Friday, June 12, 2009

‘Health care now’ fight rages on Capitol Hill

By Tim Wheeler

WASHINGTON — The fight for universal health care is raging on Capitol Hill with grassroots activists and progressive lawmakers making clear they will not support anything less than reform that provides a strong public option like Medicare.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, June 5, pointing out that the “overwhelming majority” of the 80-member caucus “prefer a single-payer approach” and warning that they will oppose any health care legislation that does not provide a public option.

Said Grijalva, “Americans deserve health care that favors patients over the health insurance companies. They were given decades to control costs, improve quality, and increase access but they have failed. At a minimum, we need to give them real competition in the form of a robust public plan that puts patients first.”

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., the caucus’s other co-chair, added, “Any legislation passed by Congress must include a robust and affordable public option that is available to every American and that provides coverage on a par with any plan put forth by private insurers. This is not a moment to act cautiously or to hide behind hollow buzzwords or skeletal programs … A competitive public option must be at the heart of this proposal.”

The progressive lawmakers also released a nine-point “CPC Principles for a Public Health Care Option,” stipulating that it must take effect concurrently with other reforms and not kick in at some future time of crisis — in other words, that it not be subject to the so-called “trigger” delay mechanism proposed by some.

The public plan must “consist of one entity, operated by the federal government” to keep administrative costs low and provide “a higher standard of care,” the principles specify. It must be “available to all individuals and employers across the nation without limitation” and allow patients their choice of doctors and other providers “similar to the traditional Medicare model.”

The federal government must provide “a level of subsidy and support that is no less than that received by private plans,” the Progressive Caucus principles say.

The government must also “redress historical disparities in underrepresented communities” and provide a “standard package of comprehensive benefits including dental, vision, mental health, and prescription drugs.”

Meanwhile, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., was the lead-off witness in a hearing June 10 on his “Medicare for All” single-payer health care bill (HR 676) before a subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee. Conyers decried Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have contrived to keep his bill “off the table,” adding that two national polls have shown that “universal, single-payer health care reform is the most popular health care system in the minds of most Americans.” He asked, “If you keep it off the table, what are you left with?”

Conyers pointed out that single-payer is “not a new idea … every industrialized country around the world has some variation of it except our own.”

A day earlier, Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., in an interview on CSPAN spoke of his single-payer bill S-703. The private health care system in the U.S., he charged, “is geared to making money for the private insurance companies,” not providing quality health care for the people. He decried the $2.3 trillion spent on health care each year, 18 percent of gross domestic product, or more than $8,000 for each man, woman and child. Yet 47 million people are still without health care insurance.

Any scheme to fix the system that leaves the insurance profiteers in control, he charged, “is like pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into a leaky bucket.”

Jacki Schechner, media spokesperson for Health Care for America Now, told the World, “We are in full support of a strong public health insurance plan. It is the only way to guarantee coverage, control costs, and insure quality and transparency.”

The grassroots movement for health care is mobilizing for a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill, Thursday, June 25, she said. “We are organizing for what will be the largest health care lobby day ever.”

“We will have visits to the offices of more than 300 members of the Senate and House to tell the lawmakers we need quality, affordable health care for all in 2009,” Schechner said. “Now is the time for people to step up and tell their senators and representatives we want it done.”

Jim Baldridge, a veteran health care worker in Baltimore, said the labor movement is filling buses with union members to attend the rally and lobby day. AFSCME, the Baltimore Central Labor Council and all the coalitions in support of health care reform are mobilizing. “It includes people across the health care reform spectrum whether it be for single-payer or the public option,” he said.

greenerpastures21212 @

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Communist Party's statement on North Korean nuclear test.

The Communist Party USA is shocked and appalled at North Korea's recent nuclear test, as well as its subsequent test firing of at least two missiles.

We see these acts as incredibly provocative and irresponsible. Unfortunately, they are not a surprising departure from the way the DPRK leadership has handled itself in recent years. Even North Korea's most important ally, China, was horrified by, and condemned, the tests. Of course, North Korea is right to say that it has been, and still is, the victim of imperialist aggression, specifically from the U.S. It is true that the United States has never made reparations for the destruction of the Korean War, has repeatedly threatened North Korea, and encroached upon its right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to peacefully use nuclear power. In addition, the United States has helped to isolate North Korea from the rest of the world, encroaching upon its sovereign rights and hindering its economic development, and therefore providing the basis for the problems afflicting the region. It was the United States that fought the Korean War, and partitioned the nation into two separate states. The line of demarcation between north and south is one of the most militarized in the world. Currently, tens of thousands of U.S. troops remain in South Korea, and the U.S. routinely practices joint military drills with south Korea, simulating a ground invasion of the North. Nonetheless, we are resolutely opposed to the use or development of any nuclear weapons by any nation.

Nuclear weapons threaten the very existence of humanity itself. The tests heighten tensions in the region: The sections of Japan's leadership that want to see Japan change its “peace constitution” so that Japan can maintain a standing army have seized upon these provocative tests to push forward the changes they want.

Further, the results of the tests are in direct contradiction to the stated aims of battling imperialism. The general direction of the Obama administration's foreign policy is at odds with that of any administration in the past 30 years, if not longer. While Obama has to navigate the political realities of the U.S., his administration has sought to reduce the nuclear threat, as well as the threat that the U.S. poses to other, oppressed nations. Consequently, powerful sections of the U.S. ruling class have made their aim to derail the Obama administration altogether.

The fight for progressive forces is to make sure that Obama, and the social strata that are part of the Obama movement—the working class, women and the racially and nationally oppressed especially—meets success.

The ultra-right has already seized upon North Korea's nuclear tests to attack Obama, Obama has been forced to respond sharply, and the movement for peace and against imperialism is that much more difficult. We believe peace is possible in today’s world, but this nuclear test, on the contrary, strengthens the ultra-right and imperialism, not the cause of peace.

The Communist Party USA, along with North Korea's neighbors, including socialist China and Vietnam, and many other progressive forces around the world, condemn these tests and urge the North Korean leadership to abandon its policy of brinkmanship. Further, we urge all parties, including the United States and Japan, to exercise restraint in response. As we have always said, the main way to solve the nuclear issue, as well as the problems of Northeast Asia more generally, is through good-faith dialogue, through the six-party talks or some other mechanism, and not through military saber-rattling and brinkmanship from any quarters.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine flu outbreak raises wider questions

The death of a 23-month-old toddler in Texas yesterday was the first U.S. death in the swine flu outbreak that has killed 159 people in Mexico so far. It adds to the mounting worry here and abroad about the spread of this potentially deadly virus. It also raises many questions about the sustainability of food production on the corporate model.

But predictably, the ultra-right in the U.S. is trying to hijack the issue for its racist and anti-immigrant agenda.

The first appearance of the new virus strain, with genetic elements from human, swine and avian flu varieties, was reportedly in a 5-year-old boy in the village of La Gloria near the town of Perote, in Veracruz state, Mexico, in March. Public health officials say that although many people in La Gloria at that time were suffering from flu-like symptoms, only the 5-year-old child had the new swine flu variety, among those tested.

Outsiders tend to associate Veracruz state with lush vegetation, lively harp music and steamy beaches. But the Perote area is actually inland, up on the high central plateau, and is cool and dry. Many area residents make a very long commute to Mexico City to work. So if the current outbreak started in La Gloria, it could have quickly spread to Mexico City.

The dry climate creates a problem of windblown dust, which is also a big problem in Mexico City, much of which sits on an old lakebed. This is hard on respiratory systems, weakening their defenses against infection. But it also creates a danger of viral infections when dried fecal matter mixes with the dust and is inhaled (A few years ago there were a number of deaths in the Southwestern U.S. from hantavirus, spread via dried wild rodent feces).

Smithfield, hogs and health

La Gloria is next to a major pig raising and pork production operation, consisting of 16 farms run by Granjas Carroll (Carroll Farms), which is half owned by the giant Smithfield agribusiness corporation based in Virginia. For some time, residents of the area have been protesting what they say are unsanitary conditions caused by the way that Granjas Carroll keeps its pigs and disposes of pig fecal waste. Not only are there unbearable smells, residents say, but the vast amounts of pig excrement in open, inadequately lined pits have created massive swarms of flies which bedevil the inhabitants, who blame them for health problems.

For its part, Smithfield/Granjas Carroll denies any relationship between the flu outbreak and its operations, and claims that it keeps its pigs healthy and vaccinated and follows proper rules for waste disposal. It has also sued five leaders of local protests for defamation. But the people of La Gloria are not convinced.

Many people in the U.S. can relate to the complaints about the way pork is produced, and about Smithfield specifically. In Virginia and North Carolina, where Smithfield has had major operations, and in other areas of the country where other corporations have large pig farms, complaints about odor and public health dangers have arisen time and again. In 1997, Smithfield was fined $12.6 million for water pollution caused by its methods of disposing of pig waste. In 1999, Hurricane Floyd hit Eastern North Carolina, causing massive overflows of ponds owned by Smithfield subcontractors, flushing vast amounts of dangerous waste into the waterways and killing millions of fish.

These complaints by local residents and environmentalists coincide with serious labor troubles in pork production operations, for example at the Smithfield plant in Tar Heel, N.C., where Smithfield pulled out all stops to prevent workers from being organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers union. In addition, animal rights activists denounce the brutal way in which pigs are kept practically immobile in company pens.

Industrial animal factories

Smithfield says it has cleaned up the problems, but there is a larger issue, namely the danger created by modern methods of raising pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals for mass consumption. When you have such large animal populations crammed into relatively small spaces (with the resultant stress weakening their resistance to infection), it creates a danger of incubating viruses on a vast scale. That in turn increases the possibility of mutations dangerous to humans — the more the virus breeds and spreads, the higher the probability of mutations.

We have seen this before.

The 1919 flu epidemic which killed 50 million people probably started in poultry. The SARS scare of 2003 may have had its origin among masked palm civets, wild carnivores that are eaten in China and were being kept in large numbers in unsanitary conditions in food markets. The bird flu or avian flu virus, H5N1, is a source of serious worry to public health officials worldwide, because of its potential for mutating in domestic poultry populations and then jumping into the human population. Massive research and bird vaccination efforts have been mounted all over the world to stave off this potential disaster.

Inadequate public health systems

Another issue that the current outbreak raises is the inadequacy of public health systems in poorer countries.

In Mexico, there are already criticisms of the speed with which the government responded. Evidently the Mexican ministry of health had to send its samples to a Canadian laboratory for analysis, which took an extra week. It boggles the mind to think of what epidemics could come out of countries that have even more ramshackle public health systems and even worse living conditions.

But we in the United States are in no position to gloat.

The Centers for Disease Control did not realize the danger until six days after Mexico began to take emergency measures. If an outbreak on the scale of the one in Mexico happens here, how will we cope? Millions of people in the United States have no health insurance and are likely to delay seeking health care when they feel sick, simply because even a short stay in the hospital may mean financial ruin.

And if everybody who got sick in such an epidemic were to seek medical attention, would there be enough doctors, nurses, clinics, hospitals and medications to go around? Moreover, Republicans in Congress demanded and got the removal of $900 million for preventing epidemics from the recently passed stimulus package, considering it a sort of “pork” (ahem!). Many Democrats went along.

Right-wing diatribes

The foaming-at-the- mouth crowed on cable TV and talk radio immediately launched into massive diatribes against Mexico and Mexican people. Some of these comments have been gathered on the useful web site of “Media Matters for America," http://mediamatters .org.

Right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin, for instance, was quick to blame the relatively small number of cases reported in the U.S. so far on “illegal immigration,” in spite of the fact that the cases in New York, which are most numerous so far, were found to have started with private school students returning from spring break in Cancun. Others called for a complete cutoff of immigration and trade with Mexico.

Commenters on Internet articles on the flu outbreak have taken up the call, calling Mexicans cockroaches that should be exterminated by atomic bombs and even rejoicing at the deaths as being so many fewer “illegal aliens” who can now try to sneak into the United States and get on welfare. This increases the danger that psychologically unbalanced people will commit acts of violence against Latino people here.


The solution lies in a global program for sustainable and safe food production that avoids the brutal corporate model, plus the building up of public health resources worldwide and especially in the developing countries.

Every country should have up-to-date facilities for detecting and stopping pathogens the moment they appear, a capacity now blocked by the extremes of wealth and poverty among the world’s nations. This is in the interest of the people of the U.S. and other developed countries, as the present alarm clearly shows.

However, it will be fought tooth and nail by the corporate monopolies in food production, pharmaceuticals, etc., and their political flunkies.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Love your mother—Mother Earth

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World

Earth Day, April 22, is sandwiched between Tax Day, April 15, and Workers Memorial Day, April 28. Just around the corner is May Day, May 1, the international workers day and a day for flower baskets and maypoles. What do they all have in common?

An economy powered by two toxic pollutants: oil and corporate greed. Misplaced priorities that send more than half of our tax dollars to military spending that kills people, ruins lives, pollutes the planet and wrecks our economy. Damaging foreign policy driven by a quest to secure oil. Workers’ lives lost and health destroyed because of corporate greed. A system that puts profit before people and ravages the earth along the way. And the need for workers and people of the world to unite, to love and preserve our planet and to build a better world.

It’s clearer than ever that the present system can’t continue. It’s not sustainable, either economically or environmentally. Vast parts of our country are industrial wastelands —empty factories, mills, warehouses and storefronts testify to jobs gone forever. In too many places, military bases and industries, or prisons, are the best or only jobs around. Toxic “brownfields” and Superfund sites dot urban and rural landscapes. Open green space, family farms, woods and wetlands have been plowed under for wasteful exurban sprawl and industrial “parks” — many now sporting “for lease” and “foreclosure” signs. Industrial agriculture has brought degraded and tainted food, pollution and toxic working conditions.

Turning this around means getting our economic system in sync with Mother Nature — greening our economy. It means a massive national undertaking to invest in sustainable, non-polluting energy, industry and transportation systems; in well-planned, vibrant and sustainable “green” cities, towns and rural communities; in education, health care and culture to produce an informed and involved citizenry. Of course, that means putting people, and nature, before profits. This won’t happen without a fight.

Earth Day and May Day remind us to breathe the beauty of the flowers of spring and the roses of summer and struggle. “Love your mother” — planet Earth, and, in the words of labor organizer Mother Jones, “fight like hell for the living.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A first for N. America: A union contract at Wal-Mart

Canadian workers at the Wal-Mart store in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec became the only Wal-Mart employees in North America to be covered by a union contract when an arbitrator April 8 ruled in their favor more than four years after they voted to certify the United Food and Commercial Workers as their union.

People in the labor movement are keeping a close eye on the situation since the retail giant has a history of continuing to fight unionization efforts even long after workers win a battle for union representation. The company has closed entire stores in order to avoid having to deal with unions.

Andrew Pelletier, vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart Canada said he couldn’t speculate on any store’s economic future, when asked about whether the Saint-Hyacinthe store would close. “We’ll have to see,” Pelletier said, “Our objective has always been to run a viable store in Saint-Hyacinthe.”

Pro-labor support groups are cheering the ruling in favor of the workers.

“We’re glad to see that these employees finally have a union contract,” said Meghan Scott, director of “They voted to be represented by a union, and that choice should be respected. After nearly four years of legal stalling by Wal-Mart, the employees at this store finally have a voice on the job.”

The support group is warning, however, that workers can expect Wal-Mart to resort to its usual anti-union tactics. “While this is a victory for the workers,” the group said, “it looks like Wal-Mart will use the same old dirty tricks to avoid treating the workers fairly.

“Wal-Mart has a history of simply shutting down stores when its workers win union representation.” The retail giant already shut down an auto shop in Gatineau and an entire store in Jonquiere when workers at those locations voted for union representation.

Union supporters believe that Pelletier’s comments leave open the door to a similar shut-down scenario in Saint-Hyacinthe.

Wake Up Walmart said, “Closing the store down would mean employees there would not just lose a rightful voice in the workplace, it would mean they’d lose their jobs. Walmart cannot be allowed to fire hundreds of employees because they voted for union representation.

“We hope Wal-Mart keeps the Saint-Hyacinthe store open and honors the contract with its workers. It is the right thing to do, and Wal-Mart has a responsibility to their employees. Firing hundreds of workers rather than allowing them a voice on the job would show a gross disregard for that responsibility.”

Monday, April 6, 2009

Out of the Crisis: Building a new era of justice and peace


Welcome to everyone in Winston Unity Center and to everybody on line.

We are living in very turbulent times. The world is in transition. An old era — an era of neoliberalism, financialization and rightwing extremism — is fading away and a new era is being born.

But no one is quite sure what the new era will look like. It resists easy prediction. It is safe to say that the future of both our country and the world is still to be written.

As bad as things have been over the last three decades, few thought they could get much worse. But they have. Depression economics has entered our vocabulary not simply as a historical event, but as a lived experience for millions.

Only a short time ago most economists said the economic cycle had been tamed. In 2004, in a speech titled “The Great Moderation,” Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke said we live in an era in which macroeconomic instability has been eliminated.

Fast forward five years and the Great Moderation has turned into the Great Crisis. That which few thought would ever happen again has happened again, and without much warning.

The social fabric is rupturing. The terrain on which billions of people earn a living and raise their families feels foreign, even unrecognizable. Haven’t you heard more than one person say, “Is this the country I grew up in?”

Much the same is happening across the planet as billions try to adapt and give meaning to gut-wrenching shocks.

And yet while old certainties and markers are melting away and while no one really knows what tomorrow will bring, hundreds of millions of people haven’t given up on the future. As ominous as this moment feels, it is also a time when the parameters of the possible have expanded geometrically.

I hear warnings about a future of rightwing authoritarian regimes and even fascism. No one should rule out such scenarios, but in my view the arc of history is bending more towards justice and peace, towards respect for each other and the earth.

A future worthy of humankind is possible. Is there any reason to think that millions in motion can’t transform this country and world into the just, green, sustainable and peaceful “Promised Land” that Martin Luther King dreamed of? It would be a profound mistake to underestimate the progressive and socialist potential of this era. The American people have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity within their reach.

It will take, of course, new ideas and energy, practical activity, and arms that reach across the divides of race, gender, sexual preference, income, border, oceans, religions and generations.

And, above all, it will take united action. Broad objective forces and challenges will shape our future, but human actions and choices will decide humankind’s fate.

Had the elections turned out differently, I might be less hopeful and enthusiastic. But because of the outcome, a friend of labor and its allies sits in the White House and enjoys high approval ratings. Larger Democratic majorities control Congress. A feeling of renewal and hope is in the air. And after a short holiday pause, the labor and people’s movement that was so instrumental to the election’s outcome is getting in gear – albeit not yet at full throttle, but more about this later.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party is on the defensive, its grassroots constituency is dispirited, and its governing philosophy is discredited.

for complete speech

Saturday, February 28, 2009

W.E.B. Du Bois Joins the Communist Party

Gus Hall
Communist Party of the USA
New York, New York

On this first day of October 1961, I am applying for admission to membership in the Communist Party of the United States. I have been long and slow in coming to this conclusion, but at last my mind is settled.

In college I heard the name of Karl Marx, but read none of his works, nor heard them explained. At the University of Berlin, I heard much of those thinkers who had definitely answered the theories of Marx, but again we did not study what Marx himself had said. Nevertheless, I attended meetings of the Socialist Party and considered myself a Socialist.

On my return to America, I taught and studies for sixteen years. I explored the theory of socialism and studied the organized social life of American Negroes; but still I neither read nor heard much of Marxism. Then I came to New York as an official of the new NAACP and editor of The Crisis magazine. The NAACP was capitalist-oriented and expected support from rich philanthropists.

But it had a strong socialist element in its leadership in persons like Mary Ovington, William English Walling and Charles Edward Russell. Following their advice, I joined the Socialist Party in 1911. I knew nothing of practical socialist politics and in the campaign on 1912 I found myself unwilling to vote for the Socialist ticket, but advised Negroes to vote for Wilson. This was contrary to Socialist Party rules and consequently I resigned from the Socialist Party.

For the next twenty years I tried to develop a political way of life for myself and my people. I attacked the Democrats and Republicans for monopoly and disenfranchisement of Negroes; I attacked the Socialists for trying to segregate Southern Negro members; I praised the racial attitudes of the Communists, but opposed their tactics in the case of the Scottsboro Boys and their advocacy of a Negro state. At the same time, I began the stud Karl Marx and the Communists; I read Das Kapital and other Communist literature; I hailed the Russian Revolution of 1917, but was puzzled by the contradictory news from Russia.

Finally in 1926, I began a new effort; I visited the Communist lands. I went to the Soviet Union in 1926, 1936, 1949 and 1959; I saw the nation develop. I visited East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland. I spent ten weeks in China, traveling all over the land. Then this summer, I rested a month in Rumania.

I was early convinced that socialism was an excellent way of life, but I thought it might be reached by various methods. For Russia, I was convinced she had chosen the only way open to her at the time. I saw Scandinavia choosing a different method, halfway between socialism and capitalism. In he United States, I saw Consumers Cooperation as a path from capitalism to socialism, while in England, France and Germany developed in the same direction in their own way. After the Depression and the Second World War, I was disillusioned. The progressive movement in the United States failed. The Cold War started. Capitalism called communism a crime.

Today I have reached my conclusion:

Capitalism cannot reform itself; it is doomed to self-destruction. No universal selfishness can bring social good to all.

Communism—the effort to give all men what they need and to ask of each the best they can contribute—this is the only way of human life. It is a difficult and hard end to reach—it has and will make mistakes, but today it marches triumphantly on in education and science, in home and food, with increased freedom of thought and deliverance from dogma. In the end communism will triumph. I want to help bring that day.

The path of the American Communist Party is clear: It will provide the United States with a real third party and thus restore democracy to this land. It will call for:
  1. Public ownership of natural resources and of all capital.
  2. Public control of transportation and communications.
  3. Abolition of poverty and limitation of personal income.
  4. No exploitation of labor.
  5. Social medicine, with hospitalization and care for the old.
  6. Free education for all.
  7. Training for jobs and jobs for all.
  8. Discipline for growth and reform.
  9. Freedom under law.
  10. No dogmatic religion.
These aims are not crimes. They are practiced increasingly over the world. No nation can call itself free which does not allow its citizens to work for these ends.

W.E.B. Du Bois

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interview with Mohammed Nafa'h, Secretary General of the Communist

Interview with Mohammed Nafa'h, Secretary General of the Communist
Party of Israel by Efraim Davidi and Gema Delgado
"Supporting the Palestinian people's struggle for self-determination
is a duty of Israeli communists."

The Communist Party of Israel (CPI) and its front Hadash (DemocraticFront for Peace and Equality) were the only political forces in Israel that confronted the massacre perpetrated by the Tzahal (IDF), the Israeli armed forces, in Gaza last January. Regrettably, the "major media" have not accurately represented the magnitude of the protest within the State of Israel against the war. The massive scale of the non-stop mobilization all over that Middle-Eastern country during those three weeks is shown by the huge demonstration of 130,000 in the city of Sakhnin, held at the initiative of the High Representative Committee of the Arab-Palestinian population in Israel, a week after the criminal offensive began; and the demonstration held in the city of Tel Aviv on another day, which drew 20,000 demonstrators, many of them carrying red flags.

Mundo Obrero interviewed CPI Secretary General Mohammed Nafa'h, a writer from the Druze village of Beit Jann, in order to acquaint the public with the positions of the Israeli communists. The interview was conducted in the party strongholds in the city of Haifa on the last day of January, thanks to the collaboration of Efraim Davidi.

The Communist Party of Israel celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. The party is one of the three organizations that trace their lineage to the Palestine Communist Party since the late 1940s, the other two being the Palestinian People's Party and the Jordanian Communist Party.

The CPI has a three-deputy parliamentary fraction in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) and several mayors, including the mayor of the "Arab capital" of Israel, the city of Nazareth, where the CPI has governed for the last 32 years. It also has a significant presence among students and trade unionists.

In the last municipal elections in November, Communist MK Dov Khenin obtained 36% of the votes in the city of Tel Aviv, against the Labor mayor who received 51%. The CPI, Marxist-Leninist, is the only party in Israel in which Jews and Arabs are equally important members, and the party publishes the only daily Arabic-language communist newspaper in the Middle East, Al Ittihad (Unity), and a Hebrew weekly newspaper Zo Haderekh (The Path).

Mundo Obrero: Since the 28th of December, the Communist Party has called demonstrations around the country against the Israeli military aggression on the Gaza Strip. What is the position of the Communist Party of Israel on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

Mohammed Nafa'h: Since 1947, our party has advocated the position of "two states for two peoples" and supports the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. I.e., the Palestinians' right to a free and sovereign state in the territories occupied by Israel in June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. We also demand the dismantlement of the Jewish settlements in the territories and the solution to the question of the Palestinian refugees in accordance with the UN resolutions.

MO: And on the situation in the West Bank and the "wall of shame"?

MN: Israel must withdraw to the ceasefire lines prior to the war of June 1967 and dismantle the wall, which we call in Hebrew and Arabic: the apartheid wall.

MO: How do you coordinate your activism against the assault on the Palestinian people, in this case in Gaza, with social, anti-war, and campus-based movements?

MN: First, we try to establish the broadest possible alliances, as it is clear that the Communists aren't the only ones opposed to the Israeli occupation. Second, we try to coordinate street protests with political consciousness raising and "practical" solidarity: sending clothes, food, and other humanitarian aids. The fact that more than 700 have been arrested in the demonstrations, from Nazareth and Haifa in the north to Be'er Sheva in the Negev desert, shows that many people have been moved to action by so much death and disaster. Finally, it means that we act in coordination with forces of the Palestinian Left. Traditionally, with the Palestinian Communists, but the day before the attack, knowing that its commencement was imminent, we got together in the city of Ramallah with the leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the (Communist) People's Party in order to join forces. We held discussions with them again the day after the Israeli withdrawal.

MO: How would you explain, to foreigners, the fact that over 70% of the Israeli population support or justify the Israeli military attacks on Gaza that have killed more than 1,300 Palestinians, 90% of whom were civilians according to some humanitarian organizations?

MN: Regrettably, a large part of the Israeli population has been deceived by the fallacious official propaganda that defined the colonial war in Gaza as an "act of self-defense." Censorship and
self-censorship of the local media contributed to this. TV viewers in Israel did not see the dreadful scenes on their screens that people in Madrid or Barcelona saw night after night. Furthermore, Hamas's adventurist policy and its repeated provocations also contributed to turning the mostly poor civilian population of southern Israel into victims of missiles launched from Gaza. Many times, we have said that we support the struggle against the occupation, the political, mass struggle of the Palestinians, but we condemn attacks on the civilian population on either side of the border. Time and again, we have reiterated that there is no military solution to the Palestinian problem, the only solution is the end of the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state. We have expressed this position before, during, and after the criminal attack perpetrated in January.

MO: In 2003, there was an attempt to assassinate the former secretary general, Issam Makhoul, by placing a bomb under his car, though miraculously his life was saved. Why did the perpetrators want to kill him? What is it like to live as the "enemies" of Zionist politics in the State of Israel?

MN: It is no secret that the democratic spaces in Israel are threatened by the government as well as extremist right-wing groups, officially "out of control," but everybody knows who is in charge of them. During the protests in recent weeks over 700 demonstrators were arrested, and some are still under detention until their trials. Right-wing groups attacked our events, causing injuries, while the police were "looking the other way." The war has unleashed a truly racist campaign against the Arab population under the leadership of the chauvinist party "Yisrael Beiteinu" (Israel Is Our Home) of the racist Avigdor "Yvette" Lieberman. In other words, there is a real danger that the Israeli society is advancing into the fascist direction, whose first victims will be the Arab-Palestinian national minority and the consistent left-wing sectors.

MO: Do you have contacts with Jewish communists living outside Israel and do they share your rejection of the Israeli policy of war against the Palestinian people?

MN: Our party does not claim to be "Jewish" or "Arab." Ours is a class-based party that makes no ethnic or religious distinctions. We have close ties with all pro-peace and progressive Jewish activists and organizations in Europe, Latin America, North America, and Australia. The Israeli leadership seek to galvanize the Jewish communities around the world into adopting their colonialist positions, but there are large Jewish sectors, organizations as well as individuals, that disagree with them and are even fighting against this colonialist policy. Not every Jew is a Zionist, neither in the rest of the world nor even in Israel.

MO: What relations do you have with the Communist Parties in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan?

MN: Our party has close relations and frequent contacts with Communist Parties and workers in the Middle East. Primarily with the Palestinian Communists, with whom we have closely collaborated since the beginning of the occupation in 1967, bringing all kinds of material and political support. Do not forget that supporting the Palestinian people's struggle for self-determination is an international duty of Israeli communists. We also maintain ties with the Tudeh Party of Iran, and last year we published a joint declaration of the Communists of the United States, Iran, and Israel warning that an attack on Iran would bring the region a tragedy of major consequences. The Communists of the Middle East get together at least once a year.

MO: What are the hidden objectives of the government behind the attack on Gaza and what relation does this show of force have with the next Israeli general elections in February?

MN: The Israeli government tried to deal a blow to Hamas, but what it did was to victimize all Palestinians in Gaza, particularly civilians. The objective is clear: to try to deepen the existing division -- which is unfortunate -- among the major Palestinian factions to postpone the creation of an independent state. In the ruling Kadima and Labor parties there are those who believed that the colonial war would bring some political gains in the upcoming elections. But the only beneficiaries have been the racist, far-rightist parties.

MO: What are the main points of your program for the elections?

MN: When we began the parliamentary election campaign, once the municipal elections were finalized in November 2008, we thought that we could present a program that we would characterize as "against the current": against capitalism, against the occupation, against privatization, against globalization, and against racism, and for the rights of working men and women, for equality of the Arab population of Israel, for a healthy environment, for the rights of gays and lesbians. We called this program "a new socialist agenda for Israel." But with the criminal war and its terrible consequences in January, we had to abandon the plan and invest all our human resources, which are considerable, and all our material resources, which are meager, in the struggle against the war and its domestic consequences: particularly racism and fascism. Anyway, we make clear that capitalism engenders the occupation, oppression, and racism. Faced with the international capitalist crisis, which is hitting Israeli workers hard, the next government that gets elected won't last in power for long. Its fall will be due to the multiple crises that beset Israel: the crisis of the occupation, the capitalist crisis, the crisis of political leadership thanks to their bribes and kickbacks, and the ideological crisis of Zionism. All these situations will open up a new period of social and class struggles and new resistances to the occupation. Many young people look to the Communist Party and understand that we are marking a new path and presenting a real choice facing the crisis, the multiple crises. We are very much concerned about the present, but our commitment to the future is firm. This will be a future of peace and social justice.

The original interview "Entrevista a Mujammad Nafa'h, Secretario General del Partido Comunista de Israel" was published in the February 2009 issue of Mundo Obrero, a publication of the Communist Party of

Monday, February 2, 2009

The End of Neo-Liberalism and Bush's Last Scam: How Racism Sparked the Financial Crisis

by Joe Sims

With the collapse of several banks and insurance companies, the near bankruptcy of Detroit automakers, a 50 percent drop in world stock exchanges and an almost complete arrest of credit markets, an economic era has ended. It seems almost an understatement to say that capitalism has entered a new stage of a protracted systemic crisis.

The crisis of the economy is at once a crisis in ideology. After 30 years of worship at the shrine of the free market, Reaganomics and other branches of conservative and neo-conservative thought seem bankrupt and thoroughly discredited if not dead – and not only right-wing schools. Deregulation, privatization, intense financial speculation on debt, the scaling back if not elimination of government social spending, in a word, “neo-liberalism” has reached its extreme limit almost bursting state-monopoly capitalism’s seams and triggering a worldwide financial meltdown.

Many causes have been attributed to the turmoil. Among the main contenders: “financialization” or the capitalism-on-crack of the bond markets and banks, a crisis of overproduction (too many goods chasing too few dollars), and a weak “real” economy due to insufficient allocation of surplus capital to productive investment. Some point to objective processes, others stress mistaken policy decisions. Clearly all were to one degree or another at play. Caution is in order, however. Objective economic processes, mistaken fiscal policies or even chance economic accidents, taken together or alone do not sufficiently explain the impetus behind the ongoing calamity. Also at work was the pernicious influence of institutionalized racism. In fact racist lending practices may have triggered the global financial collapse.

Slouching Toward Collapse

The origins of how the unraveling began is to be found in capitalism’s attempt to resolve ongoing crises. In fact, the neo-liberal model itself arose in response to attempts in advanced capitalist countries to maintain profits and find new markets. Faced in the 1970s with a declining rate of profit, a fractured world economy divided into “socialist” and capitalist camps, structural and fiscal crises along with spiraling inflation, capitalism’s generals undertook a re-forging of economic policy in the form of a wholesale assault on the edifice of the New Deal. Keynesianism had run into wall – at least from the point of view of big capital – and policy was now modulated to fit the maximum profit categorical imperatives of the new period. International trade pacts were formed, unions were rolled backed or held in check and fiscal policy was loosened as a new “post-industrial” service-oriented economy emerged.

At the center of this process was a huge transfer of wealth to the super rich, accomplished by means of tax cuts and a huge leap in labor productivity, as the corporate class acquired an even greater share of the surplus. For a period, neo-liberal economic policy seemed to work, lending the appearance of stability with low unemployment, relative labor peace and mild inflation, causing some to wonder if capitalism had become crisis free.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Extraordinary Black History Month

Reprinted from the People's Weekly World

African American History Month is celebrated every February. It is always an important time to not only look back at how a courageous people made great strides towards freedom but also think about how to advance that struggle to new heights.

The election of Barack Obama, our first African American president, marks this year’s celebration as a new milestone in the upward progress of a people long oppressed.

As in the fight against slavery and Jim Crow, this was a victory for all people, of all races and nationalities. It showed how the fight against racism in general and the fight for African American equality in particular can move democracy forward for all.

But as Obama has said, the election victory is not the change we seek but the opportunity to fight for real change. And that applies to the systemic inequities African Americans, Latinos and others face because of race. The change we seek is to end racist inequities whether in health, housing, education or jobs, and to guarantee peace and economic and social justice for all. As Tommy Dennis, a former business manager of this newspaper and autoworker from Detroit, used to say, “There isn’t anything Black people want that white people don’t need.”

The hard economic times call for bold government intervention to remake our cities and rural

areas devastated by three decades of a right-wing racist, corporate offensive. They call for public ownership of banks to guarantee that they are run to benefit the public and to help cheated homeowners who are losing their homes or being evicted en masse.

This crisis must be met by government action on the scale of the New Deal and the Marshall Plan, with strong affirmative action provisions. For the 3 million to 4 million new jobs created if Obama’s recovery package passes, there need to be guarantees that the hardest-hit communities will benefit. In some African American and Latino communities jobless rates have been as high as 50 percent for years.

The nearly 2 million people who weathered the frigid temperatures to witness the inauguration of the first Black president on Jan. 20 showed that the mass movement for positive change continues.

Let this African American History Month help celebrate the accomplishments and advance the tremendous possibilities for change.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A People's Inauguration by Joe Sims

Huge crowds, unprecedented in U.S. history, gathered in Washington on Tuesday, to celebrate and welcome President Barack Obama to the White House. Pre-inaugural estimates of up to 3 million participants seemed on mark, with newspapers like the Washington Post calculating 2 million people on the Mall.

With many participants both with and without tickets unable to gain entry, the overall numbers are likely higher. “I had tickets and couldn’t get in,” said a New York City teacher whose story was echoed by many others.” We got here early but it was just too big.” Her family managed to watch President Obama’s speech at Union Station.

“You have to conceptualize this as a populist inauguration,” said political analyst, University of Maryland professor and long-time activist Ron Walters to the Washington Afro-American. “You have people coming here from all over the world; people coming from across the country – many bunking in with relatives – just because they want to be a part of history.”

As the millions gathered to observe the festivities, Wall Street stocks tumbled in the worst Inaugural Day plunge in a century, accenting the cloudy economic horizon and giving emphasis to President Obama's people-oriented themes. The stock market plunged over 332 points or 4 percent, wiping out January gains amid growing fears of bank instability.

The president’s speech seemed to anticipate these problems and was a continuation of themes struck during the presidential campaign. Obama said, “Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”

Moments later, tracing the sacrifice of previous generations, he continued, “For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.”

Even the poet Elizabeth Alexander, says The New York Times, speaking after the president, highlighted working class themes: “Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.”

Still the event and speeches, with these touches and emphasis, spoke broadly to the nation about the economic challenges ahead and marked a sharp break with policies of the Bush administration and even a direct rebuke, as President Obama made particular reference to not sacrificing ideals for expediency in foreign policy. "We reject as false the choice as between our safety and our ideals," he said.

After the swearing-in Obama attended a traditional luncheon hosted by Congress, followed by a legislative session where several Cabinet appointments were approved. The huge outpouring of citizens from all over the country for the inaugural ceremony is sure to help hasten the approval of the president’s legislative agenda. According to press reports the first act of the new administration was to order a halt, pending further review, of all of former President Bush’s pending presidential regulations.

The inaugural parade extended into the afternoon, featuring a trade union float, representing the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and the teachers union, the first in many years at an inaugural. Over 200 workers marched and called for passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

The multicultural event, among many others, featured Irish musicians, a mariachi band, and a contingent of local Washingtonian youth playing local “go-go” music, a musical form particular to D.C.

President Obama's is to begin his day Wednesday with a prayer service followed by meetings with economic advisers and military leaders on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The president and first lady, in a promise to make government more accessible, are also to host a White House open house Wednesday.

Obama is also expected to act quickly to order the closing of the Guantanamo Bay military camp holding terror suspects, rescind Bush's ban on funding programs that support abortion and stem cell research.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Why a Philosophy of the Natural Sciences is Needed

By Erwin Marquit

My answer to the question “Why is a philosophy of the natural sciences needed?” will take the form of several distinct components. Before enumerating them, I should point out that no separate Marxist philosophy of the natural sciences exists distinct from dialectical and historical materialism. Marxist philosophy of the natural sciences is the methodological application of dialectical and historical materialism to investigations in the various natural sciences.

1. The logic of the Marxist analysis of social development is based on the philosophical system of dialectical and historical materialism. Dialectical and historical materialism together constitute a unitary philosophical system. Comprehensive philosophical systems, or worldviews, are always universal in character, embracing the spheres of nature, society, and thought. In asserting the validity of their philosophical system, Marx and Engels felt it necessary to demonstrate that dialectical and historical materialism provide the universal logical basis for understanding processes of change in the spheres of nature and society as well as in the thought processes by which this understanding comes about. Engels stressed this in his work on the dialectics of nature when he wrote: “The fact that our subjective thought and the objective world are subject to the same laws, and, hence, too, that in the final analysis they cannot contradict each other in their results, but must coincide, governs absolutely our whole theoretical thought. It is the unconscious and unconditional premise for theoretical thought” (Engels 1987, 544).

2. By the 1870s, Marx and Engels had essentially established the law-governed revolutionary transformative character of the process leading from capitalism to socialism. They had laid the theoretical basis for a revolutionary political movement that would be needed in this process and participated actively in its formation. Already in 1844, Marx put forth the view: “The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism by weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses” (1975, 182). An ideologically strong revolutionary political movement is needed to bring this material force into being. The material character of this movement was further elaborated by Lenin in outlining the organizational character of the party of a new type in What is to be Done? The reformist undermining of the thesis that a revolutionary movement is necessary was based on the mechanistic projection that the operation of dialectics of nature would inevitably bring about the self-destruction of capitalism, making unnecessary a class struggle oriented toward socialism. Therefore, according to Bernstein, and later Kautsky and Hilferding, the task of socialists was to work for reforms within the capitalist system (Azad 2005, 504). By ignoring the necessity of ideological struggle for the cause of socialism, they effectively discarded historical and dialectical materialism and turned dialectics of nature into a mechanistic determinism. But the transition from capitalism to socialism differs from previous societal transformations in that the process can only be brought about with conscious understanding of its nature and necessity. Life under the material conditions of existence under capitalism serves as the source for acquisition of this consciousness among the masses, but this acquisition cannot occur spontaneously through economic struggles. The consciousness must be imparted to them by the party that is guided by historical and dialectical materialism.

3. The Hegelian Marxists, such as Lukács, Korsch, and Gramsci, argued that dialectics is not applicable to nature and that in fact its application to nature is the source of the mechanistic determinism that led to reformism (Azad 2005, 307, drawing on Callinicos 1976, 70). In making this argument, they also rejected the Leninist reflection theory of knowledge as the basis for the Marxist-Leninist concept of the relationship between the two fundamental philosophical categories, matter and ideas. The understanding of this relationship lies at the heart of the Marxist concept of the scientific method. The idealist character of this view led to giving overriding priority to the development of a socialist consciousness while paying inadequate attention to strengthening the material organizational basis of the class struggle. Despite the common idealist character of their philosophies, Lukács, Korsch, and Gramsci differed considerably in their political orientation. Although Gramsci’s philosophical inclinations leaned toward idealism, he was in fact a Leninist in politics (Gedő 1993, 15, citing Argeri 1976, 141).

In the latter half of the twentieth century, the effectively reformist attempt to deny the applicability of dialectics to nature took the additional form of separating Marx from both Engels and Lenin. Marx was characterized affectionately as a humanist, while Engels and Lenin were characterized as crass materialists. Supporters of this view (for example, the well-known Israeli political scientist Shlomo Avineri) assert unabashedly that Marx never accepted the applicability of dialectics to nature, and that we have only Engels’s word for his doing so. Such assertions are made in spite of the fact that Avineri and others of that school were well aware of Marx’s letter to Kugelman in which he wrote that “the dialectical method” is “the method of dealing with matter” (27 June 1870, 528). Actually it was not necessary, of course, for Marx to state explicitly (although clearly he did) that dialectics applies to the sphere of nature. Hegel had already spelled this out in his works, as did Marx himself in Capital and elsewhere. Underlying the attempt to deny the applicability of dialectics to nature is a strong anti-Communism that dissociates itself from any political, organizational forms of class struggle. Reassertion of the integrity of historical and dialectical materialism and its applicability to nature, society, and thought strengthens the theoretical basis for engaging in day-to-day organized political struggle essential for opening up space for the development of a socialist consciousness.
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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Cuba 5 on the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Revolution

On the 50th anniversary of Cuba's socialist revolution, the CPUSA recognizes the heroism and revolutionary example of five Cuban men unjustly imprisoned in U.S. federal prisons for over ten years.

Arriving in Florida in the 1990's, Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González joined private paramilitary groups in order to monitor and report on preparations for attacks against Cuba. For decades, right wing terrorists based in Florida had carried out murderous assaults which have cost the lives of many innocent people.

From the time of their arrest, the Five were subjected to cruel persecution. At their trial, which rampant with bias, the prosecution had free rein to commit egregious abuses of due process. Outrageously long sentences were handed down. UN human rights authorities and international jurists are of one voice in castigating judicial proceedings in the case of the Five.

Violation of civil rights and repudiation of judicial norms are two reasons why we joined the world solidarity movement on their behalf. The CPUSA fights for the Cuban Five also because of dedication to the Cuban Revolution. The U.S. government has cast these five revolutionaries as proxies for a government and people that resist. Our Party defends Cuba's right to protect its national sovereignty against the depredations of empire, and to continue without interference on the socialist path it has chosen.

Wholesale perversion of justice in the case of the Five serves as cover-up for hypocrisy. The U.S. government wages a so-called war on terrorism, yet has long sanctioned violent assaults on Cuba. Safe harbor provided arch terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, who lives undisturbed in Miami, is one example.

The CPUSA issues an appeal for all in solidarity with the Five to reach out to fair-minded, politically conscious people to commit themselves to the Five. Such solidarity is overwhelmingly necessary if the nefarious influence of the corporate dominated media that has suppressed news of the case is to be overcome.

The time is now for our party and other activists to intensify educational efforts on the Five directed at union locals, peace groups, and civil rights organizations as preparation for communications to the media, meetings with elected officials, and public statements.

British and other international labor unions have taken up the cause of the Five as their own; we urge US trade unionists to do so also..

We are mindful that mobilization of progressive forces to demand a presidential pardon could eventually be required to complement the appeals process.

The CPUSA is part of the campaign to force the U.S. State Department to permit Adriana Perez and Olga Salanueva to visit their imprisoned husbands, whom they have not seen for ten and almost nine years, respectively. At issue are rights of families and prisoners.

Lastly we urge that all in solidarity with the Five to correspond with the prisoners as a step toward lessening their isolation and as token of the worldwide movement on their behalf [below are the addresses].

Gerardo Hernandez
U.S.P. Victorville
P.O. Box 5300
Adelanto, CA 92301

Antonio Guerrero
U.S.P. Florence
P.O. Box 7000
Florence CO 81226

Luís Medina
U.S.P. McCreary
P.O. Box 3000
Pine Knot, KY 42635

(NOTE: the envelope should be addressed to "Luis Medina," but address the letter inside to Ramon Labañino)

Rubén Campa
FCI Terre Haute
P.O. Box 33
Terre Haute, IN 47808

(NOTE: the envelope should be addressed to "Rubén Campa," but address the letter inside to Fernando González)

René González
FCI Marianna
P.O. Box 7007
Marianna, FL 32447-7007