Friday, September 26, 2008

Fighting racism and the Obama campaign

By John Bachtell

The article below, which is getting a lot of attention, reveals the impact of the influences of racism in the 2008 election campaign on voters.

Racial views steer some whites away from Obama

But there are some key missing elements as well:

1. In addition to the voter suppression (to which there is a growing counter movement), the McCain - Rove right wing extremists and the right wing hate talk shows are exploiting racism and fear as core elements of the campaign, blatantly and subtly in other ways. One need only look at the despicable text messages, the whisper campaign against Obama that he is a Muslim (and if he were, who cares?) - 30% of voters believe this to be true (according to the excellent piece by Kristoff in the NY Times). But more importantly, it's a proxy to push racist hate.

And the recent lying ad visually linking Obama with the former Fannie Mae director Franklin Raines, also African American are aimed at scaring whites about who will be handling the economy in crisis. In Michigan advertisements are being used to associate Obama with the ex-Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick. Reminiscent of the Willie Horton ad?

2. It is widely seen, as Rep. John Lewis put it, that the election of Obama is an extension of the Civil Rights movement. This is one of those great opportunities to strike a blow against racism, and for advancing social equality.

One of the things the poll doesn't refer to and something we're all well aware of is the Democratic Party presidential candidates have not won a majority of the white vote since 1964 (after which the "Southern Strategy" was employed). Some other polls indicate Obama is doing no worse among white voters than Kerry did. So that should give confidence there is a basis upon which to carry on this struggle.

As well as the fact that there is an unprecedented movement against the racist tactics of the McCain/ultra right campaign. Take the example of the labor movement, which is confronting it and the lies head on, beginning with the incredible speech by AFL-CIO secretary treasurer Richard Trumka to the USWA convention (since repeated elsewhere and duplicated by many other white trade union leaders at a state and local level). They have an organized approach to take this discussion to the entire membership, especially in the battleground states, to confront workers influenced by racism to put it aside and not vote against their class self interests. 10s of thousands of white, African American and Latino trade unionists are marching together into the battle ground states.

The following are well worth checking out:

Trumka on racism and electing Obama

Ohio labor: Obama will be a great president

Unions tackle race issue

$700,000,000,000 for what?

By John Wojcik
People's Weekly World
Sept. 25, 2008

CHICAGO — First, it was the shock. Then it began to sink in. Then came the anger.

In a little over a week the American people first heard of, then digested and are now grappling with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and with the Bush administration’s demand that they hand over $700 billion of their hard-earned tax dollars to bail out Wall Street.

If comments of people on the street here are any indication, there is deep resentment about having to trade, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman put it, “cash for trash.”

Carolyn Preiss, a single mother of two, works as a teller at Citibank here — until October 15, that is, when she will lose her job. “How does this help me feed my kids?” she asked Sept. 20. “My job is gone, I’m laid off as of mid-October.” Preiss, who makes $12 an hour, said she hasn’t gotten a raise in a year. “They’ll tax my unemployment so that when I’m out on the street, even then, I’ll be shelling out money to some greedy bastard on Wall Street,” she complained.

Michael George and his brother Pete, both retired bus drivers, purchased a home together for themselves and their wives two years ago on East 74th Street. “The mortgage rate doubled this year to $2,400 per month and now we will lose this place,” George said as he swept the tree-shaded sidewalk in front of his house. “I haven’t figured out what we will do. I just don’t understand, though, what would be wrong with the bank giving us a better mortgage rate. I pay tax on my pension and they’ll take that money and give it to the idiots who made this mess. If I’m saving their asses why can’t I get a break on my mortgage?”

Carol Mueller, a waitress at a Potbelly restaurant downtown, was in the waiting room at Knapp Medical Center on Halsted Street, Sept. 20. She has a bleeding stomach ulcer that, she said, might soon require surgery. “I don’t know what to do, because I don’t have health insurance,” she said. “As it is I have to ask the doctor to prescribe the cheapest generic available. There is a drug that would work better but I can’t afford it.” Mueller said that she hopes Barack Obama is elected because “then we might get health care, but now with all this they’ll probable tell us there is no money left for health care — it’s all going to Wall Street.”

“The American people are faced with the choice of committing more than a trillion dollars of public money to rescue the financial system, or facing a complete collapse of the credit markets, and all the economic activity that lives on credit,” John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, said last week. “How will this be implemented? Will we finally help the millions of Americans losing their jobs, their homes, their health insurance and their pensions? Or will this be another bailout without conditions, leaving Main Street in crisis and guaranteeing that Wall Street’s crisis will continue in another form?”

Permanent solutions can only be found, Sweeney said, “in the economic program of Barack Obama — re-regulation of the financial markets, a government focused on creating good jobs by investing in infrastructure and solutions to the energy crisis, health care for all Americans, a government that will protect and improve Americans’ retirement security and a guarantee that American workers can bargain for their fair share of the wealth they create.”

Only days after the crisis exploded on Wall Street its potential as the ultimate “game changer” in the elections was displayed in polls that showed Barack Obama widening his lead over McCain and majorities blaming the Republicans and de-regulation of high finance for the crisis.

Obama told a crowd of 20,000 in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 21, referring to McCain and the Republican Party: “They said they wanted to let the market run free but instead they let it run wild. And now we are facing a financial crisis as profound as any we have faced since the Great Depression.” Obama, backing many in Congress, called for another $50 billion stimulus for taxpayers and for an overhaul of the financial regulatory system. He called also for an end to tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, an end to the war in Iraq and creation of millions of “green” jobs with massive investment of funds for that purpose.

In Green Bay, Wis., the following day, Obama declared, “We cannot give a blank check to Washington with no oversight and accountability when no oversight and accountability is what got us into this mess in the first place. This plan can’t just be a plan for Wall Street, it has to be a plan for Main Street. We have to pass a stimulus plan that will put money in the pockets of working families, save jobs and prevent painful budget cuts and tax hikes in our states.”


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ramming through the bailout

By Sam Webb
National Chair, Communist Party, USA

Bush, Paulson make Dellinger look like a Boy Scout

As the Bush administration attempts to ram a bailout package of nearly one trillion dollars through Congress, it begins to feel like Colonel Sanders asking the public to trust him to take care of the chickens.

If it weren’t so damn serious, there would be something almost comical about it. Here we have the White House, which has squandered trillions of dollars over eight years, and its point man, Hank Paulson, fresh from 38 years of gaming the financial system while working at Goldman Sachs, insisting that Congressional leaders hand over a trillion dollars to them with no debate and no strings attached.

In this real life drama, Bush and Paulson make John Dillinger, the legendary bank robber of the Depression years, look like a Boy Scout.

Nothing to do with socialism

This is not “socialism for the rich,” as some have suggested. Socialist measures would thoroughly clean up and stabilize the financial system to be sure, but a socialist-led government would also place the good as well as the bad assets of the responsible parties (commercial and investment banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds) into the hands of a public democratically run authority. It would turn the Federal Reserve Bank, which during the Greenspan era was one of the main architects and cheerleaders of bubble economics (hi-tech, stock market and, its latest version, housing) into a publicly controlled institution. And it would bring those responsible to trial and penalize them appropriately, if convicted.

At the same time, a socialist-led government and its congressional allies would funnel money to homeowners and working people and enact special measures to assist communities of the racially oppressed, not to mention our rural towns. It would rebuild our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure, invest in renewable energy and green jobs, and bring the Iraq war to a quick end. It would also propose the people’s takeover of the energy complex, which has also turned into a cash cow of the wealthiest corporations.

Use common sense

Does it make any sense to give control of our financial and economic system for the indefinite future to the same individuals, who while gaming the system, got us into this mess in the first place? I can’t think of anything that is less democratic or goes against the grain of common sense.

In the money and banking textbooks that I read years ago, our financial institutions and system supposedly channeled idle money to productive uses – to new technologies and business startups, to build homes and create jobs, to invest in new plant and equipment, and to construct and renew our nation’s infrastructure, while extracting handsome profits all the while.

Looking back, it is fair to say that banks and investment houses did perform this function for a period in capitalism’s development, but that period has largely passed.

Finance capital’s rise and ultra-right rule

Indeed, with the rise to dominance of the extreme right and the reassertion of power by finance capital three decades ago, our financial system has operated more or less independently of other sectors of the economy, functioned largely free of any regulatory body, and grown exponentially.

Finance capital – in its quest to maximize its rate of profit – has drained dollars from the private economy (especially the manufacturing sector) and the public treasury into incredibly risky and speculative financial schemes; it has spawned a series of complex financial instruments and paper transactions which few understand, but fabulously enrich the buyers and borrowers of these exotic instruments, most of which have nothing to do with the real economy.

Finance capital has facilitated megamergers, takeovers and corporate flight to off shore locations; it has wreaked havoc on sovereign states and their economies, particularly in the developing world; it has without as much as a thought introduced enormous instability into the arteries of the U.S. and world economy, evidenced by the frequent financial contagions at home and globally.

And, it has been one of the main class agents to successfully engineer the biggest transfer of wealth in our nation’s history from wealth creators -- the world’s working people -- to wealth appropriators, the upper crust of U.S. finance capital, while leaving at the same time our nation with an astronomical pile up of household, government and corporate debt that cannot be unwound overnight.

In short, the reassertion of finance capital to a dominant position in the political economy of our country, which was only possible because of the right wing dominance of our nation’s political levers of power, has come at a heavy price for the American people and people worldwide.

Clinging onto power

And yet, despite this incredible wreckage, this almost incomprehensible corruption, this reckless speculation, these merchants of plunder, debt and hardship are still attempting to resolve this financial crisis in a way that continues to leave them in charge of the main levers of power and their wealth intact.

As I said earlier, this is not socialism. A more apt description is parasitic state monopoly-finance capitalism. According to marxism, the main mission of the state is to reproduce the conditions for the reproduction of the class structure and economic relations of capitalism. If I am not mistaken, isn’t this precisely what Bush, Paulson and team are doing now?

Arena of struggle

Of course, marxism also says that state is an arena of struggle. While the ruling class employs the state apparatus, including violence when necessary, to impose its interests on society, a united working class and people can successfully resist these measures from within as well as outside state structures. This was done in the 1930s and in so doing, secured important victories for the nation’s working class and its allies. It was also done in the 1960s and in doing so brought down the system of legal segregation. And we see it again today in the incredible efforts of millions of working people of all races and nationalities and their allies to elect Barack Obama and larger Democratic Party Congressional majorities in November. Indeed, it is a task that takes on even greater significance given the financial storm that is shaking our country.

For the moment however, the American people and their friends in Congress are faced with a first class challenge – to impose their own imprint on the way in which this financial crisis is resolved. Let’s have no doubt that our financial system can be stabilized and restored to its orderly functioning in a way that meets the needs of the American people and our country. But will take a fight!

Sam Webb is chairperson of the Communist Party.

Friday, September 19, 2008

From IFT: Vote NO on Con Con

Statement from the Illinois Federation of Teachers on the state constitutional convention issue:

We would like to take a brief moment of your time to let you know about an issue important to all IFT members that will be on the ballot Nov. 4th.

Illinois voters will be asked whether Illinois should hold a constitutional convention (Con Con) to rewrite Illinois’ governing document. The last time voters were asked if a Con Con was needed, they overwhelmingly rejected the proposal by a 3 to 1 margin. We must do the same this year.

There are many reasons to vote NO:

* PENSIONS: A Con Con would open up the entire document to significant changes, threatening the pension guarantee in the current constitution. This guarantee is the only thing that keeps politicians from reducing the pension benefits that we earn and are entitled to as teachers and public employees.

* COST: A Con Con would cost Illinois taxpayers as much as $100 million - money that would be better spent on education funding and critical public services.

* DELAY: A Con Con could take years to complete and would only give legislators an excuse to further delay acting on important issues facing our state.

* AMENDMENTS: The state constitution can already be changed by amendment. In fact, Illinois voters have amended the current constitution 10 times since 1970.

We need your help to get the word out and to assist in this effort by using the resources in the IFT’s Con Con Toolkit.

In the toolkit you’ll find a PowerPoint presentation that explores the issues surrounding this year's call for a constitutional convention and the implications of a Con Con for IFT members; an informative video featuring IFT members, leaders and opponents of the proposed constitutional convention to discuss the importance of voting NO on Con Con; an online application that will allow you and your members to send emails to friends and family encouraging a NO vote in the Nov. 4th General Election; and a downloadable worksite flyer. If your members prefer to be contacted by regular mail, the IFT also has postcards that are available in quantity by contacting the IFT’s Legislative Office at 217/544-8562.

These materials are for use by IFT members and will not be available on the IFT’s public website. Please save the link to the Con Con Toolkit by adding it to your “Favorites” list in your web browser.

You can learn more about this issue by visiting the special Vote No on Con Con section of the IFT website or by visiting the Alliance to Protect the Illinois Constitution (APIC) website. APIC is a broad coaltition of citizens and organizations, including the IFT, all working together to oppose a constitutional convention.

A constitutional convention would be costly and unwise.


A Mile High in Denver, being part of history

By Terrie Albano
People's Weekly World

DENVER — History. That’s what everyone was saying at Invesco Field. All 80,000 of us had a seat at history. Turns out at least 38 million people viewed history too — according to the Nielsen ratings — which broke all records, including more viewers than for the opening of the Beijing Olympics and final of “American Idol.”

Listening to the speeches and music, texting to 62262 (spells O-B-A-M-A), taking photos and video of people cheering or just carrying their pop and pizza to their seats, I had two thoughts: what is going on in this country, and this is a quintessential American experience.

The whole day-long rally was mass, progressive politics at its best. There was the substantive yet entertaining political stagecraft of the speakers and musicians. The giant TV screens which projected images of who was on the stage and then shots of the audience, like at baseball games when fans get on the screen. We did a dozen “waves,” probably from this time forward going to be known as the O’wave or bamawave.

You could have the sporting event experience but without the sport. Democratic politics replaced football at Invesco, yet the exuberance you experience when your hometown team wins a championship was there. And thinking about it, that’s what an American mass, progressive political movement has to embody: a mass experience for Americans. What more mass can you get than sports? Maybe rock concerts, and this had that quality too.

The only thing that was missing that you’d have at professional sports events was the constant bombardment of commercials or in your face corporate sponsorship. No corporate logos all around the stage, no announcements that “this speech is sponsored by GM.” No. The emphasis was on ordinary Americans, working class experiences and that being the embodiment of the American dream. As Republican Barney Smith from Indiana, who spoke from the stage as part of the “ordinary American voices,” said, “We need a president who puts Barney Smith before Smith Barney.”

The place exploded with laughter and cheers. Stomping feet shook the house to that great line and many a good line in Obama’s and other speeches.

The whole night what people were expressing was that for the first time in a long, long time they could be proud of their political leaders. And, thereby, proud of their country. Even the U-S-A chants took on another quality in this stadium. When you see working people of all colors, shapes and sizes chanting U-S-A, it takes you to another dimension than when young Republicans do it.

The right-wingers rile themselves up, frothing at the mouth, intimidating people who may not agree with their jingoistic chants.

But here, it was people concerned about not just themselves, but their neighbors, and the whole of society. Concerned and hungry to hear politicians talk meaningfully about real life issues like the economy, the Iraq war and health care.

Like the local union president from Wyoming who drove 350 miles to be there. “This is history. Obama is going to be a great president when we elect him,” said Harold Giberson, from Local 127 of the Utility Workers union. “Whole labor movement supports him.” Giberson said Obama would sign into law the Employee Free Choice Act that would “open doors to so many people oppressed by employers.”

Or Sean Yancy of Highland’s Ranch, Colo., who also felt the weight of history on him. “I’ve been crying all weekend. It’s so emotional to see everybody coming together.” Yancy, who came with his fraternity brothers, said he didn’t grow up in the civil rights movement era like his parents. But the unity of the people for Obama and the Democrats has moved him emotionally and politically. “This is the first time I’ve been active in grassroots politics.” He said his neighbors are supporting Obama. “They aren’t looking at his race. They are looking at the issues,” he said.

Michele Majeune, from Colorado, came with her two sons, age 16 and 19, to be part of history too. Majeune was a Hillary Clinton supporter. While disappointed that Clinton didn’t win the nomination, she is soundly backing Obama. “I don’t agree with everything the Democrats say,” but they have have made inroads in the state, she said, and their message of alternative energy development has really resonated amongst the state’s farmers and ranchers. “Alternative energy provides an economic opportunity. If a field is laying fallow, maybe the farmer can try switchback grass.” Her sons — who are white — feel totally part of what’s being called now the “Obama generation.”

“This is an important event and I’m glad to be here,” said 19-year-old Matt. “It’s pretty democratic to open the convention up to other people.”

Asked for his reaction to the argument that Obama supposedly lacks experience, Matt said the Bush administration “had Cheney and Rumsfeld who worked for previous administrations,” and look where that got us. “It’s also about character,” he said.

Riley, his brother, noted that Abraham Lincoln was in the Illinois Legislature only a few years before making his way to the presidency, an analogy that Al Gore also used in his speech later in the evening. When Gore said it we all looked at Riley and smiled.

Skip Mason, Yancy’s fraternity brother and the president-elect* of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s oldest fraternity for African Americans, said he had been looking for the word to describe how he felt in the historic setting. “Blessed,” he said, to be here and to witness this “changing of the guard” in the nation’s political landscape.

“I was born in 1962, so I didn’t have to sit in the back of the bus. Somebody else did that and fought that fight,” he said. But this is a “shattering of a ceiling” too, he added. “So my children know the sky’s the limit.”

As a Black man, Mason said, Obama is rewriting the negative image of Black men that so many folks see, like being a “threat.” He said, “Here you have an intelligent, articulate, political and honest man. Not all Black men are musicians and athletes. Some have the power to change the fabric of the world.”

Mason talked about the significance of the diversity of the crowd. “Look at the rainbow of people. Being together is part of the American Dream. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is deeply rooted in the American Dream and amongst African Americans. From slavery we fought for the American Dream — freedom. We believe in the words ‘All men are created equal’ and the sentiment behind them.”

For the first time in this generation, he said, all Americans are having to come to grips with the ugly face of racism. “We may have a long way to go, but people are looking it square in the face.”

As the video of Obama’s life hit the big screen, there was total silence in the audience. Only the voice of the narrator could be heard. Enraptured with the story and anxious to hear their candidate, people sat at the edge of their seats. Then they erupted in a massive cheer when Obama walked on stage.

After his perfect-pitch acceptance speech, people filed out of the Mile-High Stadium. Talking in low voices with an almost subdued feel about them, they said in a thousand different ways that change for the betterment of all is coming. They looked at the future square in the eye and knew they are part of history. That is what’s going on in this country.

talbano @