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United States: Healthcare `town hall' meeting a charade of democracy

By Billy Wharton

August 19, 2009 -- The were two big winners at the recent “town hall” healthcare meeting held in the North Bronx, New York City, neighbourhood of Parkchester on August 17 – the lunatic right wing and the private health insurance industry. These victories came despite the fact that the vast majority of those who lined up to participate in the meeting supported either a single-payer system or a public option. Most came away disappointed. I got kicked out.

The right wing won this contest without even participating in it. Sure there was one woman with a “Freedom Isn’t Free Shirt”, but there were certainly none of the antics that have come to typify other ``town hall'' meetings. Not even one “Death Panel” sign. How then did the right wing win? Democrat Representative Joseph Crowley, the organiser of the event, guaranteed this by closing off all space for public discussion.

United States: Industry-backed opponents of healthcare reform react with racism, violence

Elston McCowan. Photo by Don Fitz.

By Don Fitz

August 14, 2009 -- St. Louis -- Did you hear about the town hall meeting in St. Louis on August 6, where union thugs attacked a black conservative and sent him to the hospital with multiple injuries? Well, it didn’t happen exactly like that. In fact, events were the opposite of what talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly broadcast and what the corporate media relayed across the US.

The right-wing Tea Party group announced to the world that their supporter Kenneth Gladney was assaulted by Elston McCowan, who is an organiser for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Earlier this year I worked closely with McCowan, a black minister, when he ran for mayor of St. Louis on the Green Party ticket. Since nothing that I heard fit the McCowan I know, I interviewed him about the August 6 incident.

Vietnam: Chemical companies, US authorities knew the dangers of Agent Orange

By Jon Dillingham

Thanh Nien -- August 10, 2009, was the first Orange Day organised in Vietnam –- not only to be remembered by victims of Agent Orange but to mark Vietnam's common pain. Those responsible for exposing Vietnamese citizens and US troops to toxic defoliants kept silent about known health implications, a review of documents finds.

US chemical companies that made Agent Orange and the government and military authorities who ordered its spraying on Vietnam knew the human health toll it could take, according to official and unofficial documents detailing the history of the deadly defoliant.

A review of the documents related to the use of Agent Orange –- a dioxin-laden herbicide -– in Vietnam, including decades-old declassified papers from the companies that manufactured it and the government and military that used it, provides compelling evidence that those in charge also concealed evidence of the devastating effects it could have on people.

Lipstick on a pig: The failure of Obama’s health-care reform

By Billy Wharton

July 19, 2009 -- Consider it a symptom of a larger disease. A fervent commitment to defend the profit margins of private industry seems to be a national religion for politicians in the United States. No matter how deeply the private sector mucks up society, some senator or representative or, if things get really out of control, president will appear to rescue the day for the corporations all in the name of justice for the citizens of the US. Like any religion, this process has highly crafted rituals. First a confession, then march the sinners around at one hearing or another, then mete out acceptable penance and then all is forgiven.

United States: Solidarity sometimes (exclusive excerpt from Steve Early’s new book, Embedded With Organized Labor)

[With the permission of Monthly Review Press, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is publishing an exclusive excerpt from Steve Early’s new book, Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home. Embedded With Organized Labor describes how trade union members in the United States have organised successfully, on the job and in the community, in the face of employer opposition now and in the past. Steve Early has produced a provocative series of essays -- an unusual exercise in “participatory labor journalism” useful to any reader concerned about social and economic justice. As workers struggle to survive and the labour movements try to revive during the current economic crisis, this book provides ideas and inspiration for trade union activists and friends of labour alike.

Swine flu and the case for a single-payer healthcare system in the United States

By Billy Wharton

June 3, 2009 -- On April 13, 2009, 39-year-old Adela María Gutiérrez Cruz became the first victim of a new virus that would become known as the swine flu (H1N1). By the time Cruz arrived at a local hospital on April 9, she had already entered acute respiratory distress due to an “atypical pneumonia”. Further investigations led to a town outside of a factory farm, run by a subsidiary of the US meat conglomerate Smithfield Foods, in the neighbouring state of Vera Cruz. Causalities began to mount. Yet, nearly two weeks after the first deaths, none of the families of the dead had received anti-viral medications.(1) Mexican health officials claimed to not have the resources to visit the families.

Neoliberal economic policies in the United States: The impact of globalisation on a `Northern’ country

By Kim Scipes

Most contemporary discussions of globalization, and especially of the impact of neoliberal economic policies, focus on the countries of the Global South (see, for example, Bond, 2005; Ellner and Hellinger, eds., 2003; a number of articles in Harris, ed., 2006; Klein, 2007; Monthly Review, 2007; and, among others, see Scipes, 1999, 2006b). Recent articles arguing that the globalization project has receded and might be taking different approaches (Bello, 2006; Thornton, 2007) have also focused on the Global South. What has been somewhat discussed (see Giroux, 2004; Piven, 2004; Aronowitz, 2005) but not systematically addressed, however, is what has been the impact of globalization and especially related neoliberal economic policies on working people in a northern country?[i]

United States: New prescription for a healthy union movement

Scenes from the NUHW founding convention.

By Carl Finamore

May 1, 2009 -- It’s not every day that a new national union is formed in the United States. But that’s exactly what happened on April 25 in San Francisco. If the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) turns out as planned, it’s a date for the history books.

The political economy of crisis management in the heart of world capitalism

By Arindam Sen

May 2009 -- Do we see a faint glimmer of light at the -- still distant -- end of the tunnel? In March the housing market in the US stabilised somewhat and new claims for unemployment insurance stopped rising. Crisis-ridden US banks surprised everybody when they reported profits in mid-April, which was followed by a good stockmarket rally. But most other indices, including retail sales figures seem to suggest that such optimism might be premature. As late as March 31 the OECD released a very gloomy prognosis, predicting that the US economy would shrink by 4% this year and not grow at all next year.

Meanwhile, a great debate of sorts is raging over contradictory strategy options for crisis management, in the process revealing the class conflicts in US society -- both between the bourgeoisie and the working class, and among various sections of the bourgeoisie.

Two versions of the nationalisation slogan

Photo essay: Fighting back against home foreclosure

Photos by David Bacon

Oakland, California, March 12, 2009 -- On the steps of the Alameda County courthouse, community activists in the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) protest against the auction of the foreclosed home of Armando Ramos and Fernanda Cardenas. Their home mortgage, held by the mortgage company OCWEN, had an adjustable rate. When it went up, Ramos and Cardenas could no longer make the payments. OCWEN then decided to auction off the home on the courthouse steps.

Let Darfurian and Sudanese voices be heard

By Kevin Funk and Steven Fake

March 9, 2009 -- When the Save Darfur Coalition held a rally on April 30, 2006, drawing thousands to Washington DC, it was a watershed for Darfur activism in the US. Save Darfur's advocacy efforts enjoyed a moment in the sun, the culmination of an aggressive and well-funded media campaign.

Yet the rally also symbolised another, less-reported aspect of Darfur activism in the US: the tendency to marginalise Darfurian and Sudanese voices.

As reported, “the original list of speakers [for the April 30 rally] included eight Western Christians, seven Jews, four politicians and assorted celebrities -- but no Muslims and no one from Darfur”; organisers had to hurry “to invite two Darfurians to address the rally after Sudanese immigrants objected” to their previous exclusion from the line-up.

Available for download: Barry Sheppard's The Party: The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988: A Political Memoir -- The Sixties

Barry Sheppard, 1964, editor of the Militant newspaper. Photo by Ed Shaw. -- Barry Sheppard was a member of the US Socialist Workers Party for 28 years, and a central leader for most of that time. This is the first of two volumes recounting his life in the party. It is a case study in the inspiration and difficulties involved in building the nucleus of a revolutionary socialist party.

This book covers from 1960 to 1973, the period of radicalisation known as "The Sixties". Walking picket lines for Black civil rights, helping to organise the anti-Vietnam War movement, interviewing Malcolm X, meeting with US soldiers in Vietnam, defending the Cuban Revolution, collaborating with socialists worldwide including in Australia, India, France and Japan -- Barry Sheppard has lived a life enriched by contact with and involvement in popular struggles around the world.

Paul M. Sweezy: Cars and cities -- `automobilisation' and the `automobile-industrial complex'

By Paul M. Sweezy

[This classic essay first appeared in Monthly Review, vol. 24, no. 11 (April 1973). It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with the permission of Monthly Review.]

“Cities, after all, have a great deal in common with cars. More and more, in fact, they often seem to be turning into cars. There are deep mysteries here, impenetrable to the present shallow state of human understanding. Somehow, we know not how, things communicate.” — Russell Baker, New York Times, March 8, 1973

Chicago, USA June 18-21; San Francisco, July 2-5, 2009: Building a new left for a new era

The world economic crisis has shattered the free-market consensus that has dominated politics for the last generation. Meanwhile, the end of the conservative era and the election of the first African American president have raised expectations among working people that long overdue change is at hand. With capitalism in crisis, even some in the mainstream media are admitting that Karl Marx was right.

There has never been a better time for those who want to see fundamental change to get together to debate, discuss and organize for a new society—a society based on the needs of the many instead of the whims of a few. We need to organize a new left to meet the challenge of this new era.

That’s the purpose that Socialism 2009—expanded to two sites this year—has set for itself. Gather with activists from around the world to take part in dozens of discussions about changing the world: How can we end racism? What kind of organization do we need? What would a future socialist society look like?

Yes we can organize for socialism in the 21st century! ¡Sí se puede!

Join these invited speakers at Socialism 2009:

John Riddell on Clara Zetkin

Tariq Ali on Obama: Imperialism with a human face

Obama visits US troops in Afghanistan during the 2008 presidential campaign.

February 14, 2009 -- With US President Barack Obama to visit Ottawa, Canada, on February 19, renowned writer and anti-war campaigner Tariq Ali shares his thoughts on the new administration's foreign policy. In his recently published book, The Duel, Tariq Ali argues that expanding the war in Afghanistan will only sow more destruction in that long-suffering Central Asian country, and aggravate the already volatile situation in Pakistan.

In this interview, which first appeared at the progressive Canadian website, Ali discusses with rabble's editor Derrick O'Keefe the war, prospects for Palestine under Obama's watch and the rising left-wing tide in Uncle Sam's backyard. It has been posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with O'Keefe's permission.

* * *

San Francisco trade unionists support boycott of apartheid Israel

San Francisco trade unionists support boycott of apartheid Israel, protest in soldarity with the Palestinian people, January 10, 2009.

Fidel Castro: Contradictions between Obama’s politics and ethics

By Fidel Castro Ruz

February 4, 2009 -- A few days ago I referred to some of Obama’s ideas which point to his role in a system that denies every principle of justice.

Some throw their hands up in horror if anything is said to criticise the important personality, even if it is done with decency and respect. This is usually accompanied by subtle and not so subtle darts from those with the means to throw and transform them into the elements of media terror imposed on the peoples to sustain the unsustainable.

Every criticism I make is always construed as an attack, an accusation and other similar qualifiers reflecting callousness and discourtesy towards the person involved.

This time I’d rather address some questions of many that could be raised and that the new President of the United States should answer.

The following for example:

Black president in the White House: Not the `same old white supremacy' but …

Barack Obama delivers his inaugural address after being sworn in as president of the United States. Photograph: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

By Mike Ely

For literally millions of people, for many of a new generation, the awakening to politics starts in these moments. This is the world, the arguments, the summations, the claims, the promises that they hear and that they will see unfold in the days ahead. We need to understand this moment, we need to also inhabit this world that they are seeing — in order to craft from among them a revolutionary force that can actually connect with and represent their highest hopes.

Good riddance, Dubya!

Poster of President George W. Bush outside the US Consulate in Montreal, Canada. US President George W. Bush and shoes are now synonymous. People around the world were inspired by Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi. Source: Flickr. Thanks to

Production-side environmentalism -- Can we produce less and consume more?

By Don Fitz

Corporate "environmentalism" is consumer-side environmentalism. "Make your dollars work for the Earth." "Buy green!" "Purchase this green gewgaw instead of that ungreen gadget." "Feel guilty about driving your car."

Consumer-side environmentalism is loath to discuss production. Consumer-side environmentalism does not challenge the manufacture of cars. Rather, it assumes that producing more and more cars is a sacred right never to be questioned.

Production-side environmentalism places blame on the criminal rather than the victim. It looks at the profits oil companies reap from urban sprawl rather than demeaning people who have no way to get to work other than driving a car. Production-side environmentalism looks at an agro-food industry which profits from transporting highly processed, over-packaged, nutrient-depleted junk thousands of miles rather than the parent giving in to a child bombarded with Saturday morning pop-tart-porn TV.

Production and consumption: A broken connection

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