Category Archives: Socialist Parties

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Capitalism and Seattle’s homeless crisis, revisited

From Liberation News, the official news website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, April 6th, 2016:

By Doug Vitaly

Since our last article published about  month ago on the crisis of homelessness in Seattle, conditions for homeless people in this city have only worsened. Homelessness and the dearth of affordable housing have continued to skyrocket with no relief in sight. As of the One Night Count in 2016, there are 4,505 homeless people living without shelter in Seattle and the city has done nearly nothing to take responsibility for this disaster in a city teeming with tech money and luxurious loft apartments. As of November 2015, the conditions had become so bad that the mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, declared the homeless epidemic a state of emergency but this has proven to be little more than a ruse to pass the baton of responsibility to the federal government.

On November 2, 2015, the city of Seattle outlined a $5.3 million plan to address the issue while King County outlined instead a $2 million plan. This money is ostensibly going to be added to Seattle’s already staggeringly high annual spending of $40 million dollars to address this issue.

So, with over $40 million being spent, where is it going? What is it being spent on? It couldn’t possibly be being spent on building safe and reliable housing for the homeless and impoverished in the city because the few shelters that exist are filled, the transitional housing programs are full, and there are still thousands of people sleeping outside.

Just in March of this year, a non-profit called SHARE/WHEEL, which are two wings of one organization, stated that they would be closing 15 overnight shelters due to funding shortages and debt, which is due to the complexity of Seattle’s funding of overnight and tent encampment shelters. The closures left 300 people with no safe refuge to sleep as of March 31. Furthermore, when people are made homeless by the city of Seattle, whether due to rent control being illegal in the state or because of the city’s misappropriation of funds to shelters, they ultimately end up becoming the targets of those who serve and protect the wealthiest citizens.

Since Ed Murray has become the mayor of Seattle, he has authorized more police attacks on homeless people who are simply seeking safety and security than any other mayor in the history of Seattle. This totals 527 individual events where police were encouraged to confiscate, harass, and usually destroy homeless people’s tents by breaking poles or slashing the tarps.  Liberation spoke to a woman who described a situation in which she was only trying to sleep under an overpass and she was kicked awake by Seattle police who yelled at her and told her to move somewhere else.

But where was she to go? Where are the other thousands of homeless people in Seattle to go? This has become so common in this city that one representative from the city of Seattle stated that as soon as one homeless tent encampment is “swept,” another one pops up. Clearly what this means is that all police sweeps do is force-migrate the homeless in Seattle in a never-ending game of cat and mouse to make their lives more hellish. Meanwhile, the system refuses to seek real sustainable solutions like affordable housing and legalizing rent control.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Transportation has declared it is willing to spend $1 million on a prison-style three-tiered wire fence to keep homeless people from tenting in The Jungle, an area under the Interstate in South Seattle where some 400 houseless people try to survive. Simultaneously, WSDOT has stated that none of that money will be allocated to feed, shelter or offer services to the homeless. The agency has stated it will depend on the city of Seattle to do this, which in turn is depending on the federal government to take responsibility.

What the federal government, the city and its departments demonstrate is that they do not have the interests of the working class in mind in any way. Seattle, a so-called progressive city filled with technology giants and task forces for lofty causes, is a city of the rich for the rich. Conditions for the homeless in Seattle are mirrored in cities across the U.S. Working-class people, our friends, families, and loved ones are at risk. Whether it is the threat of eviction due to astronomically high rent or the gun of the police officer once we are forced from our homes and onto the streets, we are just one or two paychecks away from these situations. The capitalist system and its government have proven unable and unwilling to address this crisis. We must end the inequalities manufactured by capitalist society and build a society based on meeting people’s needs.

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Hillary Clinton a die-hard enemy of the poor

The following was published on the official news website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Liberation News, on April 4th, 2016:

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Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Liberation Newspaper.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president revolves around two fundamental messages—she is a tireless “fighter for the middle class” and has the experience necessary to lead the country in a dangerous world. Clinton does indeed have a long record in government, and it is one of unrelenting hostility to workers and the poor.

The Clinton machine was born in Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was elected governor in 1978 and Hillary Clinton became the state’s first lady. She took an active role in politics, and served as the head of the state’s education taskforce that in 1983 pushed one of the first pro-corporate “reform” agendas that has developed into a full-fledged privatization drive today. The Hillary-led commission’s work led to the implementation of standardized testing and anti-union teacher evaluations.

In addition to first lady of Arkansas, among Clinton’s first high-profile positions was a spot on Wal-Mart’s board of directors from 1986 to 1992. The company, one of the largest in the world, is notorious for its low wages, discriminatory hiring and promotion practices, and fanatical opposition to union organizing.

While she pushed the company to hire women as top-level executives, a hollow approach to equality that leaves behind the overwhelming majority of poor and working women, she never spoke out on workers’ rights. John E. Tate, Clinton’s colleague on the Wal-Mart board for four years, has gone on record recalling that “She was not an outspoken person on labor…”

The Clintons were the leaders of the ascendant right wing of the Democratic Party, who sought to distance themselves from the party’s New Deal/Great Society past and embraced the neo-liberal consensus that was being adopted by the ruling class on a global level. When they reached the White House, their attacks on the working class only intensified.

During his 1992 presidential run, Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it.” As he proceeded to do just that once in office, Hillary Clinton was a vocal supporter, campaigning to build public support for the “reform” with hateful and divisive rhetoric.

Her statements seethed with contempt for the poor. “I’ve advocated tying the welfare payment to certain behavior about being a good parent,” Clinton said in 1997, “You couldn’t get your welfare check if your child wasn’t immunized. You couldn’t get your welfare check if you didn’t participate in a parenting program. You couldn’t get your check if you didn’t show up for student-teacher conferences.”

She stuck by her anti-poor caricatures as a Senator, remarking in 2002 that those kicked off welfare when it was gutted by the Clinton administration were now, “no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive.”

These attacks on social services led to deep suffering on the part of the most oppressed sectors of the working class. Working class women, especially mothers, were most severely affected as programs virtually disappeared and funding was slashed.

Facing a surging opponent to her left in Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rhetoric has shifted vastly over the last several months. Still, she cannot bring herself to even give lip service to one of the most important demands being raised by working people across the country: a $15 an hour minimum wage.

While she has supported $15 in some local circumstances, Clinton’s official position remains to ask workers to settle for less—$12 an hour. Far from a progressive champion, she lags behind the people’s movements and urges them to moderate their demands.

More and more people are seeing through Clinton’s false narrative every day, and looking to a whole new system—socialism. Through the growing movement against poverty and inequality, poor and working people can not only win back their lost rights, but seize power from the billionaire class.

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Clinton: Imperialist, not feminist

The following was published at Liberation News, the official newspaper website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, on April 4th, 2016:

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Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Liberation Newspaper. 

The Clinton campaign always points to her years of “foreign policy experience” as proof of her presidential qualifications. But what was that “experience” really? Was she a progressive defender of democracy who sometimes had to make “hard choices,” as she claims?

The people of the Middle East, Haiti, Honduras, and many other countries know better, having been on the other side of Clinton’s “experience.”

In reality, as Secretary of State and U.S. Senator, Clinton served as a cutthroat operator for U.S. imperialist interests, becoming a favorite among military contractors, energy companies, war hawks and even neoconservative strategists from the Bush administration.

From Iraq to Libya to Syria, she was among the most influential voices pushing for war and aggression.

On the campaign trail, Clinton puts on various characters to try and connect with women in particular: from the tender grandmother to the fierce feminist. That is because the vast majority of women will not be able to relate to Clinton’s real record—decades of bombing innocent families, overthrowing sovereign governments, and backing brutal deaths squads—all of which have devastated women’s lives.

Clinton has hardly been alone in all this. She surrounded herself with a foreign policy establishment that is equally criminal. This includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said “we think the price is worth it” when asked on national television if the death of the 500,000 Iraqi children was an acceptable consequence for U.S. sanctions on Iraq.

Hillary’s war

Libya is now known widely as “Hillary’s war” because of her key role in pushing that intervention—in fact against a more reluctant President Obama and Defense Department. From being the most developed and wealthiest country in Africa, Libya now stands in ruins, completely devastated and divided by NATO bombing and civil war between competing militias.

When Libya’s nationalist head of state Muammar Gadaffi was gruesomely assassinated by U.S.-backed rebels, Clinton was recorded laughing about it. Now ISIS controls a wide swath of Libya’s territory.

Clinton attempted to justify the war against Libya on humanitarian terms. She argued there would be a slaughter of civilians in Libya, but even the Defense Intelligence Agency—the Pentagon’s version of the CIA—did not find evidence that there would be an impending genocide in Libya. Like in her vote for the invasion of Iraq, she ignored the facts when she saw what appeared to be an “easy” opportunity to take out a sovereign government.

Under Libya’s previous nationalist government, polygamy was banned and husbands were forbidden from restricting their wives’ mobility. After the NATO-backed “rebels” took over, the Libyan courts overturned these laws. A new law was passed stating that sexual violence against women is a “crime against a woman’s honor and family,” not the woman as an individual, which reflects a strict interpretation of religious law supported by the new rulers of Libya. Of course, the rule of ISIS and other arch-reactionary religious forces can only be understood as a complete catastrophe for women’s rights.

But the catastrophe for Libyans and the region was immediately deemed a success to be emulated by Clinton and her team. In Syria, she called for active support of the armed opposition, including extreme right-wing religious forces. This effort was closely coordinated with Saudi Arabia, a country where women have virtually no rights at all—but which has donated tremendously to the Clinton Foundation.

Thirteen years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is still in chaos. Clinton actively supported the war drive and voted for it. The occupation authority and its successors reversed gains in women’s employment and the right to education and health. Over 1 million people died.

Millions have become refugees from Iraq, Libya and Syria as the U.S. divide-and-conquer strategy shredded these states. As social order breaks down, women are targets to an even greater degree for sexual violence, rape, kidnappings and trafficking.

Some bourgeois and liberal feminist organizations are supporting Clinton and claim she is a feminist. In part, this reflects their limited view of feminism—focusing on formal, legal equality between men and women without addressing the system that creates inequality—capitalism.

But the truth is that Clinton is not a feminist of any type. Her lukewarm support of some women’s right causes is just a fig leaf to cover her real program in the service of the country’s ruling elite.

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Capitalist injustice: Coal baron gets wrist slap for killing 29 miners

The following was published on Liberation News, the official newspaper website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, on April 9th, 2016:

By John McDevitt

Capitalist injustice: Coal baron gets wrist slap for killing 29 miners

On April 4, Don Blankenship, the ex-CEO of Massey Energy Company was sentenced to one year in his role in safety violations that killed 29 miners in the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia.

Although Blankenship’s intent to not follow safety laws led to the horrifying deaths of 29 miners, that’s not what he was convicted for last December and sentenced for this month. Instead, the state that manages the affairs of the ruling class merely handed out a slap on the wrist, convicting him of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws. For those unfamiliar with the few laws that serve to keep ruling class circles in line—that’s a misdemeanor charge with a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison.

Compare that to the charges handed out for crimes committed on any street corner in the U.S. in working class or oppressed neighborhoods. Not to mention Blankenship’s crime resulted in the deadliest mine disaster in 40 years.

The court stuck him with a $250,000 fine; however, he was acquitted of two counts of making false statements—charges that would have added 30 more years to his sentence. Remember, Blankenship left Massey Energy with an $86 million retirement package and $10.6 million salary—so this fine is like a parking ticket to him. How could he enjoy such a juicy package from a prison cell?

In addition to the maximum sentence for this misdemeanor, Blankenship was scolded in court. Imagine that. Judge Irene Mistich cut him off from speaking, saying to the capitalist: “You should be someone that we are able to tout as a West Virginia success story.”

The 29 families of those killed in the mine were not allowed to say a word in the court room.

Outside the courtroom in Charleston, WV, Tommy Davis, who lost his brother, son and nephew in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster said “They need harsher penalties for people like that who put greed and money over human life.”

“It should have been a felony,” said Gary Quarles, whose son was among those who died.

Rags to riches storyline unravels

“It’s important to me that everyone knows that I am not guilty of a crime,” exulted Blankenship in the courtroom.

Under capitalism, business decisions that make money, but result in workers’ deaths are, in fact, not a crime. But it points to the larger issue of a “justice” system where profit reigns.

The ruling class touted Blankenship’s local working-class background to promote their narrative of hard work leading one to be the boss of one’s peers someday. The story doesn’t end as they expected.

The tears shed by Blankenship and other ruling class figures are not for the miners who died in the explosion, but for the unraveling of the “false rags to riches” story that about how Blankenship came from the same trailers that line the highways of West Virginia and Kentucky where miners live to make super profits for companies like Massey Energy Company.

In the drive for profit, it doesn’t matter what a capitalist’s parents did to make ends meet—it matters what they do for their shareholders now.

Blankenship worked to break the back of the United Mine Workers Union (UMWU) contracting work to non-union subsidiaries he created to avoid paying pensions or providing for workers’ compensation for one of the most dangerous jobs.

When the UMWU began to picket these unfair labor practices, Blankenship didn’t stand with his school yard buddies, but instead went to Mingo County Judge Spike Maynard who issued an injunction against the union, restricting picketing and fining the collective bargaining unit $200,000—a fine similar to  that which Blankenship is now paying for killing 29 people. Apparently, picketing for workers safety is akin to killing 29 people in the capitalist legal system.

Books, movies and long speeches could begin to scratch the surface of this one capitalist that funded the right wing, promoted the climate change denial, crushed union workers and committed homicide. However, to really win justice for all those who have died in the long history of miners’ struggles against the bosses, the focus must not be on counting up the crimes of the capitalists, but replacing them with a new system in the interest of the people.

Socialist Workers Party Says It is ‘Working-Class Alternative to Brutality of Capitalism’; Will Begin Petitioning in New Jersey Later This Month

Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy speaks at NY forum March 25. From left, Norton Sandler, chair, and Osborne Hart, SWP candidate for vice president.

Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy speaks at NY forum March 25. From left, Norton Sandler, chair, and Osborne Hart, SWP candidate for vice president.

From Arlene Rubinstein at The Militant (via Jeremy Siple at IPR)

“The Socialist Workers Party is running against capitalism and its brutal consequences for working people the world over. The Socialist Workers Party campaign is presenting a working-class alternative to everything that capitalism and its candidates, from Trump to Cruz to Kasich to Sanders to Clinton, stand for,” said Alyson Kennedy, the party’s candidate for U.S. president in the 2016 elections at a public forum here March 25. At the center of the party’s campaign is joining struggles that advance the interests of the working class, including organizing unions, opposing police brutality and fighting government frame-ups, she said.

“Workers we meet ask, ‘What can we do?’ Join these fights, and join the SWP. Workers are always going to fight, but to take power we need a revolutionary party forged in struggle well ahead of time. The SWP has a history and continuity going back many decades,” said Kennedy.

The event, and a similar meeting the next evening in Philadelphia, kicked off the Socialist Workers Party 2016 campaign in the region. Both programs featured Kennedy and Osborne Hart, SWP candidate for vice president, along with state candidates.

Norton Sandler, SWP chairperson in New York, urged those present to help the efforts over the next two months to put the party’s ticket on the ballot in Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee and Washington state. The New Jersey petitioning drive will begin April 16. “These efforts are an important part of protecting the ability of working-class parties to participate in politics,” Sandler said.

Kennedy said she had planned to join a picket line at JFK airport for a one-day strike for $15 and a union March 23. But the action was called off by Service Employees International Union officials after the brutal terrorist bombings in Brussels. “The SWP is against calling off the class struggle in the name of fighting terrorism,” she said. “We need these actions. They help defend our political space.

“We start with the world, with the interests of working people worldwide. The bourgeois candidates start with ‘America,’” she added. “They don’t care about the lives of workers, whether it’s here or in Syria, where the U.S. government is collaborating with the governments of Russia and Iran to assure Washington’s continued domination and plunder in a part of the world the imperialist powers have carved up over and over again,” said Kennedy.

‘U.S. out of the Mideast!’

Although there has been some easing of bombings in recent weeks, the brutality of the war in Syria continues. “The Socialist Workers Party demands Washington get out of the Middle East now. It’s one more obstacle in the fight against the Bashar al-Assad regime, the greatest enemy of Syrian toilers today, and to the ability of working people in the region to put together the revolutionary working-class leadership they need,” said Kennedy.
She described the impact of the world capitalist crisis of trade and production on the lives of workers and farmers, including growing layoffs from the oil fields to railroads. “The capitalist class cannot make a high enough rate of profit from industrial production, so they invest in stocks, bonds, hedge funds. You can see these bubbles of speculation spiraling again, like in 2008,” said Kennedy.

The Socialist Workers Party candidates point to the need to fight for a federally funded jobs program to put millions back to work.

“Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders talk about unemployment, and some capitalist candidates even mention the working class,” she said. “But they will never point to working people fighting in our own interests as the answer. The SWP is explaining that our class can organize a revolutionary movement and make a socialist revolution, a road forward.”

SWP vice-presidential candidate Osborne Hart spoke about why opposing the scapegoating of immigrants, including attacks on Muslims and their mosques, is a life-and-death question for the working class. “These are fellow workers, part of the fight for jobs, for unions, for dignity,” he said. “Unless we approach every worker that way, we can’t build a movement to overturn capitalism.”

“Workers need to build a labor party, based on the unions, that organizes independently of all the capitalist parties,” Hart said. “We need to act as a class, I don’t care what country you’re from, what language you speak, what religion you practice.”

“As the crisis of the capitalist system deepens, there is more pressure on women. The right to control their own bodies is fundamental to women’s equality,” said Hart, who took part in a March 2 rally in Washington, D.C., to defend women’s right to choose abortion.

‘Return Guantánamo, end embargo’

Jacob Perasso, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate, joined Kennedy and Hart on the platform in New York. Perasso is a freight rail conductor for the CSX railroad and a member of United Transportation Union Local 1447, on leave from his job for the campaign.
“The SWP calls on working people to demand that the U.S. government return Guantánamo to Cuba,” said Perasso, “and end the embargo, which is still enforced against the Cuban people. U.S. imperialism has changed its tactics, not its objective to overthrow the Cuban Revolution.

“The main thing Barack Obama tried to do in Cuba was ramp up pressure on the Cuban government and push capitalist dog-eat-dog values,” he continued. “The Cuban Revolution has proletarian values, exemplified by the Cuban Five. In Cuba, as Ramón Labañino explains in the new book The Cuban Five Talk About Their Lives Within the US Working Class, it’s normal for people to help one another, to cooperate. The SWP points to the need to emulate that revolution as a precondition to building a society based on those values here. SWP campaign supporters will get this book out broadly, to explain what we stand for.” (See book specials on page 3.)

‘You explain what we can do’

John Staggs, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, chaired the March 26 program in Philadelphia, which also celebrated the opening of an attractive new campaign headquarters.
“Pennsylvania has the distinction of being one of the top states for deaths due to drug overdoses,” said Staggs. “The SWP campaign is speaking out about the abysmal failure of the capitalist system to provide health care and jobs for millions.”

“The other candidates are not for the working class,” Cecelie Brown, a Walmart worker who attended the meeting, told Kennedy. “You’re explaining what we can do. I like that.” Brown met Hart at a protest for $15 and a union last year on April 15. SWP candidates will be joining similar protests being organized in many cities April 14.

Carmen Guerrero, who is active in opposing attacks on immigrant workers in Philadelphia, brought greetings. Delphine Matthews, whose son, Frank McQueen, was killed by police in June 2014, stopped by after a day of leafleting for People Against Injustice, an anti-police brutality group.

Jim Moran, chair of the Joseph Dougherty Legal Defense Fund, also spoke. Dougherty, 74, who was business manager of Ironworkers Local 401, was sentenced last year to 19 years in prison on frame-up charges of racketeering, conspiracy, arson and extortion.

“A 10-person SWAT team appeared on his lawn in full battle array. Joe told me all that they had to do is pick up the phone. The case against him doesn’t pass the smell test and workers shouldn’t put up with it,” Moran told the meeting.

Participants in the two meetings contributed $6,841 to the campaign.

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Workers World Party Presidential Ticket Supports Teachers Strike in Chicago

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