Archive for November 2013

A Call To President Obama To “Walk The Picket Line”

November 27, 2013

Mr. Obama, will you fulfill your 2007 campaign promise, put on some comfortable walking shoes, join Wal-Mart “associates” and others on Black Friday, and walk the picket line in solidarity with them as they campaign for the right to earn living and family supporting wages, form unions on the job, work regular and consistent schedules, work in safe working environments, and speak their minds without fear of retaliation?

Immigration Reform: Facts Vs. Myths

November 25, 2013

There are approximately 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today. The subject of immigration is misunderstood and the need for immigration reform is great.

I have found three great resources that have helped me to better understand the issue of immigration, to separate the facts of immigration from the myths of immigration. The resources are produced by a left political organization, a social-justice community development organization, and a labor federation, respectively.

The first resource is Immigration Myths Vs. Facts – A Look Behind the Anti-Immigrant Furor. In this booklet produced by People’s Immigration Facts and MythsWorld, the subject of immigration is addressed in a question and answer format. Some of the questions asked and answered are:

  • “Why are so many immigrants coming to America?”
  • “Do immigrants cause unemployment?”
  • “Do immigrants pay their fair share of taxes?”
  • “What is the impact of immigrants on social, health care and educational services?”

Immigration Myths Vs. Facts also addresses factors that are necessary for effective immigration reform as well as provides helpful resources for further study of this pressing issue.

The second resource that helps us understand the issue of immigration is produced by Neighborhood Center Inc., a social-justice immigrationmythsfacts_thumborganization in Houston, Texas that exists to “bring resources, education and connection to emerging neighborhoods” and  help equip individuals and communities to live up to their full potential. Topics covered in Immigrants And Immigration are:

  • “Immigrants And The Economy”
  • “Immigrants And Jobs”
  • “Immigrants, Taxes, And Services”
  • “immigrants And Their Families”
  • “Immigrants And Texas”
  • “Immigrants And Houston”

The third resource, Seven Immigration Myths and Facts, has been produced by the AFL-CIO. Several of the myths covered in the AFL-CIO paper are:

  • Enforcement-only approaches to illegal immigration can effectively keep undocumented immigrants out of the United States
  • A pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will further hurt our ailing economy
  • Immigrants and their families come to America for a “free ride” and are a drain on our social services and economy
  • Anti-immigrant politicians have the best interests of the American worker in mind

In conclusion, if you are interested in and concerned about the undocumented immigrant situation in the United States today, the three papers presented in this post will be of great benefit to you. They present a number of myths that people will use to argue against undocumented immigrants – men, women, and children who come to American for a better life, greater employment opportunities, and political freedom – and their rights to come to and live and work in America. The facts in the face of these myths and the answers to these arguments that are presented in each of these papers will inform and equip you to defend undocumented immigrants, immigration reform, and serve as an advocate for the rights of working men and women who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

Capitalism And Immigration

November 21, 2013

There are approximately 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today. This number of people and their status impacts everything from the economy to education, from the provision of social services to the question of citizenship. Our nation is divided over this reality and how we should address it. Border fences. Immigration vigilantes. Arizona’s S.B. 1070. Deportation. A citizenship track. In Washington, D.C., Congress is currently deliberating immigration reform legislation that is sorely needed.

In The New Global Capitalism and the War on Immigration, William I. Robinson, a professor of global and international studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, writes that a major factor that we must consider as we address and make decisions regarding immigration reform is the role that global capitalism plays in world-wide immigration.

“To understand the immigration debate, we need to go beyond the headlines and see the big picture of the role that immigrants play in the new global capitalism system.” (Truthout, September 13, 2023)

Under the heading of Global Capitalism and Immigrant Labor, Robinson writes

“The larger story behind immigration reform is capitalist globalization and the worldwide reorganization of the system for supplying labor to the global economy.”

“These transnational immigrant labor flows are a mechanism that has replaced colonialism in the mobilization around the world of labor pools, often drawn from ethnically and racially oppressed groups.”

“The US economy has become increasingly dependent on immigrant labor.”

Robinson says that the United States dependence on immigrant labor “presents a contradictory situation,” that is, “how to super-exploit an immigrant labor force … yet how to simultaneously assure it is super-controllable and super-controlled.”

Robinson writes about a New Axis of Inequality Worldwide.

“As borders have come down for capital and goods (i.e., free trade agreements, my note), they have been reinforced for human beings. While global capital creates immigrant workers, these workers do not enjoy citizenship rights in their host countries.”

“That division (between immigrants and citizens) is a central component of the new class relations of global capitalism, predicated on a ‘flexible’ mass of workers who can be hired and fired at will, are de-unionized, and face precarious work conditions, job instability, a rollback of benefits and downward pressure on wages.”

“Immigrant workers are not only flexible, but are disposable through deportation, and therefore, controllable.”

“the division of the global working class into citizen and immigrant is a major new axis of inequality worldwide. Borders and nation of control and domination over the global working class.”

” …  the division of the global working class into citizen and immigrant is a major new axis of inequality worldwide. Borders and nationality are used by transnational capital, the powerful and the privileged, to sustain new methods of control and domination over the global working class.”

Writing about The Immigrant Military-Prison-Industrial-Detention Complex, Robinson informs us that …

“There is a broad social and political base, therefore, for the maintenance of a flexible, super-controlled and super-exploited Latino immigrant workforce. The system cannot function without it. But immigrant labor is extremely profitable for the corporate economy in double sense. First, it is labor that is highly vulnerable, forced to exist semi-underground, and deportable, and therefore, super-exploitable. Second, the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and the militarization of their control not only reproduce these conditions of vulnerability, but also in themselves, generate vast new opportunities for profit-making.”

” … capital has a vested interest in the criminalization of immigrants and the militarization of control over immigrants …. “

In the section of the article entitled Containing the Immigrant Rights Movements, Robinson says that …

“The ‘war on terror’ paved the way for an undeclared war on immigrants by fusing ‘national security/anti-terrorism’ with immigration law enforcement, involving designation of borders and immigrant flows as ‘terrorism threats,’ the approval of vast new funding and the passage of a slew of policies and laws to undertake the war.”

“Blatantly racist public discourse that only a few years earlier would have been considered extreme became increasingly mainstream and aired on the mass media.”

“Such racist hostility toward Latinos and other immigrants may be intentionally generated by right-wing politicians, law-enforcement agents and neo-fascist anti-immigrant movements. They may be the effect of the structural and legal-institutional subordination of immigrant workers and their communities, or simply an unintended (although not necessarily unwelcomed)byproduct of the state’s coercive policies.”

Under the heading Obama and Democrats: Demobilzation and Cooptation, the article’s author addresses “the political aspirations of the Latino Establishment and the state’s repression to co-opt and neutralize, as least momentarily, the mass (immigrant rights) movement.”

“The radical grassroots camp was not against lobbying or attempting to penetrate the halls of power, but insisted on prioritizing a permanent mass movement from below that subordinates alliances with liberal to the interests of the disenfranchised majority of immigrant workers and their families. The camp also insisted on the need to link the immigrant rights movement more openly and closely with other popular, labor, and resistance struggles around the world for global justice.”

The last section of William Robinson’s article on global capitalism and immigration is Reform Legislation that Meets Corporate, Military, and Elite Interest. In this section he focuses primarily on Senate Bill 744.

This bill will supposedly provide a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants. While citizenship is the goal, the “pathway” has so many conditions that it is estimated that between one-third and two-thirds of the undocumented immigrants will  not be able to meet the criteria for citizenship. The criteria include:

  • an income of 125 % of the federal poverty guideline
  • no lapses of employment for more than 60 days during a decade
  • fines and fees
  • passing a criminal  background check
  • learning English, US civics and history

The bill allows law enforcement agencies to collaborate in the policing of  immigrant communities as well as sets up a “guest worker” program “that amounts to little more than indentured servitude.”

With respect to the “guest worker” program, Robinson says …

” … the use of guest worker programs would expand rapidly if the reform bill passed, with its expanded guest worker provision, and that would result in driving wage level and bargaining power down even further, not only for agricultural workers, but for those in industries and services heavily dependent on immigrant labor.”

In other words, the guest worker program would be good for business but bad for workers.

Robinson concludes this very thought-provoking article by saying that the factors discussed in The New Global Capitalism and the War on Immigration have resulted in the “conservative and repressive immigration reform legislation now in Congress.”

“It is only the revitalization of a mass worker-based immigrant rights movement that can redirect the reform process to one that achieves a modicum of social justice.”

The Shift Is Underway: Chris Hedges On Class War And Social Movements

November 11, 2013

Chris Hedges, an American journalist and author who writes primarily about politics and society, has recently published three articles for Truthdig that I found to be very interesting. The first and third articles have to do with social change and social movements. The second has to do with class warfare.

In this post I want to share a number of quotes from each of the articles.

I share these articles, and there are many like them being written today, because there are growing numbers of social and political movements across the land. These movements are popular, local expressions of discontent and reaction to what is taking place in government as well as in the economy.

And, there is seemingly a class war being waged in the United States today, a plutocratic class war on the middle, working poor, and poor classes in our country. There is a growing income inequality gap between to the top 1% income earners in America and the rest of us (the top 1% income earners own 40% of the wealth in America), safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare are being threatened, and voter identification laws that many believe are intended to suppress the vote of women, minorities, and the poor are being enacted in many states.

Hedge’s articles are a critical, political analysis of what is happening in the social movements and current state of class relations in America today. I trust that these quotes will give you some sense of the mood of Hedge’s analysis.

This first quotes are from ”The Sparks of Rebellion,” published in Truthdig on September 30, 2013.

“The revolutionists of history counted on a mobilized base of enlightened industrial workers…. But now, with the decimation of the U.S. manufacturing base, along with the dismantling of our unions and opposition parties, we will have to search for different instruments of rebellion.”

“The dispossessed working poor, along with unemployed college graduates and students, unemployed journalists, artists, lawyers, and teachers, will form our movement.”

” … nonviolent movements succeed twice as often as violent uprisings ….”

” … mass resistance must work on two tracks. It must attempt to stop the machine while at the same time building alternative structures of economic democracy and participatory democratic institutions.”

The second set of quotes are from “Let’s Get This Class War Started,” published October 20, 2013 in Truthdig.

“Once oligarchs achieve unchecked economic and political power, as they have in the United States, the citizens too become disposable.”

“The rich have a snobbish disdain for the poor … and the middle class. These lower classes are viewed as uncouth parasites, annoyances that have toi be endured, at times placated and always controlled in the quest to amass more power and money.”

“The blanket dissemination of the ideology of free market capitalism through the media and the purging, especially in academia, of critical voices have permitted our oligarchs to orchestrate the largest inequality gap in the industrial world…. Oligarchs do not believe in self-sacrifice for the common good. They never have. They never will. They are the cancer of democracy.”

The third, and final, set of Hedge quotes are from the article “Our Invisible Revolution.” It was published in Truthdig on October 28. 2013.

This article is about a battle between ideas, the ideas that support, sustain, and justify global capitalism and the ideas that support and sustain a vision of a viable alternate “new society.”

“As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse.”

“It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum.”

“Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, the old regime is finished.”

Occupy Wall Street, the Chicago Teacher Union strike, Moral Mondays in North Carolina, this fall’s Strike for $15 minimum wage, last week’s Wal-Mart strikes in Southern California, and more … it looks like a shift has begun.

Eugene V. Debs: Quotes For Workingmen

November 6, 2013

Eugene Victor Debs – railroad fireman, union organizer, socialist, and presidential candidate – was born on November 5, ev debs6in 1855. Yesterday would have been his 158th birthday. He died on October 20, 1926.

For some reason, I have always been intrigued by Debs. Perhaps it has been because he was a leader in the American Labor Movement and its development in the late 1800s. It may be because of his role in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World union and the Socialist Party of the United States. Or, it may simply be the fact that he was a simple working man who was an advocate for the rights of other working men and women.

Whatever the reason, Eugene V. Debs, is a hero of mine.

cross2I read the classic biography of Eugene Debs, The Bending Cross by Ray Ginger, about  ten years ago to learn more the man. It was a great book. I also read Debs’ speeches and articles that I am able to find on the web. These speeches and articles give me insight into who the man was as well as give me a great look into the history of labor in America, and I enjoy that. They are also inspiring and motivating.

Therefore, in honor of Eugene V. Debs this evening, I would like to share a few quotes from two Deb’s articles that were published in the Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine in 1890. The magazine, which Debs edited, was the official organ of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen union.  Debs eventually left the Brotherhood and helped form the American Railway Union in Chicago in 1893.

The first two quotes are from an article entitled “The Common Laborer.” It was published in the Firemen’s Magazine in April 1890.

As Debs begins this article, he makes a qualifying statement. He writes that “We use the term ‘common laborer’ in no derogatory sense.” This term is innocently used to refer to working men and women and is meant to say that no worker or labor can be thought of or called “common.” All workers and labor have value.

“We make no apology for asserting that the welfare of the country centers in the one fact of doing absolute justice in all matters relating to fair wages for work, by which we mean such wages as shall make the home of the American workingman exempt from the ceaseless peril of mendicancy.”

” … when wages fall below securing such requirements the American idea is to organize for the purpose of attaining them. It is clear, therefore, that the American idea is the betterment of the American workingman regardless of trade.”

The next set of quotes are from an article that was attributed to Debs. The article is “What Can We Do for Working People?” and was published in April 1890.

Debs begins this article by saying that “In one form or another certain persons are continually asking, ‘What can we do, or What can be done for working people?'” He answers this question by sharing how different groups or classes of people might answer the question:

  • Slave owners of old would have said they had a responsibility given to them by Providence to care for their “human chattel” by keeping them fed, clothed, housed, and at work.
  • Philanthropists would say that their responsibility would be to provide free soup and baths to working people and enact “more stringent laws against idleness and tramping, together with more improved machinery in penitentiaries.”
  • Another group of people, probably the business class, would tell working men and women that “unless they consent to abandon their labor organizations, absolve themselves from all obligations to such organizations, so far as they are concerned that shall have no work at all.”

In response, Debs says that the real question is, “What can workingmen do for themselves?”

“The answer is ready. They can do all things required, if they are independent, self-respecting, self-reliant men.”

“Workingmen can organize. Workingmen can combine, federate, unify, cooperate, harmonize, act in concert. This done, workingmen could control governmental affairs…. By acting together they could overthrow monopolies and trusts.”

“Workingmen are in the majority. They have the most votes. In this God favored land, where the ballot is all powerful, peaceful revolutions can be achieved. Wrongs can be crushed – sent to their native hell, and the right can be enthroned by workingmen acting together, pulling together.”

“What can workingmen do for themselves? They can teach capitalists that they do not want and will not accept their guardianships; that they are capable of self-management, and that they simply want fair pay for an honest day’s work, and this done, ‘honors are easy’.”

******************************

Eugene Debs lived and labored for the rights of working men and women over one hundred years ago. Time has passed and many things have changed since he was involved in the burgeoning American Labor Movement.

But one thing has not changed. We are still fighting for decent living wages for working men and women and their families, safe working conditions on the job, health and retirement benefits, and the right to form unions. And, we are still fighting against a plutocratic class that would suppress labor, and in so doing, create and maintain a part-time, low-come “labor market”; suppress the voting rights of women, minorities, and the poor; institute austerity programs that endanger children, the poor, the elderly, and the infirmed; and increase their wealth at the expense of the working and middle classes.

Eugene V. Debs was a one-of-a-kind of a man during his time. We need  men and women like him today.