Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hurricanes and more hurricanes: what is the answer?

We all breathed a sigh of relief when Hurricane Gustav diminished in strength and breadth before it hit the Louisiana coast on Monday. More than 2 million people evacuated from the region, justifiably fearful of the consequences of remaining.

The expected massive flooding that could have rivaled that of Katrina didn’t occur. Still, nearly the entire power grid in the state went down. Many won’t have power back on until the end of the month, if then.

While the reported death toll in Louisiana is 18, there were undoubtedly more deaths caused by the prolonged loss of power, especially among those with chronic medical conditions. Officials of Entergy, the main power provider which has reaped huge profits by charging exorbitantl rates, should be held responsible for the complete collapse of the power system in the face of a Category 1 storm.

But if it is not one country or state that lies in the path of an oncoming cyclone, it is another. Just this season alone, more hurricanes are churning their way toward our continent. Hanna has just hit the eastern U.S. seaboard. Ike could reach Category 4 strength; this time the Turk and Caicos Islands, southern Florida, Cuba and perhaps the Gulf Coast are in its path.

With Gustav fortunately, the predictions of massive flooding and destruction for New Orleans and the Gulf coast region didn't come to fruition

In Haiti, the people of that already devastated country are suffering immensely. Upwards of 200 people died in the floods and mudslides caused by Gustav and Hanna, the consequence of a land completely denuded of vegetation. Tens of thousands of people are desperately hungry in the area of Gonaïves.

Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Río and its southern Isle of Youth were devastated, with at least 75% of the isle’s housing destroyed or seriously damaged. As Cuban leader Fidel Castro related in his reflections titled, “Nuclear bomb,” only two of 16 bakeries could continue to produce the essential bread products that the people depend so much on. Electricity is out. Resources are very limited that would allow for the rebuilding of thousands of homes and public buildings.

The question is: What can be done to minimize or avoid the effects of a hurricane, and the destruction that they bring? What can be done about the environment and global warming?

Our campaign was in New Orleans, Baton Rouge other parts of the state before Hurricane Gustav arrived. We were there, carrying out campaign work for the Party for Socialism and Liberation's election campaign and to join in solidarity with activities marking the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It became evident that we would have to stay during the hurricane, which gave us an opportunity to witness firsthand what the people have to go through when a hurricane comes.

We also spent two days helping with the efforts of Common Ground Relief’s founder Malik Rahim and other activists to load up their equipment and materials in the Algiers section of New Orleans, before evacuating on Sunday, August 31, a few hours before the dusk-to-dawn curfew went into effect. We rode out the storm in Baton Rouge. Like most other people in the region in the days and hours before the storm hit, we listened to the continual radio and TV reports on the approach of Gustav. -

When the predictions of a Category 4 strength for Gustav were still in effect, everyone around us in the Westbank of New Orleans was lamenting the impending loss of their homes and possessions. And just as with Katrina, the potential losses were not related solely to the hurricane's force.

Levees of the main Harvey Canal on the Westbank have still not been repaired, three years after Katrina. Verilin Purmeer, a New Orleans resident, showed us gaping breaks in that canal's levees and along the Mississippi River. Exasperated, she asked, "How are these levees supposed to sustain an 18-foot surge? What is taking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers so long to fix them?"

Long before the development of cities along the coasts of the United States, islands of the Caribbean, and parts of Latin America, natural barriers existed that helped to absorb the effects of oncoming storms. In the Mississippi River's mouth and delta, for example, extensive wetlands used to extend far out beyond the firmer land. Now they are almost eliminated in the quest for profit. Those wetlands must be restored.

There are measures that can be undertaken immediately, better evacuation plans, environmental restoration, stronger construction, etc.

Even though natural phenomena like hurricanes and cyclones are unavoidable, it is capitalism which is the greatest obstacle to viable solutions for the people. In fact, capitalist production and the system of private property are the main cause of global warming and unnecessary suffering.

Cuba had to endure the strongest winds ever recorded during Hurricane Gustav, up to 212 miles an hour. It blew away thousands and thousands of homes and agriculture. But there was not one death in that fearsome storm. Everyone was evacuated in a massive, organized manner by the civil defense and government.

The Haitian people, whose heroic struggles and potential for revolutionary societal change have been repressed time and again by U.S. military coups and occupations, needlessly lost hundreds of their people in Gustav.

Capitalist super-exploitation of Haiti is what stripped the country of its forests and vegetation. Capitalism is what deprived the people of the possibility of an evacuation. Capitalism killed those hundreds of Haitians, not Gustav.

A revolution is what Haiti desperately needs. Socialism, where the wealth of society is owned in common and where the economic and social decisions are made to benefit all the people, is what Haiti needs.

Here, too, in the United States, we need socialism and a planned, environmentally-sustainable system.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What I saw from a hospital bed in Bolivia

Cuban doctors and nurses are legendary for the solidarity they exercise in many countries, giving free healthcare to people who otherwise would suffer needlessly or die.

Soon after I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, last week, I unexpectedly ended up as a patient of those famous Cuban doctors and nurses. It was an unforgettable experience and one that I will always appreciate.

I arrived on July 27 for an important international conference called 'Intellectuals and Artists in Defense of Peace and Sovereignty for Bolivia.' It was held to show support for the government of Evo Morales as the recall referendum of Aug. 10 was nearing. At the end of a two-day conference, our conference issued an important Peace Declaration for Bolivia, which also protested U.S. interference in the internal affairs of the country.

La Paz is about 12,000 feet high, an altitude that initially proved too much for me. The morning after our arrival I became seriously ill.

Our wonderful hosts from the Bolivian Vice-Ministry of Culture took me right away to a Cuban-run clinic across town, where I spent 24 hours. The doctor, Roberto Colombie and the nurse, Lizette, who attended to me were kind and solicitous. They immediately gave me intravenous feeding, anti-nausea medicine and pills for high blood pressure—a consequence of the altitude.

In my short stay there, I saw my fellow patients. They were mostly Indigenous and people who otherwise would never have had access to care. I shared a room with a 17-year-old boy from Cochabamba, who had broken his elbow in three places. He had been in the hospital almost a week and was being readied for surgery. His father, Josefino, stayed by his bedside the whole time, to feed him and help dress him. They could not afford medical care so the boy had suffered several days before he was flown to Cochabamba, thanks to the Cubans.

The Bolivian people, 65 percent Indigenous, have long suffered from the imperialist sacking of their country's natural resources, which has left little to nothing for the poorest of the population. With the presidency of Evo Morales and the masses in motion, there is hope for the first time. Bolivia's huge natural gas reserves have been nationalized, and many social and economic projects are underway.

As soon as Morales took office in January 2006, Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela joined in cooperative agreements. Cuba began to send medical workers and resources, teachers and literacy workers. In the short time since 2006, the Cuban doctors have—as of May 2008—carried out 13 million medical consultations in Bolivia, and saved the lives of 12,967 Bolivians.

The United States government—with its menacing Fourth Fleet—is working overtime to try to destroy the Bolivian process now underway, as well as to reverse the growing alliance of Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

For the sake of the millions who stand to benefit from this progressive alliance—such as the Indigenous teenager with whom I shared a hospital room—our solidarity with the people of Latin America is more important than ever.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ten years of unjust imprisonment

On June 4, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld the convictions of the Cuban Five, the five men who were working to stop Miami-based terrorists from attacking Cuba and Cuba-related targets.

In reaction to the decision, organizations around the world and across the country mobilized to hold emergency actions on June 5 and 6. More protests are forthcoming.

The FBI arrested the Five—Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González, and René González—almost 10 years ago, on Sept. 12, 1998. They were unjustly charged with espionage crimes, although they were never engaged in espionage conspiracy nor intended to. Their target was not the U.S. government, but rather the terrorist organizations in Miami.

After a trial in Miami—the one city guaranteed to return a conviction—regardless of the evidence or charges—against any defendant who is in support of Cuba, the Five were convicted on all 26 federal counts and given four life sentences and 77 years collectively.

Although the recent Atlanta court decision remanded Antonio's and Ramón's life sentences and Fernando's 19-year term back for re-sentencing to the trial judge, Gerardo's double life sentences remain, and the convictions are still in place. The defense team, which includes civil rights attorney Leonard Weinglass, will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if needed.

Having come here to oppose terrorism, having never possessed or used weapons, having never committed any act of violence, having risked their lives to save others' lives, the Five do not belong in prison.

But this case has never been about legalities or crime. It is about the 50 years of aggression against Cuba, which includes the use of terrorism against the people of Cuba. The bombings, assassinations, biological warfare and other tactics employed by Cuban-American terrorist organizations centered in Miami have killed 3,478 Cubans collectively.

On the very same day as the Atlanta court's decision against the Five, an entirely different process was taking place in New Orleans. The notorious terrorist Luis Posada Carriles was on the docket, and the justice system treated him with "kid gloves."

Although Posada has yet to be tried for the 1976 murder of 73 people who died in a Cuban airliner bombing that he masterminded, although Posada boasted of being responsible for a wave of deadly bombings in Cuban hotels in 1997, although he sneaked into the United States illegally in 2005, Posada now walks the streets of Miami as a free man. He understands so well that he is being given special treatment by the U.S. government that he has the audacity to exhibit his paintings in a Miami gallery.

He obviously has no worries that he might be extradited to Venezuela, where he planned the  1976 plane bombing. In early May, he appeared at a Miami fundraising dinner in his honor, and made a call to "sharpen our  machetes for the difficult days ahead."

But the men who monitored the actions of terrorists like Posada, in order to stop their reign of terror, are in U.S. prisons.

As the Cuban Five's 10th anniversary of imprisonment approaches, please learn about their case at and help organize support for them in the months of September and October, to demand their immediate release.

Extradite Posada, Free the Five!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Breaking down Obama's speech to AIPAC

The following are some excerpts from the speech of Barack Obama to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington DC, June 4, 2008, with comments . If anything Hillary Clinton's speech that followed was even more aggressive and over-the-top in its pandering, but it is Obama of course who is the Democratic nominee.

"It was just a few years after the liberation of the [Nazi concentration] camps that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security."
Ben-Gurion simply "declared" the state of Israel, and it appeared!! No mention here – or anywhere in the entire speech –of the dispossession of the Palestinians. Nor any mention of the role of imperialism and colonialism in the creation of the state of Israel.

"Flying in an [Israeli Defense Forces] helicopter, I saw a narrow and beautiful strip of land nestled against the Mediterranean. On the ground, I met a family who saw their house destroyed by a Katyusha rocket. I spoke to Israeli troops who faced daily threats as they maintained security near the blue line [sic].
No mention of Palestinian casualties in number of deaths have been something like 100 times those on the Israeli side, not counting the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have been jailed, tortured, had their villages, homes,, olive groves demolished, etc.
"I have been proud to be a part of a strong, bipartisan consensus that has stood by Israel in the face of all threats. That is a commitment that both John McCain and I share, because support for Israel in this country goes beyond party."
Absolutely right; until Bush, the Democrats were considered the bigger supporters of Israel. But now they're about the same. This "support" is based neither on sympathy for Jewish people nor the supposed control of U.S. foreign policy by a pro-Israel lobby, but is instead due to the vital role Israel plays in the U.S. empire.
"Hamas now controls Gaza. Hezbollah has tightened its grip on southern Lebanon, and is flexing its muscles in Beirut. Because of the war in Iraq, Iran — which always posed a greater threat to Israel than Iraq — is emboldened and poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States and Israel in the Middle East in a generation."
Apparently Obama thinks the U.S. went to war against the wrong member of Bush's so-called "Axis of Evil.'
"Iraq is unstable, and al-Qaida has stepped up its recruitment. Israel's quest for peace (sic) with its neighbors has stalled, despite the heavy burdens borne by the Israeli people."
Again, only the Israelis have borne the "heavy burdens."
"And America is more isolated in the region, reducing our strength and jeopardizing Israel's safety. The question is how to move forward. There are those who would continue and intensify this failed status quo, ignoring eight years of accumulated evidence that our foreign policy is dangerously flawed."
This section could have been called "Making the Empire Stronger."

"And then there are those who would lay all of the problems of the Middle East at the doorstep of Israel and its supporters, as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region."
Here Obama is being truly disingenuous. Knowing full well, as he does, that the dispossession of the Palestinians is a major "root" cause of the conflict in the region, he dodges by inserting the word "all." The vast petroleum reserves and the region's strategic location are of course other root causes.

"These voices blame the Middle East's only democracy for the region's extremism. They offer the false promise that abandoning a stalwart ally is somehow the path to strength. It is not, it never has been, and it never will be . . . "Our alliance is based on shared interests and shared values. Those who threaten Israel threaten us."
This is true only if the word "us" it taken to mean U.S. imperialism. Israel is an extension of U.S. power and instrument of U.S. domination in the region.

"That starts with ensuring Israel's qualitative military advantage."
No other state in the region comes close to Israel's military power, thanks to the hundreds of billions in military assistance and advanced weaponry given over the past four decades.
"I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat — from Gaza to Tehran. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened . . . "As president, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade — investments to Israel's security that will not be tied to any other nation."
Has Obama put dollar figures on any other programs he says he will implement, like job training, healthcare, affordable housing, etc., etc?

"First, we must approve the foreign aid request for 2009. Going forward, we can enhance our cooperation on missile defense. We should export military equipment to our ally Israel under the same guidelines as NATO. And I will always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself in the United Nations and around the world . . . .As president, I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security."
Note: "to help Israel achieve the goal of two states"—an interesting way of framing a supposed "negotiating process."

"The long road to peace requires Palestinian partners committed to making the journey. We must isolate Hamas unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements. There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations. That is why I opposed holding elections in 2006 with Hamas on the ballot."
Very democratic outlook – no elections should be held if the "wrong" party might win.
"The Palestinian people must understand that progress will not come through the false prophets of extremism or the corrupt use of foreign aid."
Reflecting the sharp rise in extreme anti-Arab racism among the Israeli public, the leader of one of the more influential Israeli parties, Avigdor Lieberman –until recently a deputy prime minister – openly calls for the expulsion of the entire Palestinian population. But that apparently doesn't qualify as "extremism" for candidate Obama, who once upon a time expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

"Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
This line caused an angry response from even most U.S.-dependent figures in the Palestinian Authority and throughout the Arab world.. Today, Obama has gone even further in this position in an interview with CNN.

"The threats to Israel start close to home, but they don't end there. Syria continues its support for terror and meddling in Lebanon. And Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which is why Israeli action was justified to end that threat."
This is a reference to Israel's unprovoked and illegal bombing of a facility in Syria several months ago.

"There is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in our commitment to Israel's security. So while I don't want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my positions.

"The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

"But just as we are cleareyed about the threat, we must be clear about the failure of today's policy. We knew, in 2002, that Iran supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it and instead invaded and occupied Iraq . . . Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now enriching uranium and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they cannot be denied, and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United States and Israel less secure."

The last three paragraphs emphasize the theme that Iraq was the wrong war in the Middle East.

"Sen. McCain offers a false choice: stay the course in Iraq, or cede the region to Iran. I reject this logic because there is a better way. Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran — it is precisely what has strengthened it. It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in. We will finally pressure Iraq's leaders to take meaningful responsibility for their own future."
A "responsible, phased redeployment," "we will get out as carefully as we careless getting in," – are clear statements that an Obama administration has no intention of really leaving Iraq. In hiss CNN interview today, June 6, with Candy Crowley, Obama affirms that he intends U.S. troops to stay in Iraq for a long time to come. Here, too, the colonialist language common to leading Democrats and Republicans about pressuring Iraqi "leaders to take "meaningful responsibility for their own future."

"We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
What the transcript leaves out here is that Obama repeated the last sentence twice, followed by a one word sentence, "Everything," after which he paused and looked around for emphasis and as if to say, "get it?" Obama also called for tightening economic sanctions, which had such deadly effects on Iraq from 1990-2003, on Iran.

Final note: Obama's speech should not be seen as simply pandering to the pro-Israeli faction in the U.S. It was a major foreign policy speech, affirming that while he has serious tactical differences with Bush and the Neocons in regard to the Middle East (due primarily to their failures), he fully and unreservedly shares the strategic objective of long-term U.S. domination in the vitally important region.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bolivian right-wing holds vote on regional autonomy

A grave political crisis is looming as a secessionist referendum takes place in Bolivia.

The separatist movement is headed by ultra-right forces, which organized the illegal and unconstitutional vote in the eastern department (state) of Santa Cruz, to declare its autonomy. Beni, Pando and Tarija—also departments in the eastern region known as the "Media Luna" (half moon)—will hold similar referenda in coming weeks.

The goal of the referendum is two-fold. First, it seeks to put political and economic control of the country’s considerable oil and natural gas wealth in the hands of the separatist elements within the Bolivian bourgeoisie. Secondly, it seeks the overthrow of the government of Evo Morales, which has emphasized the empowerment of the historically oppressed, majority Indigenous population and has pursued the nationalization of the country’s resources.

In a May 1 statement, Fidel Castro warned that right-wing elements in the Bolivian military might be planning an outright overthrow of Morales.

The Organization of American States held two emergency meetings, at which Bolivia’s foreign minister David Choquehuanca denounced the Media Luna governors for illegally dividing the country. Since Bolivia achieved independence from Spain in 1825, it has seen more than 200 coup d’états—half of all the coups in Latin American history.

At an urgent meeting of "In Defense of Humanity" network held on April 12 and 13 in Venezuela, prominent anti-imperialist intellectuals and artists from Latin America and the United States discussed a plan of action to defend the Bolivian government against the impending referendum.

The meeting produced a statement of solidarity denouncing the right-wing secessionist efforts. Its text follows below:

"The Conspiracy to Divide Bolivia Must Be Denounced

"The process of changes in favor of the Bolivian majority is at risk of being brutally restrained. The rise to power of an Indigenous president with unprecedented support in that country and his programs of popular benefits and recovery of the natural resources have had to face the conspiracies of the oligarchy and United States interference from the very beginning.

"In recent days, the increase in conspiracy has reached its climax. The subversive and unconstitutional actions of the oligarchic groups to try to divide the Bolivian nation reflect the racist and elitist minds of these sectors and constitute a very dangerous precedent not only for the country’s integrity, but for other countries in our region.

"History shows with ample eloquence the terrible consequences that the divisionary and separatist processes supported and induced by foreign interests have had for humanity.

"Faced with this situation, the signers below would like to express their support for the government of Evo Morales Ayma, for his policies for change and for the sovereign constituent process of the Bolivian people. At the same time we reject the so-called Santa Cruz Autonomy Statute due to its unconstitutionality and the attempt against the unity of a nation of our America."

Hundreds of prominent individuals signed, including: former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; Nobel Prize recipients Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Rigoberta Menchú; Professor Noam Chomsky; authors Eduardo Galeano, Ignacio Ramonet and Howard Zinn; liberation theologian Frei Betto; Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez; ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) national coordinator Brian Becker; and Puerto Rican independence fighter Rafael Cancel Miranda.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Free Mumia Now!

Mumia Abu-Jamal, the people’s journalist, under threat of the death penalty for almost 27 years, remains in great danger. Yesterday, the 3rd Circuit court turned down his appeal, one based on substantial issues raised before the court. Instead, the three-judge panel in a 2 to 1 decision ruled that Mumia is only entitled to a hearing for re-sentencing to either life without parole or execution.

Mumia and all his supporters are fighting for no less than his complete freedom.

This means more than ever, that the political struggle, the mobilization of people across the United States and around the world, must be raised to a higher level.

If Mumia had received proper legal defense in his 1981 trial, if he had not been before the most notorious pro-death-penalty Judge Albert Sabo—who was heard by witnesses to say, “I’m going to help them fry the n___,”—Mumia could have been free.

Mumia should never have been arrested. In a super-racist climate like Philadelphia’s—with the lynch-mob mentality of the police force and the city’s firebombing of the Move organization and murder of 11 people—Mumia was unjustly arrested and convicted.

When a police officer is killed, the police always make someone pay by false conviction, by permanent imprisonment and more often, by the death penalty.

This is evidenced by the vengeful attitude of the government and the FBI, in relation to the death of two FBI agents who were killed on Pine Ridge Reservation on June 26, 1975. Native activists shot the agents in self-defense during an FBI raid on the reservation.

In the trial of Native activists that followed, three defendants were exonerated by jury trial in Rapid City, Iowa. The FBI decided that Leonard Peltier, who had escaped to Canada, would have to pay for the death of two FBI agents.

Leonard Peltier has paid for 32 years behind bars, 32 years of unjust imprisonment. We cannot stop demanding and supporting his fight for freedom until he is home with his loved ones.

In Mumia’s case, more evidence was recently discovered in which photographs taken at the scene of the crime prove the police mishandled and manipulated the evidence.

Yet, Mumia has been denied a new trial based mainly on procedural grounds that deadlines for appeals have expired. That is because the Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Law, signed by Clinton in 1996, severed restricted the rights of death-row inmates. The restrictions are so severe as to make it impossible to wage an effective appeal in the courts.

Imagine Mumia free. That must be our aim. The ongoing mobilizations and emergency protests in New York; San Francisco; San Jose; Seattle; Portland, OR; and Los Angeles are all important actions in the struggle to free Mumia. As a next step, Mumia’s attorney Robert Bryan will file an appeal to the full panel of the Third Circuit.

Free Mumia Now!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ralph Nader isn't responsible for George W. Bush

On Feb. 24, political activist and consumer-rights advocate Ralph Nader announced his bid for the presidency as an independent candidate. Nader has run for president three times previously, as an independent or Green party candidate 

The expected barbs began immediately, focused not so much on any of the issues Nader raised, but simply because he dares to run and challenge the monopoly hold of the two capitalist parties. 

As expected, Nader immediately drew criticism from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Clinton said, "I remember when he ran before. It didn't turn out very well for anybody -- especially our country." Both candidates are implying, directly or indirectly, that Nader's run helped George W. Bush win in 2000. 

True, the difference between Bush's and Gore's votes in Florida was less than the number of voters who cast their ballots for Nader. Bush beat Gore by 537 votes in Florida, while Nader won 97,421 votes. That year was Nader's biggest electoral success, when he received 2.9 million votes, or 2.75% of the national vote.  

Florida was considered a pivotal state between the Democrats and Republicans, in what became an extremely controversial election, because of the highly irregular manipulation of the recount and the exclusion of tens of thousands of African American voters. The reactionary U.S. Supreme Court intervened and ordered a halt to the recount.  

The myth that Nader cost the Democrats the 2000 election is convenient for the ruling class. Never mind the deep dissatisfaction with both major parties that led to a low turnout nationwide. Never mind that 250,000 registered Democrats in Florida voted for Bush in 2000. Never mind the irregularities at the polling stations in African American communities. Never mind the fact that all eight of the third parties on the Florida ballot that year received more than the 537-vote difference between Bush and Gore. The lesson we are supposed to absorb is that third parties have no place in the country's political lansdscape.   

Nader, like other alternative progressive candidates, has had to work state by state to even achieve ballot status. The obstacles are overwhelming for any party other than the Democrats and Republicans to run in the U.S. national or state elections. Nationwide, the Democrats increase this burden by dedicating a significant section of their staff to challenge progressive third parties that dare to achieve ballot status.

The Democrats claim to carry the mantle of the working class. It is true that a majority of working-class people are registered as Democrats, despite the fact that the party's leadership is thoroughly capitalist and has administered and legislated against the workers and poor, alongside the Republicans.  

The virtually unanimous votes in Congress of both big-business parties for the war budget in Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as the overall Pentagon budget — demonstrates that the Democrats are as devoted to the agenda of empire as are the Republicans. 

But the attitude of both parties toward alternative-party challengers is also proof of their role in the U.S. electoral system, which is a highly-developed vehicle to keep the capitalist class in power. 

When a party other than Democrats and Republicans runs in the elections, especially those that challenge the pro-corporate status quo, they are accused of "taking votes away" from Republican or Democratic candidates.  

This is curious logic, when you consider that the typical voter turn-out for general elections is 25 percent to 35 percent of the eligible voters (counting both registered and unregistered potential voters). The Republican and Democratic candidates never blame the non-voters—those they have failed to inspire— for the outcomes of their electoral battles.  

In the 2004 election, Democrats were so indistinguishable from the Republicans, that most people didn't even bother going to the polls. Across the country, it was a dead-heat as both tried to go further and further to the right. 

And Al Gore and the Democrats shut down a struggle in the Black community that was mobilizing to challenge the likely-stolen Florida vote, by conceding almost immediately to Bush. The African American community activists were organizing around the country, with the NAACP sending busloads of people from as far as California, to come to Florida and demand a recount. 

Although there are several other alternative parties running presidential campaigns, like our Party for Socialism and Liberation, Nader's name and reputation have given him massive national recognition.  

What the Democrats and Republicans fear is a challenge to their system. Imagine a real debate on national television: Nader criticizing the corporate control of Washington, or socialist candidates La Riva and Puryear calling for the $700 billion-dollars in annual military spending to instead be used for free healthcare, education and jobs. 

You can bet that millions, who long ago gave up voting as a futile exercise, would be inspired not only to vote, but to join the struggle to achieve real change. 

You have to imagine it, because neither Nader—nor any other progressive candidate—is allowed to appear on a national presidential debate with  the Democrats and Republicans. 

The closest any alternative candidate got to national exposure and recognition was Ross Perot, and he was allowed a place, because he was a billionaire who bought his way into the elections. 

This is the "democracy" that we are dealing with, where Hillary Clinton can raise $120 million before "Super Tuesday"—and an additional $35 million in February—and still be considered the underdog in the primaries because her competitor has raised more.  

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is using its campaign to challenge this system. Our members and supporters are busily petitioning in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Vermont and we will be working hard through the year to qualify on almost 20 states. We welcome you to work with us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Gloria La Riva answers the Democratic and Republican candidates on Fidel Castro's stepping down

Fidel with CheToday's statements by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain on Fidel Castro's stepping down are more of the same. Each candidate would continue the same policy of the last 11 U.S. administrations: a policy of blockade, aggression and counter-revolution. Each promises to lift the blockade and normalize relations only if the sovereign government of Cuba is overthrown.

Obama remarked that Fidel's announcement "should mark the end of a dark era in Cuba's history," and praised the pro-U.S. counterrevolutionaries in Cuban prisons as "heroes." Clinton pledged that as President she would do "everything possible" to overthrow Cuban socialism and "advance America's values and interests." In thinly veiled language, McCain wrote that the United States must seize upon Fidel's stepping down to "hasten the sparking of freedom in Cuba."

The capitalist candidates speak of bringing "democracy" and "freedom" to Cuba. But what they mean is the kind of "democracy" that the U.S. government has imposed on Iraq, which so far has killed more than two million Iraqis and destroyed the country. It is freedom for the corporations, banks and militarists to exploit and to rule.

In the name of democracy and freedom, recent U.S. administrations have passed laws to punish—not help—the Cuban people for daring to to build socialism and be independent of the United States.

The 1992 Torricelli law, signed by George H.W. Bush, is officially titled "The Cuban Democracy Act." The 1996 Helms-Burton law signed by Bill Clinton, is known as the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Law." George W. Bush's plan, inaugurated in 2004, is called "The Plan for Assistance to a Free Cuba" of 2003.

Each of these U.S. laws—whose expressed aim is to overthrow the Cuban revolution in the name of "democracy'—has deliberately targeted the Cuban people and created suffering for millions.

In a subtle recognition of majority U.S. public opinion—which opposes the U.S. blockade—Obama and Clinton claim that democratic changes and free elections in Cuba could be the basis of renewed relations with Cuba.

No one should be fooled by such rhetoric. For the Democrats and Republicans, acting on behalf of the corporations, banks and militarists, the only Cuban "democracy" they will accept is the kind that returns the island to capitalism, as a neocolony of the United States. But in a country that is struggling to overcome centuries of underdevelopment and colonialism, it is socialism that has provided the basic rights of free quality healthcare and education, and housing for all. Here in the United States, the richest country in all of history, such rights are only a dream.

Obama, Clinton and McCain call for free elections in Cuba. How can candidates who together will spend more than $1 billion in the presidential race demand "free" elections in Cuba? In Cuba, on all levels—municipal, provincial and national—the elections are truly free, and campaign spending by candidates is prohibited.

While members of the U.S. Congress give themselves large salaries and huge payoffs from lobbyists, elected officials in Cuba maintain their regular jobs, and serve without additional compensation for their responsibilities as legislators.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation stands in solidarity with the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people. Our candidates understand that the first real democratic act in Cuba was the overthrow of the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Despite the blockade, war and terrorist attacks promoted by the U.S. government, the Cuban people and leadership have struggled to build a socialist revolution, which they will continue to develop and defend.

Fidel Castro's statement is not a retirement from the struggle. It is an honest assessment of his physical limitations to hold government office.

Fidel Castro is admired and loved in Cuba and the world over. His legendary courage and profound belief—from the earliest days—in the heroism and capacity of the Cuban people to make history, is what now enables him to retire from his official posts with confidence.

Read his complete statement here:

Friday, February 8, 2008

Hillary’s $5 million donation to Hillary

The media has interpreted Hillary Clinton's $5 million donation of her own money to the Hillary for President campaign as a sign that her campaign has hit rough financial waters.

Maybe so, but I look at it another way. This is the best democracy money can buy. The multi-millionaires compete with each other to demonstrate their compassion when they want people's vote. After the election their real constituents are the biggest corporations and banks.

Unlike Clinton, I won't be able to pony up $5 million for my campaign.

I'm a worker and union leader whose union members are losing their jobs left and right. The workers I represent in the newspaper industry don't have $5 million to spare—much less $50—as the big media CEOs (the friends of Clinton, Obama and McCain) cut thousands of jobs to make obscene fortunes from our labor.

That's why the Party for Socialism and Liberation is petitioning now in rural Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, so the people can have a real choice in November. We expect to have ballot status in 17 to 20 states.

In Tuesday's California primary, I was the top-finishing socialist candidate on the Peace and Freedom Party, and I am campaigning strongly to win the PFP nomination in the convention this summer.

The twin parties for the rich don't have to struggle to get on the ballot.

Even with full access on all 50 states, the Democrats and Republicans will still be spending well over $1 billion in their campaigns. That's because the candidates of the capitalist parties view politics through the filter of the plutocrats. This election is all about millionaires' and billionaires' money determining the election outcome.

Whether it is Mitt Romney investing $35 million of his personal fortune, or Clinton dipping into her millions and Bill Clinton's post-presidential million-dollar booty, this election is about money and the real power behind that money.

Every one of the Democratic and Republican candidates fully intends to protect the profits of the capitalists if they are elected. It is interesting that the Democrats, both Obama and Clinton, are now the larger recipients of corporate donations than the Republicans. These donations assure the corporations that the next president, whoever it may be, will sit comfortably in their pockets and do their bidding.

The newspaper industry has been devastated by mass layoffs, outsourcing and media consolidation. From the San Francisco Chronicle to the Chicago Sun Times and San Jose Mercury News, many laid-off workers are about to run out of unemployment benefits, and this is true for millions more.

Yet today in the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans agreed not to extend unemployment benefits by 13 weeks as part of the bipartisan "economic rescue" package. Their
"rescue" is a pittance for workers, intended to boost spending for the benefit of big business. It provides no real solutions for millions of working and poor people who are in crisis.

Overall, in the coming year unemployment will rapidly grow. As millions of people lose their homes from foreclosures, hundreds of thousands of workers in construction will be laid off. That is fine for the banking and corporate plutocrats, their political representatives, and stock holdings. But it is a catastrophe for millions of working people.

This is the richest country in the world. The PSL is putting people's needs first. A job should be a legal right that cannot be taken away by any capitalist. The property rights of the capitalists are considered sacred—no one is legally entitled to take the property of the capitalist owners. We are demanding that a worker's job be vested with the same legal entitlement as any other property right. The PSL candidates are for enshrining a 'Job as a Legal Right' into the constitution of the United States.

If you can spend millions to win elected office you won't lose sleep over the unemployment crisis in the United States. The La Riva/Puryear campaign represents the interests of the tens of millions of workers who have no cushion, who are worried about their jobs and holding onto their homes, who are driven into bankruptcy by lack of healthcare.

Our campaign represents the forces in society looking for deep, profound and radical change. We aim for change not as an empty campaign slogan, but in the day-in and day-out struggle of working people who vote every four years but whose interests are never represented in the White House, Congress or the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The millions who couldn't vote on "Super Tuesday"

With yesterday's "Super Tuesday" primaries, it is important to remember that there are millions of people denied the most basic right to vote.

At least 10 percent of the country's population, more than 30 million, have no legal say in the elections. 

The electoral system in the United States is inherently undemocratic, with the political monopoly controlled by the Democrats and Republicans and the hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign donations that ensure a favorable outcome for the wealthy. Still, the civil right of enfranchisement—the right to vote—is out of reach for millions of oppressed people. When a politician from the capitalist parties is aware that you are not a voter, you are invisible. You and your concerns don't count.

Non-citizen immigrants, and many ex-prisoners, constitute the two main sectors of U.S. society who have no right to vote.


In seven states today, ex-prisoners are permanently barred from voting for life, including Mississippi and Florida. In six other states, an ex-prisoner has to be pardoned to regain the right to vote, a highly unlikely prospect. With racist prosecution and sentencing policies in the United States, a much higher percentage of African American and Latino people suffer greater rates of incarceration and disenfranchisement.

For example, in Florida, 38 percent of ex-felons are African American, even though Black people are only about 13% of the population.

In Kentucky, almost one of every 4 African Americans is ineligible to vote because of a previous prison sentence. States with permanent voting bars, which are mostly in the South, thus continue the legacy of mass incarceration after the end of slavery, when prisons replaced plantations and Black people were singled out for persecution and imprisonment.

More than 5 million people in the United States are classified ineligible because of ex-felon status.

It is not an accident nor oversight that the poorest, the most vulnerable and exploited would be deliberately denied. Poor and working people tend to favor more progressive political and economic policies.


My mother, who immigrated from Mexico and is a legal resident, has never been able to vote in 55 years. She worked many years in low-paying, traditional jobs like waitress and seamstress, and certainly contributed to the economy, but like the 30 million other immigrants, has no input in the process. Why is she not a citizen? Like many millions of Mexicans and other immigrants, she always wanted to keep a sentimental connection to her country of origin.

Despite laboring in the most difficult and low-paying jobs in the United States, over 12 million undocumented workers, and more than 17 million permanent legal residents are barred from registering to vote. Despite their enormous and disproportionate contribution to the economy, undocumented workers are increasingly subject to vicious political attacks by the capitalist candidates. The year 2008 will be remembered by the undocumented as one of immigrant-bashing, terrifying workplace raids and deportations.

Every Republican candidate is falling over himself trying to outdo the others with their blatant hatred of the undocumented.

Mike Huckabee, Arkansas ex-governor, shamelessly declares if he were elected president, he would deport all 12 million estimated undocumented workers within 120 days of his assuming office. Mitt Romney is mouthing the same racist threats on workers without papers. And even though John McCain last year was supportive of a nominal legalization process for undocumented workers, he has turned away from that position 180 degrees, to prove himself as the "conservative" candidate.

First, Huckabee and Romney know that it would be impossible to deport all the undocumented, as they have pledged. Second, they also know that the economy would collapse without the farmworkers' labor on which agribusiness depends completely.

The Democrats hardly do better. In the second-to-last television debate, Obama, Clinton and Edwards stated without reservation that each of their "universal healthcare" plans would not include healthcare for the undocumented. That doesn't sound "universal" to me. You can bet that if they have that much disregard for hardworking immigrant workers, they don't think much better of the working class, either.

Their biggest concern is ensuring the profits of the healthcare insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

What hypocrites they all are. The minute they open a bottle of wine from California, New York or any other state's vintners, they are consuming grapes picked by the undocumented. Their vegetables are planted, cultivated and picked by undocumented labor, their prime steaks prepared in packinghouses.

Hotel room maids, restaurant cooks, sweatshop seamstresses, gardeners; well, you get the picture.

The for-profit system

There is one basic, inescapable fact that neither Democrats nor the Republicans will admit or mention:

It is capitalism that has created the "global" economy, exporting tens of millions of jobs abroad to every continent, eliminating higher-paying jobs in the United States. It is U.S. capitalism that has broken down the trade barriers and tariffs of lesser-developed countries like Mexico, turning that country into a huge market for U.S.-produced goods and driving Mexican farmers from their fields and livelihoods.

It is U.S. capitalism that has pauperized the Mexican farmer and factory worker, forcing them to come to the United States, against their will and against their wishes. 

Almost 500 Mexican and other Latinos lose their lives in the desert every year, to seek work. A worker trying to earn a living to help his or her family is not a criminal. It is not a crime to want to work.

The real criminal is the politician who blames the undocumented for the economic problems of the country, and then says not a word about the $40 billion in PROFITS that Exxon made in the last three months of 2007, THE HIGHEST PROFIT OF ANY CORPORATION IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

None of the candidates dares complain about the sky-high profits of Exxon and the oil companies. They don't dare, because then they would be eliminated from the electoral race in the blink of an eye by the corporate media.

The same way that they can raise minor complaints about the war, but each one of them continues to vote "yes" for every multi-billion-dollar war appropriation sought by Bush.

It is so important for all working people to understand and point to the real cause of economic problems. They are not the fault of any workers, either here or abroad, citizen, resident or undocumented. They are the fault of a system, and the sooner working and poor people of all nationalities organize together to fight that system, the more successful we will be in securing our common rights and needs.

Let us not fall for the divide-and-conquer tactics of the rich. Let's demand equal rights for all workers, regardless of citizenship, full rights, including the right to vote. Let's demand an end to the disenfranchisement of ex-prisoners and immigrants.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Capitalism means environmental destruction -- fight for socialism!

Global warming, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, is leading to a climate crisis that threatens to kill off thousands of species, shrink coastlines, drown islands and cause widespread drought, famine and disease. Yet neither the Democrats nor the Republicans offer any real solution to this planetary crisis.

The Democrats call for emissions reductions, advocating market-based “cap and trade” programs, which involve selling emissions credits. Emissions credits systems allow polluters to buy the “right” to emit a certain amount of greenhouse gas. If the corporation does not use up the credit, it can sell the credit to another corporation, allowing them to emit more gases. Under the capitalist system, working people have no say in determining how much pollution is acceptable, even though climate change will, in the short term, disproportionately affect working-class people and poor countries.

The major candidates also explicitly or implicitly support the expansion of biofuels. These are fuels made out of biological sources, like corn, soy or palm oil. While these sources are all renewable, they also are food sources. Diverting food to fuel has resulted in rising food prices and other problems in countries throughout the world. In addition, the production and use of biofuels does not result in lower carbon emissions than the equivalent amount of fossil fuels.

Capitalism is the greatest threat to our environment. Capitalist corporations are allowed to continue polluting to cut costs and make more profit. As long as we live in a society where profits are prioritized over people’s needs, our planet will continue to be destroyed.

The La Riva/Puryear presidential campaign fights for the interests of working-class people. We demand immediate action to stop global warming. We call for mandatory emissions controls on big corporate polluters. Comprehensive public transportation programs must be created and fully funded to create jobs and take millions of cars off the road. There must be a rapid transition to using safe renewable energy sources. Energy conservation measures must be implemented now. Energy use in the United States could easily be reduced by 28 percent using low-cost measures and existing technologies to make buildings more energy efficient.

The La Riva/Puryear campaign believes that the only lasting solution for our environment is the socialist reorganization of society. Socialism is a system based on national and international, ecologically sustainable planning where the profit motive has been removed from the picture. Eliminating the tyranny of private corporate profit as the dominant feature controlling economic development opens the door to true working-class democracy. That is what we mean by “people over profits.” Rational social and economic planning, rather than production for the “market,” is the only method for the implementation of scientifically supported solutions to global warming.

Get involved in the campaign!Contact the Party for Socialism & • 202.543.4900 •

Statement on the Israeli siege of Gaza

The complete sealing-off of Gaza by the Israeli government is an act of collective punishment, a crime against humanity under international law. The Bush administration, which on occasion has hypocritically invoked international law to justify aggression against a targeted country, is fully backing the inhuman Israeli blockade. So too are the leading Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas of the world with 1.5 million people living in just 360 square kilometers. The impoverished population already was suffering from shortages of food, medicine, fuel and other basic goods before the tightened blockade stopped all shipments into or out of Gaza. Now, the people face the threat of starvation. The great majority of Gaza residents are from refugee families, driven out of other parts of Palestine when the state of Israel was created in 1948. Deprived of their land, more than 70 percent of Gaza’s population is dependent on international agencies for food.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the World Food Program—the two main relief agencies operating in Gaza—have stated that unless the blockade is lifted, fuel shortages will compel them to cease operations by the end of the week.

The Israeli government claims that it took action because of Palestinian rocket attacks. This is merely a pretext. On Dec. 23, 2007, Israel rejected Hamas’s call for a ceasefire. Since then, Israeli air and ground attacks have killed dozens of Palestinians and wounded hundreds more in Gaza, most of them civilians. In 2007, 373 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and the West Bank, compared to just 13 Israeli deaths.

The Israeli blockade is a blatant violation of international law. Article 33 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention reads, in part: "No protected person [civilian] may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

Collective punishment is a war crime. Imposing a blockade on the population in Gaza is undeniably a form of collective punishment. The U.S. government, which gives billions of dollars in military and economic aid to Israel every year, shares the guilt for this war crime.

On Jan. 23, in a courageous act of mass defiance, tens of thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza broke through the blockade at the Gaza-Egypt border and were able to obtain some supplies. The remainder of Gaza remains blockaded.

The La Riva/Puryear presidential campaign demands an immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade, an end to U.S. aid to Israel and self-determination for the Palestinian people. The candidates plan to join the emergency protests to "End the Israeli Siege of Gaza" being organized across the country on Jan. 25-26.

Vote PSL in 2008!

Unlike the corporate-funded candidates who say the war in Iraq will end “some day” in the distant future, Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear, running on the presidential ticket of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), have been building a movement of millions of people to demand U.S. out of Iraq NOW! They have helped organize the biggest demonstrations against the Iraq war in the last few years.

This is a rich man’s war. It is a war to dominate the oil-rich Middle East. Only the banks, corporations and oil monoplies benefit. It is the sons and daughters of the working class who are sent to kill and be killed. Those who started this war and continue to fund it should stand trial for crimes against the people.

Bush gets a pass every day from the two-faced Democrats in Congress even though he is responsible for sending hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to their graves with tens of thousands of U.S. GIs also killed or horribly maimed.

The politicians and corporate bosses have a message for working people: salute the flag, stop thinking, and send our loved ones to fight in imperialist wars. They proclaim we “are one nation” when they want to drag workers into the next war of aggression.

But these same capitalists and political opportunists will turn around and shut down factories, lay off tens of thousands of workers, and slash healthcare benefits and pensions if they believe it will add to the super-profits for the corporate elites and bankers.

In the last 20 years, unions have been attacked by the bosses, industries have shut down, and workers’ wages have plummeted. The cost of living has skyrocketed while wages and incomes have dropped. Landlords, banks and real-estate speculators have turned cities and towns into places where it is impossible to live, with rent and the cost of buying a house beyond the reach of more and more people.

What can change this situation? If we look back at the history of the United States, it is when the people, both workers and the poor, joined together to fight injustice and abuse, that real change has come about.

The bosses and politicians try to whip up racism as a way to keep the working class divided. This divide-and-conquer tactic has been used since the founding of this country. Slavery, the genocide against the original peoples of the Americas, brutal colonialism, and the super-exploitation of immigrant labor were the sources of wealth for the white racist capitalist ruling class in the United States.

The only way they could keep their power, their fortunes and incredible privilege is to get one set of workers fighting another. This is the historic function of racism as a key element in the growth of modern-day capitalism in the United States. The use of racism as a key divide-and-conquer strategy explains the virulent attack on immigrants and immigrant rights.

Although the civil rights movement ended legal apartheid in the United States, racism today is just as vicious as ever. The La Riva/Puryear campaign is part of a larger struggle to unite all workers against our real enemies.

The African American community and other people of color won rights through the great civil rights movement. Workers and the unemployed, who organized and struggled for the right to a union and for better wages and working conditions, won Social Security, unemployment benefits, and other social programs in the 1930s. Women and lesbian/gay/bi/transgender people achieved great gains through struggle.

But these changes can be rolled back as the bosses go on the offensive to increase profits and increase exploitation.

Every person in this country could have the right to free education, free health care, affordable housing, and a decent-paying job with full benefits.  But to realize these simple demands will require a true revolution.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is a working-class party organized by and for working people. We are socialists active in every struggle that affects working and poor people at home and abroad. We believe that an organized and militant people’s movement can achieve great changes—necessary changes—that improve the lives of working and oppressed people.

As socialists, we fight for a different kind of society. We fight for a society where people’s needs are no longer a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. We fight for a society where housing, health care, education and a job are a right. We fight for socialism.

The PSL is running candidates in 2008, Gloria La Riva for president and Eugene Puryear for vice president and local candidates in several states.

Get involved in a campaign that puts people first, not profits. Contact us to find out more.