lack of health care benefits force many to go to work sick. Workers are tired of supplying profits to billionaires like Jeff Bezos to fuel their rocket rides and egos.
As the nation emerges from the pandemic, literally millions are so dissatisfied that they’re simply quitting in what some have described as a silent general strike. “The seriousness of the situation was confirmed by the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report showing that a record 2.9 percent of the workforce quit their jobs in August, which is equivalent to 4.3 million resignations.”
According to one poll, ”employees were so dissatisfied with their situation that more than one-quarter (28%) of all respondents left their jobs without another job lined up.” One of the main reasons workers are leaving is burnout, cited by 40% of the poll respondents.
Big business is alarmed at the political significance of the resignations. The “Great Resignation,” Forbes writes, “is a sort of workers’ revolution and uprising against bad bosses and tone-deaf companies that refuse to pay well and take advantage of their staff.”
Contributing to the spike in labor activism is growing confidence in collective action and knowledge that you can strike and win. A glut in job openings despite still significant unemployment has improved the unions’ bargaining position and power. Pro-union sentiment among the broad public is at its highest level in several decades. A Gallup poll released in the beginning of July showed that 68% of Americans approve of labor unions, up significantly from the 48% approval in 2009 during the throes of the Great Recession. In this regard, the Biden-Harris administration’s pro-union stance should not be underestimated, not the least of which is reflected by new appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.
The new general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, for example, has “signaled that she is willing to reconsider all kinds of twisted and outdated precedents that have vastly favored bosses during a nearly four-decades-long union-busting drive . . . she’s indicated a willingness to issue bargaining orders — not elections — for new unions when employers commit Unfair Labor Practices, to certify minority members-only bargaining units to help unions establish a foothold, and to be more creative about ‘make whole’ financial remedies for terminated union activists.”
As Peoplesworld.org reports, 10,000 workers at John Deere are among the latest to go out: “The strike wave that has hit John Deere has been building nationwide for more than a month. Last week Kellogg workers went on strike and over the summer Mondelez, the maker of Nabisco Oreos walked out. Coal miners in Alabama have been on strike for months.”
While uneven, the working class and people’s forces in local communities and workplaces are gathering in strength for the class and democratic battles that lie ahead. Today they’re focused on bread-and-butter issues of survival. But with the GOP blocking everything from strengthening voting rights to spending on climate change and human infrastructure, these economic struggles are becoming political. When that material force takes off and as the mid-terms loom — watch out.
Big days are coming. But it’s a mistake for friends of labor to sit around awaiting their arrival. Visit the picket lines and be sure to bring your walking shoes. A box of donuts and coffee would be appreciated but more important are the smiles and solidarity of friends. Talk, learn, listen, and afterwards share the experience. In so doing you’ll add to the growing class-consciousness and militancy that’s sweeping the nation. It will do everyone concerned a whole lot of good.
Building community support for striking workers is vital, calling on local politicians, clergy, and neighborhood leaders to lend solidarity. Letters to the editor along with social media campaigns can help build pro-strike sentiment. Community pickets at retail outlets and dealerships might also be helpful. Solidarity should also include boycotts and other forms of public pressure against companies that refuse to provide good wages, health care, working conditions and rights in the workplaces.
Yes, there’s a rising tide of struggle occurring deep within our class. Let’s give it our every support.
Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA (2019-). He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.
This article was produced by CPUSA.
Cuban Workers Denounce Poorly Concealed Objectives of Mercenary Ruckus. By: National news staffRead Now
The trade union movement will mobilize alongside the entire people against those who are determined to undermine Cuba’s sovereignty and the conquests we have collectively achieved, wielding its most powerful weapons: unity and patriotism.
Photo: Prensa Latina
Given the latest escalation of subversive campaigns against the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Workers (CTC) issued a statement outlining the national proletariat’s intransigent position rejecting the most recent maneuvers orchestrated by "internal political operators, led and encouraged from abroad," who have announced “the intention to conduct a march which they present as peaceful and lawful, invoking the Constitution."
In reference to Articles in the Magna Carta, the CTC recalled that no legal demonstration can disturb citizen tranquility, incite overthrowing the established order, infringe on the rights of others, affect collective security, general welfare or the public order, and must always be conducted with respect for the law.
On the contrary, the statement asserts, the poorly disguised objective of the mercenary ruckus is to provoke a change in Cuba’s political system and a return to capitalism; noting that this is made clear by "the decisive support, evident in the avalanche of messages on social networks, by figures abroad clamoring for a U.S. military intervention, notorious terrorists, counter-revolutionary figures in Florida and even the remains of the defeated mercenary Brigade 2506."
In the face of such aggression, the statement reaffirms that "Cuban workers, united around the Federation of Cuban workers and its affiliated trade unions, are advancing in the construction of a new society and updating our economic model to build a better country, strongly condemn those who promote destabilization. We are convinced that no provocation will succeed in demoralizing or intimidating those of us struggling here for the present and the future of the nation."
The statement reiterated that the Cuban trade union movement will mobilize alongside the entire people against those who are determined to take away our independence, our sovereignty and the conquests achieved with collective sacrifice. In this exercise of legitimate defense, "We will wield our most powerful weapons: unity and patriotism."
National News Staff
This article was produced by Granma.