Monday, October 30, 2006

Oaxaca Support

Resolution in Support of the Oaxacan Teachers Union - Sindicato Nacional
de Trabajadores de la Educacion (SNTE)
submitted by Latina/o Caucus

WHEREAS, 70,000 school teachers from the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la
Educacion (SNTE), sector 22 in Oaxaca Mexico have been on strike since May 22, 2006 in a
just struggle for higher wages and better working conditions; and

WHEREAS, monthly teacher salaries average between $400-600/month and where the
majority of the population is indigenous and lives in poverty; and

WHEREAS, Mexican security forces have used excessive and disproportionate force against
protestors in the state of Oaxaca, and

WHEREAS, after five months of civil unrest the teachers have gained popular support under the
APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) and the struggle has evolved into a broad
protest movement with strong support from many factions; and

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that CFA supports the agreement between the Oaxacan
state and the union (SNTE) proposing a 30% pay increase over six years; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that CFA send a letter of support to the teachers union in
support of this resolution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that CFA calls on the Mexican authorities to act appropriately
during protests, in accordance with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms
by Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that CFA calls for a prompt, full and impartial investigation into
the reported torture and beatings of strikers and supporters and reminds the authorities of their
obligations to prohibit torture and ill-treatment under the UN Convention against Torture and
Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and to follow the UN Standard
Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that CFA calls on Mexican authorities to revise the charges
levied against detained activists to ensure that the evidence against them is adequately
substantiated and founded; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, the CFA asks the U.S. President George Bush and California
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to use diplomatic efforts at their disposal to support the spirit
of this resolution.

Unanimously Approved by
the CFA Assembly
October 22, 2006

Governor of Oaxaca
Ulises Ruiz Ortiz
Gobernador del Estado de Oaxaca, Carretera Oaxaca, Puerto Angel, Km. 9.5
Santa María Coyotopec, C. P. 71254, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, MEXICO
Fax : + 52 951 511 6879 (if someone answers, ask "tono de fax, por
Salutation : Señor Gobernador/Dear Governor

Attorney General of Oaxaca
Lic. Lizbeth Caña Calez
Procuradora del Estado de Oaxaca
Avenida Luis Echeverría s/n, La Experimental, San Antonio de la Cal, C. P. 71236,
Oaxaca, MEXICO
Fax : + 52 951 511 5519
Salutation : Estimada Procuradora/Dear Attorney General

Federal Attorney General
Lic. Daniel Cabeza de Vaca
Procurador General de la República, Procuraduría General de la República
Reforma Cuauhtémoc esq.Violeta 75, Col. Guerrero, Delegación Cuauhtémoc
México D.F., C.P. 06 500, MEXICO
Fax : + 525 55 346 0983 (if a voice reply say : “me da tono de fax por
Salutation : Dear Attorney General

Human rights organization in Oaxaca
Red Oaxaqueña de derechos humanos
Calle Crespo 524 Interior 4-E, Col. Centro, Oaxaca, Oaxaca, CP. 68000, MEXICO

Ambassade des Etats Unis Mexicains
Avenue F.D. Roosevelt 94
1050 Bruxelles
Fax : 02.644.08.19
Fax : 02.646.87.68
Email :

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Lula wins in Brazil

Brazil's Lula wins second term

Oct 30, 2006
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva won a landslide victory in a run-off election on Sunday, shrugging off a series of corruption scandals and emerging again as the champion of Brazil's poor and workers.

Brazil's electoral court proclaimed Lula the winner over his rival Geraldo Alckmin of the centrist Brazilian Social Democracy Party just a few hours after polls closed.

With 91% of the ballots counted, Lula had 60.54% against 39.46% for Alckmin.

About 125 million Brazilians cast ballots across the world's fourth-largest democracy, from hamlets in the Amazon rainforest to the concrete jungle and tough slums of the big cities.

Lula, 61, already spoke like a winner when he turned up to vote in the factory town of Sao Bernardo do Campo, where he began in politics as a union leader opposing a military dictatorship. He promised to open a dialogue with the opposition.

"We are going to sew up all the alliances needed so people can be calm and we can approve all the projects that Brazil needs," he told reporters.

Lula fell shy of an absolute majority in an Oct. 1 vote against a wider field after an attempted smear campaign by his Workers' Party against opposition candidates backfired.

Support from the lower classes, who have benefited from more jobs as well as welfare programs during his four-year term, is the key to Lula's comeback.

"Lula is not indebted to the rich. He owes his success to the common Brazilian," said photographer Euler Peixoto, 48, who voted in a middle-class district of the business capital Sao Paulo. "I want someone like that as my president."

Scandals over vote-buying and bribery in the past few years had threatened to torpedo Lula's political career, and they still weighed on many minds, especially among the rich and better-educated Brazilians.

But voters canvassed by Reuters reporters said violent crime, education and heath costs were all vital issues.

"Here, violence is the biggest problem," said Lourdes Oliveira, a 34-year-old nurse in the Rocinha shantytown, or favela, in Rio de Janeiro.

"I believe Lula when he says only education can take youngsters away from the streets and from drug trafficking."

Could emerge stronger

Lula has won plaudits for stabilizing the economy of Latin America's largest country but the growth needed to overcome its social inequalities and to maintain its challenge to emerging market rivals India and China is still elusive.

Cabinet minister Tarso Genro told Reuters on Sunday Lula would set a growth target of at least 5 percent next year.

Several analysts said Lula a strong mandate from the second round victory could help him to forge a coalition to push through business-friendly reforms.

An important opposition figure, Minas Gerais state governor Aecio Neves of the PSDB said he was ready to work with the president to come up with an agenda.

"There is a time for elections and a time to build. From tomorrow, my eyes will be on the future of this country," Neves said.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fox sends federal troops into Oaxaca

Fox orders federal forces to Mexico's Oaxaca crisis
28 Oct 2006 13:44:20 GMT
Source: Reuters

MEXICO CITY, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Mexican President Vicente Fox ordered federal forces to be sent to the conflict-torn city of Oaxaca on Saturday, after gunmen shot dead three people including a U.S. journalist.
The president's office said in a statement the forces would arrive in the city during the course of the day. It did not specify whether federal police, soldiers or a mixture of the two would be involved in the operation.
On Friday, at least two prolonged shootouts against protesters killed three people, including U.S. independent journalist Brad Will.
Nine people, mostly protesters, have been killed in a conflict that began in Oaxaca five months ago, when striking teachers and leftist activists occupied much of the colonial city, storming Congress and blocking hundreds of streets in an effort to oust state Gov. Ulises Ruiz.
The conflict has escalated with increasingly frequent drive-by style gun attacks against the protesters' barricades.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Most Dems not clearly anti war


[Note: A few copies of War Times/Tiempo de Guerras' fall 2006 free in-print issue are still available. Write to order a bundle (multiples of 25 only please). You can also view or download every article in the issue at ]

Suddenly the Forbidden Secret has become Conventional Wisdom: Bush's Iraq strategy has collapsed. "Stay the Course" used to be the President's verbal hammer for pounding antiwar critics. Now it's a joke that even Bush himself (fearful of Republican defeat in the upcoming elections - see below) disavows! On ABC This Week October 22 he told interviewer George Stephanopoulos "We've never been 'stay the course,' George."

Rarely has such a self-parody been offered up by a Leader of the Free World.

But it's far from funny. For what the U.S. will do regarding Iraq still hangs in the balance.

Public discontent with Bush's policy has grown and hardened substantially in the last few months. Combined with realities in Iraq and global opposition to U.S. occupation, this may be just enough (if focused and mobilized!) to force Washington toward withdrawal. But the White House still says victory (whatever that means this week) is its bottom-line goal. And Bush's messianic/religious investment in "victory" adds a dangerous and irrational element to Washington's imperial calculations. So far, all the "new" schemes reportedly being considered by the administration are formulas to postpone any day of reckoning at a huge price in lives and suffering. And there is no guarantee that Bush will not try a new military gamble - either in Iraq or with an attack on Iran - in a desperate effort to make reality fit his Neocon/Second Coming fantasies.


The dam has burst. White House spin can no longer hide the scale of Bush's Iraq disaster. The large-scale shift in public opinion strongly resembles the weeks right after the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968. Again, Bush himself - who has fiercely resisted analogies between Iraq and Vietnam from day one - admitted on national television that this particular comparison "could be right."

Iraqis are dying from violence at a rate of 100 per day. The U.S. military death toll in October stands at 96, the highest month this year and counting. A new study by U.S. and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more Iraqis have died since March 2003 than if the U.S. invasion had not occurred. Last time a comparable study was released it was dismissed by official "experts" and buried by the mainstream media. This time refutations were half-hearted; the study got major media play; and even critics admitted that the Iraqi death toll was horrific and in the hundreds of thousands.

Every day another war supporter or high official jumps ship. Wayne White, until last year head of the State Department's Iraq Intelligence section, told BBC news Oct. 22 that "we're not winning" and that the U.S. position in Iraq was "untenable." "I checked with almost a dozen sources in Baghdad in just the last 24 hours," White said. "Every single one of them answered the question as to whether the violence was lessening, or getting worse, with - 'worse'."

Top U.S. generals now publicly admit that their bedrock strategy to "secure Baghdad" has failed. "With that failure the entire future of Iraq and the U.S. and British-led occupation has been brought to a tipping point of enormous consequence not simply for Iraq and the region, but for the Bush and Blair administrations." (Guardian, Oct. 22)

The result is a flurry of reports about "new administration plans" for the Iraq mission. But every such plan seems to consist of a different mix of the same old ingredients. All they offer are repackaged failures for getting Iraqis to "stand up" so U.S. troops can "stand down." They lay blame for failure on Iraqis rather than on the U.S. occupation. All avoid facing the fact that U.S. occupation is the main *problem* in Iraq, not a *solution* to violence and destruction.

This means that the fight to force the Bush administration to get out of Iraq is still underway, still difficult, and likely still uphill. And the antiwar movement still has to be ready for anything along the way.


White House policy failures - and the limits Iraq and other setbacks have placed on Washington - are also evident in its standoff with North Korea.

North Korea's recent nuclear test was a direct response to six years of Bush administration hostility. In 1994 North Korea agreed to suspend its nuclear weapons program and allow international monitoring of its nuclear facilities. In return, the U.S. agreed to not make military threats against North Korea, to supply fuel oil, and to help build two modern atomic power plants. But beginning in 2002, the Bush administration slowly gutted its part of the agreement. It branded North Korea as part of an "axis of evil," ended the shipments of fuel oil, stonewalled construction of nuclear power plants, and refused direct bilateral talks.

U.N. Ambassador John Bolton then declared that U.S. policy is for "the end of North Korea." Washington threatened North Korea with being on its list of "first-strike" nuclear targets. And four days after six-party talks reached a new deal whereby North Korea would denuclearize in exchange for the U.S. agreeing to respect North Korea's sovereignty and work toward normalization of relations, the U.S. Treasury slapped harsh sanctions on Pyongyang.

Predictably, the North Korean government responded by withdrawing from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and beginning to develop nuclear weapons.

A whole range of political actors - from the government of China to anti-nuclear and peace activists - see grave dangers in nuclear proliferation in general and North Korea testing nukes in particular. But the White House's dedication to "pre-emptive war" and nuclear saber-rattling is the greatest obstacle to halting any new nuclear arms race.

On this front, too, Bush has been badly weakened. Bush once claimed he would "never accept" a nuclear armed North Korea. But after the test, he was in no position to take unilateral measures. Washington has been constrained at the U.N. by the need to win Russian and Chinese for a multi-lateral approach. And Bush cannot convince the South Korean government to abandon its policy of engagement, rather than isolation, of North Korea.

Here at home, too, Bush faces calls to stop stonewalling and open direct talks with North Korea. (Even from Republican senators Richard Lugar and Arlen Specter.) The New York Times (Oct. 23) analyzed the administration's weakness in its coverage of Condoleezza Rice's recent trip to Asia:

"The Bush administration's struggle to rethink a faltering Iraq strategy hung over her entire trip like a shadow....The administration may simply be in no position to press its partners in a tougher way over North Korea. To paraphrase a comment - not entirely well received - by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a nation goes off to diplomatic negotiations with the bargaining chips it has, not the ones it might like to have."


With Iraq and North Korea on the front pages, Israel's continued onslaught against the Palestinian people is too often ignored. But the absence of ink in the U.S. press does not mean the absence of Palestinian blood on the ground.

During the week of Oct. 12-18, 28 Palestinians - 17 of them civilians, including two children - were killed by Israeli military action. Forty-five were wounded. Israeli attacks have continued since.

The ongoing assault is part of an Israeli strategy designed to wear down Palestinian tenacity and overthrow the elected Palestinian government. Tel Aviv, backed by Washington, aims to replace the Hamas-led majority with one willing to bend to - and even help enforce - Israeli demands.

The ultimate goal of Israeli government strategy, meanwhile, is indicated by the latest development in Israeli parliamentary politics. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has just brought into his government a far-right party - "Israel Our Home" - which explicitly favors annexing Jewish settlements in the illegally occupied West Bank and transferring most Arab citizens of Israel outside the country.

Israeli government spokespeople also acknowledged for the first time that it had attacked Hezbollah targets in Lebanon with phosphorus shells. During the fighting several media outlets reported that Lebanese civilians carried injuries characteristic of attacks with phosphorus. The International Red Cross calls for a complete ban on phosphorus being used against human beings.


President Bush's signed the Military Commissions Act (MCA) into law Oct. 17. Garrison Keillor - of Prairie Home Companion fame - pointed out the consequences in the Chicago Tribune:

"I would not send my college kid off for a semester abroad if I were you. Last week, we suspended human rights in America, and what goes around comes around. Ixnay habeas corpus.

"The U.S. Senate, in all its splendor and majesty, decided that an 'enemy combatant' is any non-citizen whom the president says is an enemy combatant, including your Korean greengrocer or your Swedish grandmother or your Czech au pair, and can be arrested and held for as long as authorities wish without any right of appeal to a court of law to examine the matter. If your college kid were to be arrested in Bangkok or Cairo, suspected of "crimes against the state" and held in prison, you'd assume that an American foreign service officer would be able to speak to your kid and arrange for a lawyer, but this may not be true anymore. Be forewarned.

"The Senate also decided it's up to the president to decide whether it's OK to make these enemies stand naked in cold rooms for a couple of days in blinding light and be beaten by interrogators. This is now purely a bureaucratic matter: The plenipotentiary stamps the file 'enemy combatants' and throws the poor schnooks into prison and at his leisure he tries them by any sort of kangaroo court he wishes to assemble and they have no right to see the evidence against them, and there is no appeal."


Early in 2006, Karl Rove sought to frame the 2006 mid-term elections as a referendum on "strong leadership in the war on terror," which he calculated would be to great Republican advantage. Developments in Iraq have run away from him, however. Now it is Republicans "distancing themselves" from the President's Iraq policy because, as a recent Washington Post/ABC poll showed:

"An improving economy notwithstanding, opposition to the war remains the prime issue driving congressional vote preference. And the war's critics include not just eight in 10 Democrats, but 64% of independents, 40% of conservatives, 35% of evangelical white Protestants, and a quarter of Republicans themselves."

Most Democratic congressional candidates are not consistently antiwar. But pressure on them is mounting from spreading antiwar sentiment and organized campaigns such as "Voters for Peace" (go to ). And much of the media and political establishment will read the elections largely as a referendum on continuing the war in Iraq, as a sign of how much more of this failed policy the public is willing to put up with. The antiwar movement faces the challenge of amplifying this November's antiwar message, and then being prepared to deal with an administration and a congress that - no matter who wins - will do everything possible to avoid facing up to U.S. defeat in Iraq and its immense consequences.

War Times/Tiempo de Guerras is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Third World Organizing. Donations to War Times are tax-deductible; you can donate on-line at or send a check to War Times/Tiempo de Guerras, c/o P.O. Box 99096, Emeryville, CA 94662.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Race, the Democratic Party, and Electoral Strategy

Race, the Democratic Party, and Electoral Strategy
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
BC Editorial Board

This was a speech given at Columbia University, October 10, 2006.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a news story on the Pacifica Program “Democracy Now.” It was a brief story concerning a series of ads that the Republican Party is running in Maryland and Ohio in order to appeal to African American voters. As you probably know, there are at least two major African American candidates running for political office in those states on the Republican ticket. The ad has two Black women speaking about how racist the Democratic Party has historically been towards African Americans and how the Republicans were the party that emancipated the African slaves.

In listening to these ads I thought about the phenomenon of white-written African American sit-coms. The white-written sit-coms, regardless of how funny they may be, normally run the risk, if not fall into the pit, of caricaturing the African American experience. The actor Robert Townsend popularized this problem in his 1987 film “Hollywood Shuffle.”

These Republican ads are the political equivalent of a Hollywood shuffle. They play the African American for a fool, and caricaturize history. Consider for a moment what they argue:

Democrats were the party of slavery.
Democrats were the party of the Dixiecrats.
Martin Luther King was a Republican.
Republicans emancipated the slaves.
From the standpoint of history, these are interesting points, but the method that is offered is nothing short of sophistry.

First, it is true that the Democrats supported slavery and opposed Reconstruction. It is also true that the Democrats were the party that housed the Dixiecrats. The Democrats were also the party of the New Deal and the major pieces of 20th Century Civil Rights Legislation.

I have no idea whether King was a Republican, but I know of no historical evidence that he ever stomped for Republicans.

And, just to remind everyone, while the Democrats housed the reactionary Southern Dixiecrats, the reality is that the Dixiecrats left the Democrats and WENT TO THE REPUBLICANS.

I do not want to spend the entire evening critiquing the ad, but I thought that I would start there because if one lacks an historical analysis, and only grabs onto isolated historical facts, one can find one’s self traveling down a road to disaster. It is also critical that we beware of sophistry.

These Republican ads do, however, beg certain important questions: how should we look at race and the US capitalist system? What is our analysis of the trajectory of the Democratic Party? What are the strategic consequences of our analysis for electoral politics?

I recently completed reading Professor Marable’s excellent Living Black History, a book that I would highly recommend. What it reminds the reader is how integral to US capitalism is race, or more specifically, racism. If we understand race as a socio-political construct, and racism as an instrument of oppression and social control, then we can grasp that thinking of the US—as currently constructed—without racism is like imagining a person without their lungs walking down the street.

The entire US political party system is, itself, deeply linked to matters of race and the system of racism. The Republicans are correct in saying that the Democrats have a long history of racism, beginning at the time of the Civil War. Ironically, for much of its existence the Democrats portrayed the Republicans as being the party of the Negro. Today it is the Republican Party that presents the Democrats as being the party of the African American, and the Republican Party as being, first and foremost, the non-Black party (even if and when it includes African Americans).

We are jumping ahead of ourselves, however. Let me first speak some about the US political party system. In order to grasp the larger dilemmas of US electoral politics and strategy we must recognize that the nature of the US electoral system is itself undemocratic. The reasons for this include:

The nature of voter registration (complicated, out of the way, not automatic).
Elections held during a regular work day.
Lack of public campaign financing, thereby biasing in terms of the rich.
Of these, the winner-take-all system is that which needs our principal focus this evening. It is obvious, but useful to repeat, that if a candidate for office has 49% of the vote, that 49% means nothing for either the candidate or the candidate’s constituency. 50% plus one vote is all that is needed in order to win in partisan elections. The logic of this system results in an irresistible pressure toward what should be called party-blocs rather than political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties, therefore, are better understood not as political parties in the sense in which the term is used in virtually any other part of the world. The two national parties have no official ideologies. Membership in them means almost nothing other than one’s ability to vote in a primary election. One is rarely approached to join a specific party, at least in the sense that one is normally recruited to join even mass political parties in most other parts of the world.

The goal of winning the election, and specifically recognizing that the particular interests that one might hold will very likely be unable to win in a final election unless one is part of an party-bloc undermines the interest, and some cases even the possibility for, the creation of so-called minor or third parties. Thus, the parties become more like coalitions, and while both parties are dominated by the rich and those who favor capitalism, the distinctions between these two party-blocs are not insignificant. More about that later.

The creation of party-blocs results in a contradictory impulse within each bloc. On the one hand, they each wish to expand their constituencies in order to win elections. At the same time, they wish to ensure that any new constituencies are subordinated to the will of the dominant forces within the party-blocs. In some cases the concern with the subordination of constituencies results in the downplaying of growth. In the labor union movement—out of which I come—one can see something parallel where the leadership coalition in certain unions is not interested in new organizing because they do not wish to upset the political balance in that particular local. The fear, of course, is that new people might overturn the status quo. The party-blocs have a similar concern. I should add, parenthetically, that this is probably at least part of what is at stake in the attacks on DNC Chair Howard Dean and his 50 State Strategy that many Democratic Party big-wigs oppose.

The Democratic Party, which had a significant base among white workers from its inception, evolved in a peculiar direction in part due to the demands of this constituency as well as due to larger macro-economic changes. In order to understand this, one must begin with the recognition that the collapse of Reconstruction—formally in 1876/1877—what W.E.B. Dubois called the counter-revolution of property, was not simply the victory of the Democratic Party. It was the result of a shift within the power bloc running the USA with regard to both the terms of the ruling consensus and the corresponding shape of US democracy. The dominant sectors of capital, having virtually eliminated all opposition to the US settler state by the First Nations/Native Americans, came to an agreement with the defeated ruling elites from the former Confederacy. The terms were clear: the former Southern ruling elites would be free to rule the South as long as they swore allegiance to the Northern industrial capitalists and their vision of a new United States of America. Upon winning their support, the Northern industrialists, and their political representatives, were quite prepared to abandon the Reconstruction. The political representatives for the Northern industrial capitalists were largely found in the Republican Party of the time.

Therefore, while the Democrats of the 19th century were certainly the party of counter-revolution, and later the party of Jim Crow segregation, the Republican Party after 1877 abandoned all pretense of being a party in favor of the objectives of Reconstruction. In fact, their pro-Reconstruction wing—the so-called “Radical Republicans”—collapsed as a political force. Though African Americans were an important constituency of the Republican Party (and specifically, African American men were the voters given that the suffrage was limited to men at the time), the Republicans were quite prepared to permit the counter-revolution in the South to succeed and to witness, with barely a comment, the rise of Jim Crow and the virtual, if not formal, elimination of the franchise for African Americans.

The Democrats, with the so-called Compromise of 1876, established a new national legitimacy, at least in bourgeois US terms. They had, effectively, won the election only to trade it away in exchange for the ending of Reconstruction. Thus, they became the indisputable the party of the (white) South, as well as the party of a section of the white working class, particularly the European immigrants coming to the US shores. I do not wish to detail the entire history of the Democratic Party. In either case, time does not permit it. What I do wish to emphasize is that both the Republicans and the Democrats were prepared to do without the African American, the Asian, the Latino and certainly the Native American. While there were legacies of allegiance to the Republican Party, such as among African Americans as well as among white anti-slavery populations, e.g., Eastern Tennessee, the objectives of the Republicans did not correspond in any manner to the objectives of the burgeoning African American freedom movement.

The urbanization of the USA presented the Democratic Party with a steadily growing challenge, as well as opportunity. While dominated by the wealthy, the Democratic Party presented itself in the aftermath of the collapse of the Populist Party (and larger Populist political insurgency) as the party of the common white man. Noted racist and celebrity William Jennings Bryan was one of the principal architects of this ideological fusion, for lack of a better term. Absorbing much of the Populist sentiment, as well as having constructed alliances with the union movement under the leadership of the American Federation of Labor, the Democratic Party positioned itself to be seen as the anti-elite political party.

It is with this in mind that we then hit the 1932 election and the rise of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It bears remembering that Roosevelt, himself born with a silver spoon in his mouth, set out to stabilize US capitalism in the midst of the worst economic depression the country had ever suffered. Yet Roosevelt’s initial efforts met with great resistance from progressive forces who saw them as based more upon Benito Mussolini’s fascist corporate state experiment rather than on anything left-of-center. It was, however, in the face of resistance to many of his initial reforms from ultra-conservative sections of capital that Roosevelt felt compelled to become the FDR we know through history and myth. His reforms necessitated a new alliance, and sections of the working class served as this base. Roosevelt, then, shifted to the ‘left’ in order to save capitalism. Ultra-Right sections of capital were so furious about this that they contemplated a military coup against him.

The New Deal reforms were, then, not intended to help African Americans or any other people of color, but due to who we were and where people of color found themselves in the pecking order, we benefited to varying degrees from some of these reforms, but not without struggle. In fact, the New Deal can be said to have increased the gap between whites and people of color, despite the fact that people of color came to benefit from it, because of the racial manner in which the reforms were implemented. In either case, the New Deal reforms, and FDR’s outreach to various hitherto ignored sections of the population, created the foundation for what came to be known as the New Deal Coalition.

The Dixiecrats, as the Southern opponents of liberal reform came to be known, resisted any attempts to expand the benefits of the New Deal, and, indeed, to expand the franchise. As the New Deal coalition increased in strength and scope, the Dixiecrats fought a rear-guard action to delay or derail efforts at reform, particularly when it came to race, but as well in the case of workers’ rights to organize. The exit of the Dixiecrats from the Democratic Party was a step toward the political realignment that began to emerge in the 1968 Nixon presidential campaign victory.

The Democratic Party that we look at now is the legacy of the political realignment that took place with the exit of the Dixiecrats and the fallout from the 1960s reforms addressing racial injustice, reforms—needless to say—that were introduced as a result of the struggles conducted by the Black Freedom Movement. These factors fueled the George Wallace 1968 and 1972 campaigns and fused with the growing tension within sections of the white working class and the middle strata concerning their anxiety (if not opposition) to the demands raised by people of color, as well by the shifting of the tax burden away from the corporations and the wealthy and onto the backs of these classes and class fractions in order to pay for many of the various reforms. I hasten to add that we are also looking at a party that, in 1972, was prepared to lose an election rather than witness the victory of the liberal George McGovern.

Why is any of this important? First, the Southern Strategy of Richard Nixon in the 1968 election was more than a Southern strategy. It was a white people’s strategy. It was an effort to align the Republican squarely with the white backlash against the Black Freedom Movement and the movements for justice on the part of other oppressed groups. It was also stage one in the effort to eliminate a liberal wing of the Republican Party. In other words, while the Southern Strategy attempted many things, race was central to the efforts at political realignment.

Second, and related, in aligning the Republicans with the white backlash, the Republicans began to paint the Democrats more and more as the party of Black people. This was often coded in terms of “special interests,” though the expression was aimed against organized labor and the Women’s Movement as well. But in the minds of white people, special interests particularly meant the interests of those of us of color. The Republicans, on the other hand, were to be the party that was NOT BLACK. This did not mean, however, that Black people were eliminated from the Party. Rather, it meant that there was and is no place within the Republican Party for a Black agenda.

The Democrats never accepted the notion that they were the party of Black people. They were forced by circumstances, however, to include traditionally excluded groups, e.g., Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Women, but this did not make the Democratic Party a party of the people. It was only a more inclusive party, constituency-wise (but NOT power-wise).

With the emergence first of Jimmy Carter, and later the Democratic Leadership Council, the ruling echelon of the Democratic Party beat a retreat away from the legacy of both Lyndon Johnson (on domestic policy) and George McGovern (in terms of both foreign policy and his vision of the Democratic Party) and started moving more toward the Right. The tendencies which were to be known as the New Democrat and the Neo-Liberal (at first meaning politically neo-liberal and later economically neo-liberal) came to the stage in an effort to reposition the Democrats, particularly with the victory of Ronald Reagan. By repositioning I mean seeking to recapture the constituency that it had lost to the Republicans, symbolically in the 1980 election, but actually much earlier.

Interestingly in each election, the core constituencies of the Democratic Party—particularly African Americans and labor—have been taken for granted until roughly 4-6 weeks prior to the election, at which points there would be massive and often panicky mobilization efforts. Yet, little was done in terms of real voter registration early on, and the actual and authentic—to employ an over-used term—voice of the core constituencies were often ignored altogether, particularly with regard to platform and leadership.

A great shake-up took place during the 1980s. The Jesse Jackson/Rainbow insurgencies in that decade represented a massive response to this rightist evolution as well as being an attempt to mount a counter-offensive to Reaganism. What was brilliant about both the 1984 and 1988 campaigns was that they were independent campaigns within the Democratic Party. Thus, voters and potential voters were not being asked to wait till the final election to vote for a 3rd party candidate, but were being encouraged to mix it up within the context of the Democrats. The building, albeit aborted, of an independent organization of individuals and organizations made this all the more exciting and, as Danny Glover and I noted in our 2/2005 article in The Nation “Visualizing a Neo-Rainbow” (and the longer version in SOULS) followed from a merger at the conceptual level of the strategies of the Black Freedom Movement and the historic work of the Non-Partisan Leagues of the 1920s and 1930s (that is, the notion of a grassroots effort that takes place both inside and outside the Democratic Party).

Since the collapse of Jackson’s post-1988 Rainbow reform efforts, progressives have grappled with the direction to take in the electoral realm. Central to that has been an on-going debate on the question of the Democratic Party. From the standpoint of both the social movements of people of color as well as from the standpoint of the progressive movement generally there is little to be gained by paralyzing ourselves through endless repetitions of the either the problems with the Democratic Party or whether it is at all feasible to consider some sort of take-over of the Democratic Party (usually phrased as moving the Party to the Left). We can list until the cows come home the problems within the Democratic Party, the nature of its leadership, etc. That discussion only gets us so far because what we really have to consider is the nature of the electoral battlefield in the United States where we engage our various enemies and, hopefully, work toward gaining political power. This does NOT mean, however, that we should abdicate analysis. What I am warning against are the typical discussions where a list of the various problems with the Democratic Party is enumerated and these problems are used to suggest that it is impossible to work within that structure. This flows from a view that the facts speak for themselves. The facts never speak for themselves; only people speak. The facts, including those that we have discussed this evening, must be the subject of analysis.

So, let’s discuss a little strategy. Strategy starts with a very basic question: who is the “we” that is referenced when one speaks of “we” need to organize…or “we” need to confront the enemy. In the early years of the 21st century one witnesses the dramatic polarization of wealth and resources on a global and domestic scale. Beginning a few years ago some commentators began using the term “global apartheid” to describe this polarization and exclusion of entire populations from access to any prospect for a decent life. In the USA one sees this as well. No, it no longer breaks down along the lines of Jim Crow segregation, but we do see a class, racial and gender overlap and exclusion. Segments of the white working class and middle strata have less and less of a chance of seeing their lives improves. Vast segments of African Americans, Latinos, Asians and the First Nations have been condemned to near oblivion watching their homes deteriorate in the environment of reservations, or the likes of the multiple Camden, New Jersey(s). And, speaking of the environment, at a global level, more of us are getting fearful that capitalism is pushing the planet past the point where it can sustain humanity.

The “we” must be those who have an interest in a progressive response to the problems that I am delineating. This does not mean that they have to be conscious of their interests right now. In reality, they may interpret their interests in very different and often quite reactionary ways. Yet, they are the potential base for our work. In that sense I applaud what Howard Dean proclaims regarding a 50 State Strategy. There must be a progressive political presence where our constituents find ourselves, and while Dean and I may be speaking of different sorts of organizations and views, I nevertheless think that he is correct to say that the Right must be challenged nationally.

Yet, it is simply not enough to speak in terms of a mega-coalition or united front of the oppressed. The USA has a long history of populist efforts that have ignited great interest but, generally, collapsed into our special Tartarus, the pit of racism. White populism specifically regularly seeks a means to address economic injustice without addressing race. It hopes and hopes that the struggle for economic justice can be the umbrella under which we all stand. Yet, what racism does is make the umbrella useless as the winds blow forth and hit us with torrents of rain from the side.

This was the other feature of the Jackson insurgencies that was and is so worthy of attention. The populist message that he offered was one that was infused with a pro-equality, anti-racist, anti-sexist soul. It was not that anti-racism was an add-on to an otherwise complete plank. It was that the plank was tied together with the strings…the muscle tissue of anti-racism and anti-sexism. The oppressed could see themselves in the Rainbow insurgency! This conceptualization and actualization must be rehabilitated if WE, that is, the oppressed, are to win.

I am strenuously avoiding the question of whether the Democratic Party can be transformed because I actually think that the question is more or less irrelevant. The Democratic Party IS, and to a great extent, that is all that matters. It exists as a particular platform in an environment that largely—except for a few states such as New York—denies us the ability to develop viable alternative parties that can compete beyond a certain level. On that basis, the building of a viable, progressive electoral option must look at the Democratic Party as ONE piece (but not the exclusive piece) of the overall terrain on which we should operate. It is on this terrain that we do battle with the politics of the Democratic Leadership Council, a force that not only wants the Democratic Party to move further to the Right, but one which seeks to distance itself from progressive social movements, particularly those of people of color.

Leaving aside the various criticisms of the Democratic Party, one argument persists, to which we should give some attention. This is the argument, to the effect, that given that so many people do not vote progressives should concentrate on building the non-voter into a constituency for an independent party. Yes, voter turn-out is embarrassingly low when compared to so many other countries. And, yes, much of this has to do with voter dissatisfaction. Yet, it is wishful thinking to assume that this voter dissatisfaction is automatically progressive or automatically organize-able. This does not mean that we should ignore the non-voter, but we are still faced with the basic question of what to do and where to operate once they have been mobilized.

What is and has been lacking, at least since the Jackson campaigns, has been an alternative set of progressive, democratic (with a small “d”) politics that inspires confidence, offers direction, and shows itself capable of building a majoritarian bloc. No, not a bloc built in one election, or even two elections. But rather a bloc that is serious about struggling for power over a 10-20 year period…longer if we have to.

This will not happen…that is, it will not come into existence, if those progressive politics are not infused with anti-racism. In our everyday political work we must work to deconstruct the racial fabric of the USA, which means winning whites to understand how their minds have been numbed by the white uniform they are forced to wear.

What, then, are my specific suggestions as to what can and must be done?
The organization we need will not come into existence spontaneously. It will not emerge out of necessity, but will emerge as a result of careful planning. Out of necessity, people will resist oppression; only through planning will we create an offensive, pro-active strategy.
We need an organization that our neighbors can join, and through which they can practice their politics. That means a grassroots organization rather than a coalition of organizations.
Don’t waste time debating whether we need a 3rd or independent party. For those progressives who wish to engage in 3rd parties, so be it. Go for it. You are not my enemy, but I am not engaged in your project.
Membership education will be essential if this is not to be an organization of the elite. Grassroots education about the political and economic system; education that draws from the knowledge of the base and injects into it new information and a framework of analysis will become liberating.
The identification of key organizations and/or individuals that can serve as the initial bases for this project. Flowing from this, establishing target cities and counties where we operationalize.
Figure out where we get the funds to do this. The other side has the money, but the reality is that they always have it. That’s why they are the other side. Nevertheless, organizations of the oppressed have always had to find means of self-financing. How do we do it? This cannot be a 501(c)(3), so there needs to be a different way of thinking about financing.
Project a vision of success and a vision of power; not power for a great LEADER, but the power through which regular, invisible people are able to materialize their hopes and aspirations, and where they feel that they are making a difference in their own lives.
This must be a project that is both urban and Southern. In other words, we need to look to identify areas that are logically sympathetic to the politics suggested here. I will give you an example of two different approaches in what I believe to be a key area: South Carolina. The Labor Party (of which, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member) has just gotten on the ballot in South Carolina. I applaud them for this work, but among progressives in South Carolina this is not the strategy that I would have suggested. Instead, within the Democratic Party in South Carolina there is a base, largely African American, which is seeking an alternative. Why not build the sort of neo-Rainbow/independent organization I am describing here and challenge the current leadership of the South Carolina Democrats? Rev. Jesse Jackson discusses creating a Third Rail in the South, particularly among African American voters. I agree. Build organization among the huge numbers of African Americans, growing numbers of Latinos and progressive whites who are, effectively, excluded from power (both power within the Democratic Party and power within their respective states). We need to take a similar approach in urban areas, with particular attention to the theme of the class and racial cleansing that is taking place in our major metropolitan areas. Our politics must be more than abhorrence to the current policies of the Democrats (and certainly the Republicans) but must be pro-active in suggesting a different course. Our social base within the cities is looking for a better life and does not wish to be expelled from the cities, though it does not want to live in crumbling neighborhoods. Let this fight be our battle-cry!
This is all do-able, but more importantly, it must be done. History teaches great lessons of what it means to miss the moment. The system is fraying at its ends. It is our job to pull that string and start weaving a different garment.

BC Editorial Board Member Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a long-time labor and international activist and writer. He is the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. He can be reached at

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Top anti immigrant Republican makes $ off of undocumented

Does Top GOP Xenophobe Cash in on Undocumented Labor?
By Roberto Lovato, New America Media
Posted on October 7, 2006, Printed on October 10, 2006

When President Bush signed into law on Oct. 4 a bill authorizing the construction of a 700-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the man who stood to reap the greatest political profits did not join the president in Arizona. Instead, Congressman James Sensenbrenner is back in his Milwaukee district fending off a growing chorus of local critics who claim he is also reaping financial profits from the very immigration policies he has championed.

Immigration rights advocates, the congressman's Democratic opponent and some constituents are pointing to Sensenbrenner's investments in companies they say are generating profits from the labor of undocumented immigrants. They also say the congressman stands to benefit from investments in companies contracted by the federal government to provide services he has proposed as part of his immigration reform legislation -- such as building massive immigrant detention centers or providing surveillance systems to monitor immigrants near the border.

An analysis of companies identified in Sensenbrenner's most recent financial disclosure forms (2005) reveals that the congressman has invested in companies that have directly hired or subcontracted with employers who hire undocumented workers.

Drawing especially strong criticism are the $86,500 in stocks Sensenbrenner holds in the construction and infrastructure colossus Halliburton. The Texas-based giant has been the subject of Senate hearings into its labor practices in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. News reports and several panelists at Senate hearings have stated that Halliburton used subcontractors hiring hundreds, perhaps thousands of undocumented workers as part of no-bid federal contracts to cleanup Belle Chasse Naval base and other military facilities in the devastated region. Halliburton has also secured a $385 million Department of Homeland Security contract to build gigantic immigrant detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border and stands to secure further contracts from proposals to reopen closed military bases to house deportees and detainees.

Halliburton has also been mentioned as one of the main contractors to build increased security infrastructure, security roads and improved employment verification systems at ports of entry.

Sensenbrenner owns more than $563,536 in General Electric stocks. GE's Security Unit has been a Pentagon subcontractor, providing video surveillance and other electronic security systems at the border. and contributed to Sensenbrenner through its employee PAC. Boeing, which recently secured a $2.5 billion contract order to install sensors, radar and cameras along the U.S. borders, is among the top contributors to Sensenbrenner's PAC.

Sensenbrenner's filings showed a total net worth in excess of $10 million in 2005, with just under $1 million in stock investments in Kimberly-Clark, maker of tissues and personal care products.

The multibillion dollar federal contracts and proposals to build the physical and virtual walls at the border -- which were signed into law on Oct. 4 -- were first proposed in Sensenbrenner's now historic immigration bill, HR 4437.

As November elections draw near, Sensenbrenner, like other elected officials, is spending more time in his district. But the immigration issue may not be giving him the political traction it once did. Usually predictable Town Hall meetings with constituents are increasingly becoming more heated. A June 25, 2006, town hall held in Thiensville, Wis., is revealing. Sensenbrenner was confronted by constituent Lester Schultz, who asked the congressman about the "moral and ethical" implications of investing in companies like Halliburton, which hire undocumented workers.

Sensenbrenner said the investments in question were "bequeathed to me before I began my public service." When pressed he insisted that his portfolio didn't affect his votes. "We don't believe it," some audience members responded.

Asked about Schultz' and others' criticisms of the congressman's investments in companies hiring undocumented workers and benefiting from immigration policies, Sensenbrenner spokesperson Jeff Lungren said, "I'm unaware of these complaints."

Sensenbrenner's HR 4437 calls for "systematic surveillance of the international land and maritime borders of the United States through more effective use of personnel and technology, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, ground-based sensors, satellites, radar coverage, and cameras."

Sensenbrenner's Democratic opponent in the upcoming Congressional race in Wisconsin's fifth district, Bryan Kennedy, has publicly asked Sensenbrenner to divest himself of Halliburton and other companies he believes benefit by hiring undocumented workers.

Sensenbrenner has criticized companies that profit from exploitative working conditions that, he recently said, make it "cheaper to hire an illegal alien than a citizen or a legal alien who is present in this country with a green card."

Other investments raising flags in Milwaukee include the $44,179 in shares Sensenbrenner holds in Darden Restaurants Inc. Darden operates chains like The Olive Garden and Red Lobster, which have been reported to employ undocumented workers. "Jose," a cook at a Red Lobster restaurant in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa in Sensenbrenner's district, was unaware that he was working for a company that made the Congressman that proposed "el Muro" (the wall) richer. "I don't have papers and had to cross the border from Mexico," Jose said. "Is he schizophrenic? Does he like our work and hate us?"

Cristina Neumann Ortiz, a Sensenbrenner constituent who organized the largest marches in Milwaukee history in response to HR 4437, finds typical the alleged contradiction between the congressman's anti-undocumented immigrant policies and rhetoric and his pro-undocumented stock portfolio. "This is a classic case of exploiting workers. He (Sensenbrenner) is for their work while doing everything he can to make sure that they don't get any rights. I see this among exploitative employers. I see it in Congress."

After finishing his shrimp scampi at the Red Lobster restaurant in Wauwatosa, Sensenbrenner constituent Jim Rehtman defended the congressman. Rehtman was joined by his nephew, John, a tattooed trucker who stood in the restaurant lobby wearing a T-shirt with a large American flag that read "Welcome to America…NOW LEARN ENGLISH."

"I support what he's doing to try to stop those illegals," said Rehtman, a 73-year-old retired welder.

Asked how he felt about the fact that his food may have been prepared by one of the undocumented workers interviewed for this story, a cook in the back kitchen, Rehtman leaned his head sideways, raised his shoulders and said, "I don't like it. Not one bit. They shouldn't be back there. That's why we need to change the laws." When told that Sensenbrenner, who recently referred to employers of the undocumented as "21st-century slave masters," was also an investor in the company that owned Red Lobster, Rehtman shook his head.

"Car salesmen and politicians, they both..." He then stopped short. "I don't want to insult car salesmen that way."

Roberto Lovato is a New America Media writer based in New York.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Ratifican asambleístas del PRD que no reconocerán a Calderón

Ratifican asambleístas del PRD que no reconocerán a Calderón

Raúl Llanos : La Jornada

05/10/2006 14:15

México, D. F. En reunión privada, los 34 diputados de la fracción parlamentaria del PRD en la ALDF acordaron desplegar una intensa campaña de aclaración, en la que quede bien precisada la postura que hasta ahora han mantenido: no reconocer a Felipe Calderón Hinojosa como presidente legítimo de México, y apegarse a los resolutivos de la Convención Nacional Democrática.

En el encuentro también se estableció que en una próxima reunión tendrán que evaluarse las declaraciones emitidas la mañana de ayer por su vocea Nancy Cárdenas, quien dijo que los 34 legisladores del sol azteca reconocerían al presidente panista después del primero de diciembre.

Con todo y ello, algunos de los representante populares, sobre todo los que pertenecen a la corriente Izquierda Democrática Nacional, pidieron la remoción de Nancy Cárdenas como la vocera del grupo, pues su actuar tuvo "graves consecuencias políticas" para todos

De hecho, como primera acción, la mayoría de los diputados del PRD desplegaron en sus curules una cartulina en la que se precisa: "no al presidente espurio"

The Assembly members of the PRD ( Party of the Democratic Revolution: Mexico) said today that they would not recognize president elect Calderón.
At their meeting, 34 deputies of the parliament from the DF (Federal district) decided to develop an intense campaign to not recognize Felipe Calderon Hinojasa as the legitimate President of Mexico. They joined with the decision of the Democratic National Convention.

(Translated from La Jornada)

President elect Felipe Calderón ( not recognized) traveling in Chile was warmly greeted by Chilean President Michele Bachelet (Socialist Party). Oct. 5, 2006.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mexican Left

The Balance Might be Changed

Some have talked about what's happening in Mexico in
terms of "dual power." Leon Trotsky used that term in
his History of the Russian Revolution to describe what
happens when a rising social class creates new and
alternative institutions of social power. So far we
have not seen that happen in Mexico where a real power,
the Mexican state, confronts Lopez Obrador and the CND,
an important political and social movement, but not a
movement that has been built upon or yet given rise to
alternative institutions of governance that represent a
second power. Nor is it clear that Lopez Obrador has
the will or the capacity to create them. What he has
created is a mass movement on the left with a radical
rhetoric, a movement made up of people who yearn for a
new society of democracy and social justice. While his
rhetoric promises revolution, his actions suggest a
militant struggle for reform, which is not therefore to
be discounted. Within that struggle for reform, genuine
revolutionary voices and forces may develop.

All of that having been said, social movements,
especially if they begin to have some success can grow
rapidly, and unfolding events can force them to change
their character. The balance of forces can shift
rapidly and radically under the right circumstances.
The power of mass movements has played a significant
role in the change of governments in Latin America in
the last decade. So, while Lopez Obrador and the PRD
may not yet have sufficient strength, a mistake by the
government could suddenly give a lift to the opposition


11, No. 9

About Mexican Labor News and Analysis

Mexican Labor News and Analysis (MLNA) is produced in
collaboration with the Authentic Labor Front (Frente
Autentico del Trabajo FAT) of Mexico and the United
Electrical Workers (UE) of the United States, and with
the support of the Resource Center of the Americas in
Minneapolis, Minnesota. MLNA can be viewed at the UE's
international web site: