Let’s Stop TPP in its Fast Track! TPP: Economic Embodiment of the U.S. Empire’s War at Home and Abroad
By Ray Light
“Barack Obama is well suited for the difficult task of presiding over an orderly march of the U.S. population to impoverishment in the desperate effort of the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class to save itself and its hegemonic position in the world capitalist system.”
(“The Tea Party Movement, the Obama Regime and the Growing Fascist Danger in the USA,” Ray O’Light Newsletter #59, March-April 2010)
Millions of “the 99%” of us have piously and stubbornly clung to the belief that U.S. President Barack Obama has really wanted to do some “good works” on behalf of us — the poor, the working class, the oppressed Afro-American, Latino and other nationalities and the middle class — that is, the overwhelming majority of the people within the U.S. multinational state. According to this belief, it is the monstrous, even demonic, white supremacist Republicans that have blocked the allegedly well-intentioned Democrat Obama at every turn. For this multitude, the scenario that is currently unfolding around the “Republicrat” efforts on behalf of the U.S. ruling class, the Wall Street capitalists, to have the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) ratified by Congress is a miracle that rivals the lions laying down with the lambs! This is especially true because the key link to TPP passage is the granting of Fast Track Authority (FTA) by the Republican-controlled Congress to their supposed “nemesis,” Democratic President Obama!
What we have witnessed over the past several weeks is the “unusually close cooperation” of the number #1 Republican Party political leader in the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with the number #1 Democratic Party leader, President Barack Obama. And this has occurred after a period when, for most of the six plus years of the Obama Presidency, the two parties have appeared to be at each other’s throats and have both acted that way.
At the same time, and on the same issue, President Obama has engaged in a war of words with Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, his supposed friend and ally. Senator Warren has declared her strong opposition to Congress granting Obama Fast Track Authority for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Passage of FTA by Congress would in effect tie its own hands, limiting Congress to a yes or no vote on TPP, with no right to alter or amend it. Granting Obama FTA would virtually guarantee in advance that TPP would pass Congress, after six years of top secret TPP negotiations. Furthermore, Obama deceitfully accused Warren of not knowing what she was talking about after he allowed her and other members of Congress to view the current TPP language while prohibiting them from taking notes or quoting from the draft language or having any of their staff members read the voluminous material or sharing the specific provisions with the public in any way.
What’s going on here?!
The Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA (ROL,USA) has had a very different approach to President Obama’s stewardship of the U.S. Empire from the very beginning. In Ray O’Light Newsletter #59, we entitled one section, “Obama and the Federal Government Preside over the U.S. Empire in Decline.” Its opening sentence was as follows: “Barack Obama is well suited for the difficult task of presiding over an orderly march of the U.S. population to impoverishment in the desperate effort of the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class to save itself and its hegemonic position in the world capitalist system.” We continued: “This march to impoverishment, however, is still only in its beginning stages. And the challenge to the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class and President Obama to lead the masses of working people and oppressed nationalities in the USA to poverty without us opting to revolt, without us turning to socialist revolution for the way out of our difficulties, will only get more difficult.” (March-April 2010)
-The Lions Lay Down with the Lambs-
The Democratic Party Regime of President Obama, in coordination with the Republican leadership in Congress — Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Congressman Paul Ryan, et al. — has undertaken its mass campaign of deception and lies to win Fast Track Authority (FTA) for President Obama on the path to the “legal” acceptance by the U.S. Congress of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). In the Senate, the initial major obstacle to Obama’s FTA and TPP was not Republican Majority leader Mitch McConnell but Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic Senator from Nevada! In fact, Reid tried to leverage the deep desire of both McConnell and Obama for Senate support for Fast Track and the TPP into concessions sought from the pro-Obama Republicans(!) by the minority Democrats in the Senate that they were unable to obtain when they had majority control of the Senate!
In addition to the Congressional Republican leadership, the “pro Obama” FTA campaign also has had the consistent and energetic support of the normally “pro- Republican” Wall Street Journal (WSJ). In the words of the WSJ’s May 6th editorial, “Reid Filibusters Obama,” Reid is holding out for “a pork-barrel transportation bill and limits on antiterrorist surveillance.” This editorial points out that Senator Reid was “the main reason trade-promotion authority didn’t pass in the last Congress despite bipartisan agreement in the Senate Finance Committee.” (My emphasis, ROL) This editorial also tacitly admits the anti-people character of the TPP itself, stating, “the closer a trade vote gets to the 2016 election year, the harder it will be to pass.” (!) In this anti-democratic context, WSJ editors support Obama’s role in pushing fast track in order to distance the TPP vote from the people’s popular will, limited as it is, to be expressed at the 2016 ballot box. The WSJ editors urged Democrat Obama “to persuade enough Democrats to end run Senator Reid,” the Senate’s top Democrat.
This Wall Street guidance to Obama turned out to be much needed. Beyond Reid’s opposition, as we discussed earlier, the most clear and outspoken Senator opposing the granting of Fast Track Authority for Obama and Wall Street in this period was Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. Senator Warren held her own and did not back off of Obama. And the Senate did initially refuse to consider FTA in a May 12th vote, with 45 for and 52 against, until Obama strong-armed enough Democratic Senators to begin the debate process two days later.
In their remarkably transparent lead editorial on May 18th, during the FTA debate in the Senate, the WSJ editors took on and openly argued with Republicans in Congress who were reluctant to give Obama fast track authority. The WSJ editors first threatened that “politicians who vote against trade agreements are opposing...high paying jobs.” Then, while admitting that Obama was delivering precious few Democratic votes for FTA and TPP, the editors stated that he, Obama, is nevertheless on the Republican side on trade. Furthermore, they argued, “The GOP image as a pro-
growth party would suffer a damaging blow if the trade vote fails. So would the
reputation of the U.S. around the world... . If a GOP Congress fails on trade, the
message will be that both major parties have lost the will to lead ... that America is
choosing decline.” They also argued that it’s better to give Obama, a presidential “short- timer,” fast-track authority since “the next President may be a Republican who needs FTA for his economic-growth strategy. Better to pass it now so he (sic) [the male
Republican President] wouldn’t have to spend scarce political capital to pass it in
2017.” (What an admission about the anti-people, anti-worker TPP! They’ll be able to
blame Obama for it!) As they had done with President Obama, The Wall Street Journal editors gave the Republican Senators clear marching orders.
On May 22nd, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate passed Fast Track Authority for President Obama! The vote was 62 in favor and 37 opposed, with sixty needed for passage. Forty-four Republican Senators, close to 90% of the Republicans, voted to give authority to their supposed “arch foe,” Democratic President Obama! Only 14 Democratic Senators voted in favor of giving their President fast track authority, less than one-third of the Democrats!*
Why is passage of TPP so important to the Wall Street ruling class that they are willing to reveal the real cooperation of their “Republicrat” puppets (i.e. the Democratic and Republican Party leaders — Obama, McConnell et al. — working in close collaboration) around the passage of Fast Track for TPP?
The Wall Street ruling class and its “Republicrat” political lackeys promote the TPP as a “trade alliance” to be initially made up of a dozen Pacific Rim countries. Jim Hightower, an outstanding progressive populist, however, has exposed the fact that the top-secret TPP “only uses trade as a mask.” 24 of 29 TPP chapters deal not with trade but “various ways to ‘free’ rapacious corporations from any accountability for the havoc they wreak and from any responsibility to the world community’s common good.”(Hightower Lowdown, January 2015) If it is passed by the USA and the other major powers involved, it will be the most anti-people, anti-worker, anti-99% agreement in modern times. It will represent the undiluted tyranny of U.S. monopoly corporations and Wall Street finance capital! In reality, TPP is the economic embodiment of the U.S. Empire’s War at Home and War Abroad.
*In fact, six of the fourteen Democrats came on board at the eleventh hour after getting assurances from Obama and McConnell of their support for an extension of the Export-Import Bank, so important to the giant Boeing Corporation and Boeing’s two Democratic Senators from Washington state. As the Boston Globe (5-22-15) reported: “Working with Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, whose state also has large Boeing factories, they brought with them four additional Democrats to clear the 60-vote hurdle”.
-TPP and the U.S. Empire’s War At Home and in the other TPP Countries-
In the countries whose governments affiliate with the pact, including the USA, TPP implementation will represent virtually absolute power for the largest corporations and banks over all the people in all these countries. TPP will give these monopoly corporations the right to sue, before a special TPP corporate tribunal, any TPP member government for lost profits or “future lost profits” caused by a sovereign law in that country. For example, a law that protects the citizens of a particular country from genetically modified foods or from unlabeled meat from an unknown country of origin or a law banning “fracking” as an especially hazardous method of harvesting natural gas would be subject to such a “legal” challenge. If the monopoly corporation prevails in the corporate tribunal, the citizens of that country would be compelled to pay out such outrageous claims to the monopoly corporations from their government coffers!
Moreover, if such a “lawsuit” prevailed in such a corporate-rigged secret tribunal, the winning private corporation could ultimately compel any “sovereign” government to eliminate such a pro-people law due to its negative impact on corporate profits. TPP would thus replace whatever limited national sovereignty currently still exists in each of the affiliated countries with global capitalist tyranny!
Also of fundamental importance is the impact of such TPP laws and regulations on the working class in each of the affiliated countries, including the USA. The whole tyrannical set-up will be aimed first and foremost at maximizing the exploitation of the workers. A special feature of this will be the race to the bottom in terms of driving the wages, working and safety conditions down to the most barbaric levels of any TPP affliliated country so as to maximize the profits of the Wall Street bankers and the monopoly capitalist corporations.
-TPP and the U.S. Empire’s War Abroad-
Beyond the ability of the U.S. Empire to more intensively exploit, oppress and dominate, i.e. to wage war on the working class and the people of the USA and the other countries that sign on to TPP, it is aimed at waging economic warfare against China in particular.
The twelve Pacific Rim countries whose corporate and banking leaders have been secretly meeting for more than six years represent 40% of the world’s production. They include, first and foremost, the USA, which dominates the group politically and militarily as well as economically. This fact of life means that, at least for now, the TPP will represent a U.S. economic bloc in line with U.S. military and political blocs.
Significantly, among the other eleven, Japan is
the major economic power.* The Asian contingent also includes Vietnam. The governments of Japan and Vietnam have demonstrated the most willingness to stand up to China’s territorial assertions in the Asia- Pacific region. Another key player both in the TPP and in taking a stand in opposition to China’s increasing military and political as well as economic clout has been Australia, whose government dramatically signed a major military basing agreement with the Obama Regime in one of its most significant moves to “pivot” U.S. global military strategy to Asia in the past few years.**
*And Caroline Kennedy, Obama’s ambassador to Japan, and the daughter of “sainted” slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy, has become a major saleswoman for the TPP in the USA.
**Key U.S. imperialist military strategist, Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr., recently observed: “In the U.S. military, at least, the ‘pivot’ to Asia has begun. By 2020, the navy and the air force plan to base 60% of their forces in the Asia-Pacific region ... clearly meant to check an increasingly assertive China ... Washington can best achieve this objective by establishing a series of linked defenses across the first island chain — an ‘Archipelagic Defense.’” (page 78) “Several countries, Japan and Vietnam, in particular, have already suggested that they are serious about fielding the kind of robust defenses that would be required for Archipelagic Defense [against China]. Other states beyond the first island chain, Thus, the TPP is an economic alliance that represents another important “pivot” to Asia by the U.S. Empire in conjunction with the military pivot Obama announced a few years ago to counter China. In this light it is no accident that the TPP has taken priority over an impending Trans Atlantic Pact and all other pending “trade” agreements.
The revealing May 18th Wall Street Journal editorial cited above warned the Republican Senators that, if Fast Track and TPP fail, “The big strategic winners... would be America’s adversaries, especially China, which is busy building economic alliances as a tool of its soft power. Chinese leaders are aiming to replace the U.S. as the dominant regional power in the Western Pacific, and a U.S. trade failure would speed that along.”
The current issue of the most influential U.S. ruling class journal, Foreign Affairs, contains no less than seven articles dealing with developments in China as it rises to challenge U.S. imperialist economic hegemony. (May- June 2015, Volume 94, Number 3) But the article that points up how urgently the declining U.S. Empire’s Wall Street ruling class actually needs the TPP is entitled, “Protecting America’s Competitive Advantage” and was authored by Fred Hochberg, the Chair and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Hochberg, like the two Democratic Senators from Washington state as well as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, three Senators from Boeing, is concerned that the U.S. Congress continue to fund the Export-Import Bank. According to Hochberg, this bank “empowers American Exporters by equipping those that cannot access private financing with credit insurance and working capital ...” and “thousands of U.S. businesses ... rely on the bank’s financing to secure overseas sales.” (pages 59, 60)
Hochberg points out, “For decades, government-backed export support fell under the aegis of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, an international body that sets responsible standards for export lending for its members. As recently as 1999, nearly 100 percent of export credit was governed by its rules. By 2004, with the rise of Chinese exports, the share of export support governed by the OECD had fallen to roughly two-thirds. By 2013, the share had plummeted to one-third.” “In the past two decades,” says Hochberg, “an increasing number of countries operate with little regard for established international guidelines, export competition has come to resemble the Wild West.” (My emphasis, ROL) “They are trying to keep up with countries such as China ... willing to shell out billions of dollars to help their exporters close a deal.” (ibid., p. 60) “During its eight decades of operation, the U.S. Export-Import Bank has financed a total of roughly $590 billion worth of U.S. exports. By contrast, over the past two years alone, China has financed at least $670 billion worth of exports. The actual sum ... may well be close to $1 trillion.”
Hochberg urges the U.S. government to try to get China to work with it to achieve “fair global competition,” that is, “to act not simply as rivals but also as partners in responsible global growth.” However, until then he concludes: “... Washington should do everything in its power to give American exporters the support they need: ensuring the presence of a robust and capable Export- Import Bank and ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership ... [and] forcefully advocate on behalf of U.S. companies.” (pp. 64-65)
To bring home the urgency of that task for the U.S. Empire, on May 22nd, the same day the U.S. Senate gave Obama fast track authority for the TPP, “negotiators from 57 governments completed work on a charter for a Chinese-led Asian regional bank.” According to Associated Press (AP), “Beijing’s proposal for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank attracted unexpected widespread support from Western governments including Britain, New Zealand and France despite US opposition.”
including Australia and Singapore, appear inclined to provide basing and logistical support.” (page 85) Krepinevich concludes: “... establishing such a posture would represent an essential — and long overdue — first step in counterbalancing China’s ... ambitions.” (page 86, “How to Deter China,” Foreign Affairs, March/April 2015)
CONCLUSION: Comrade Lenin, with his scientific understanding of imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, was able to lead the most successful socialist revolution in history. Today, a century later, in our view, Leninism still sheds the most light on the TPP and its implications for the world’s future.
Lenin taught that imperialism is the last, dying stage of capitalism largely because it features three fundamental and irreconcilable contradictions. These contradictions reveal the essence of the Trans Pacific Partnership.
1. The contradiction between and among various imperialist countries and groupings: The most important reason for the U.S. imperialist-led creation of the TPP, as we have documented above, is to counter the rapid rise of China as an imperialist power which is already eclipsing the USA, the hegemonic imperialist power over the past seventy years. This TPP economic bloc is linked to the U.S. military’s “Asian pivot” undertaken by the Obama Regime over the past few years. And, as Lenin taught, blocs such as TPP are building blocks leading to interimperialist war.
2. The contradiction between the handful of major imperialist powers and the hundreds of millions, now billions, of colonial and dependent peoples of the world: Certainly, most of the eleven other countries whose governments have participated in the TPP negotiations these past six years are in some form of dependent status in relation to U.S. imperialism. (Even Japan, the other major imperialist power in the mix, seventy years after the end of World War II, has thousands of U.S. troops as an occupation force on its territory and is still militarily dependent on U.S. imperialism.) Lenin taught that the essence of imperialism resides in the distinction between the oppressing and the oppressed nations. Among those governments that vote to affiliate to the Trans Pacific Partnership, the tyrannical character of the TPP will no doubt provide great potential for extra abuse and exploitation of their countries by the dominant U.S. imperialist power — from selection and use of the secret corporate tribunals to favoritism in corporate decisions, fines, lawsuits, etc. The TPP will only serve to exacerbate this contradiction.
3. The contradiction between labor and capital:
In all the countries that affiliate with TPP, including the USA, the opportunity to pit the workers of each country against the others — their work rules, labor conditions, wage rates, safety laws — will represent an unimpeded race to the bottom. And, spearheaded by U.S. imperialism, the workers in the TPP countries will be bombarded with propaganda that they need to sacrifice, in the name of “national defense” and “homeland security,” “against China, Russia, Brazil,” etc.
Within the USA, the campaign to block Fast Track Authority for President Obama, which is key to any hope of stopping Congress from ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership has now shifted from the U.S. Senate to the House of Representatives. In the House, there are at least a few positive pro-people and anti-monopoly Democrats as well as a relatively large number of Tea Party Republicans, some of whom are genuinely anti-monopoly and anti-federal government, even if somewhat based on their own backwardness, ignorance and white chauvinist prejudice, etc.* These facts coupled with the fact that 100% of the House members have to stand for election every two years provide an opportunity for genuine anti-imperialist and revolutionary forces in the USA today to mobilize the masses to contact their House member, have street protests and take other actions to pressure the House to defeat Fast Track.
The fact that the leadership of organized labor – from the weak, two-faced AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to the more serious Larry Cohen of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and everyone in between — usually loyal acolytes of Obama and the Democrats, are all paying lip service to opposition to Fast Track and the TPP provides whatever militant and anti- imperialist “left” exists in the U.S. labor movement today an opportunity to actively organize among the unionized sector of the working class to wage a political struggle against Obama and the other “Republicrat” lackeys of Wall Street imperialism.
*The presence of the Tea Party members is extremely significant. In the Hochberg Foreign Affairs article cited above, he complains that, “There are 60 such export credit agencies around the world, but the United States is the only country in which there is a raging political debate being waged by a small but potent minority over whether to actually weaken its banks’ financing capacity. ... Ideological opposition to the Export-Import Bank is not only shortsighted; it could also have devastating consequences for the thousands of U.S. businesses and workers who rely on the bank’s financing to secure overseas sales. No doubt China, Russia and other competitors are salivating at the prospect.” (p. 60) Hochberg is referring to these tea party forces.
LET’S STOP TPP ON ITS FAST TRACK!!
WORKERS OF THE WORLD AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES UNITE!
TPP is a global conspiracy.
Monopoly capital’s target is ---
Our brother and sister workers of every country.
But with the MAY DAY Spirit of Solidarity
We Can Defeat TPP!
“Fast Track” authorization for Wall Street's latest “trade deal” – the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – is being prepared for a sudden vote in the US Congress at any moment. The January 2015 edition of The Hightower Lowdown exposes the fact that TPP is presented as a trade deal but “it only uses trade as a mask.” 24 of 29 TPP chapters deal not with trade but “various ways to ‘free’ rapacious corporations from any accountability for the havoc they wreak and from any responsibility to the world community’s common good.” Maximum corporate profits trump everything. In other words, it is straight up corporate tyranny.
Negotiations for the TPP have been conducted under unprecedented secrecy by Wall Street with its ruling class financial counterparts in eleven other Pacific Rim countries including Mexico and Canada as well as Peru and Chile in South America, Japan in Asia etc. These twelve countries produce about 40% of the world’s goods.
Jim Hightower alerts the 99% of us to get ready to oppose TPP Fast Track Authorization for Democratic President Obama. YOU MAY BE SHOCKED to find out that Fast Track is being promoted and led by Boehner and McConnell in both houses of the Republican-dominated Congress! Congressman Paul Ryan, Republican Vice Presidential running mate of Mitt Romney in the last presidential election, has already publicly stated his intention to support “fast track” authority for Obama on this issue!
The White House has been pushing for Fast Track authorization all along. It's clear that the forces of global finance capital have an effective stooge in Obama and the Democrats in order to further extract wealth from and inflict greater misery on the global working class. (Remember: Republican George H.W. Bush was unable to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but successor Bill Clinton – a Democrat – was able to push it through.) WATCH OUT! Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter who is the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, is emerging as a major spokesperson for TPP in the USA. She is effectively using so-called national security concerns against China as a smokescreen for promoting TPP.
In the labor movement, Communication Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen has challenged his more backward, corrupt and comfortable brethren to help build a working class opposition to TPP and Fast Track. Still, no labor federation has pointed the finger at Obama for being Wall Street's point man on Fast Track and the TPP!
May Day: Just What the Doctor Ordered!
In the 1880’s, workers in the USA, led by militant leaders in Chicago, mobilized in their thousands to fight for an eight hour work day at a time when 12 hour work days were common. On Saturday,May 1, 1886, a regular work day, 350,000 workers across the country participated in demonstrations, 80,000 in Chicago alone. Thousands of workers won an eight hour or nine hour workday immediately. Contrary to the mass media predictions, there was little or no violence anywhere.
The U.S. ruling class employed police violence over the next few days to arrest and persecute the most dedicated Chicago working class leaders and decapitate the movement for the eight hour day. But, within two years, the still youthful American Federation of Labor (AFofL) put out a call to workers everywhere to resume the eight hour struggle and plan for a massive international demonstration on May 1, 1890 in honor of the Chicago Martyrs. On July 4, 1889, on the hundredth anniversary of Bastille Day, the International Working Men’s Association gathered in Paris. They endorsed the AFL proposal and so May Day was born in the USA as the day of celebration of international working class solidarity.
In these times, throughout most of the world, the workers have a holiday with parades, marches and militant demonstrations for May Day. What is most important for us today is the spirit of international working class solidarity. For it is the united strength of the workers of the entire world that is needed to defeat the global capitalist tyranny that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens all of us with.
Long Live May Day!
Long Live the Solidarity of the International Working Class!
Workers and Oppressed Peoples of the World UNITE!
[For more from the Revolutionary Organization of Labor USA and Ray O’ Light
Visit Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox at http://www.cindysheehanssoapbox.com/ray-olight.html]
by Rose Brown
On January 7, 2015, in Paris, alleged Islamic fundamentalists connected to al Qaeda carried out a terrorist attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, resulting in the killing of 11 people and the injuring of an additional 11. We are opposed to such terrorist killings which discourage and undermine principled criticism, debate and the fight for the proletarian truth. Two days later, on January 9, terrorist Amedy Coulibaly (reported to be an ISIS operative) attacked people in a Kosher food market in Paris, murdered 4 Jewish hostages and held 15 others during a siege in which he demanded that the Kouachi brothers who allegedly were responsible for the Charlie Hebdo killings not be harmed. We strongly condemn the attack on the Kosher market and the anti-Semitism at the root of this random attack as well as the anti- Semitism that was generated throughout much of Europe in its aftermath.
However, we do not support the chauvinistic attacks against Muslim people carried out by Charlie Hebdo for years through their ridiculing of the Islamic religion. Their attack on Islam and on Islamic people in France carried out in the name of “free speech” has played a role in mobilizing the majority French people against the oppressed and exploited Muslim sector of French society and in keeping Muslim and non-Muslim French workers divided in the face of the growing exploitation of all French workers in the period of continued capitalist economic crisis in Europe.
French President Francois Hollande, just as U.S. President George Bush after the 9-11 terrorist attack in the USA, has used this attack on Charlie Hebdo to rally the French population behind French and European imperialism in the name of “national unity” “against terrorism.” On January 11, 2015, two million people in Paris and 3.7 million across France rallied behind 40 world imperialist leaders and their cohorts proclaiming “Je suis Charlie”! Objectively, this was a powerful chauvinistic demonstration against all Islamic people and in support of French imperialism.
On January 13, France’s parliament voted overwhelmingly (488-1) to extend French airstrikes on Iraq, a Muslim country, in the name of the U.S. imperialist-led fight against ISIS. What’s more, French President Hollande stated that the January 7 terrorist attack “justifies the presence of our aircraft carrier” (the Charles de Gaulle) in the Persian Gulf collaborating with U.S. imperialism in air attacks on Iraq and extending them to Syria.
The truth is that the French imperialists, along with U.S. imperialism, are among the biggest terrorists in the world today. The French imperialists were responsible for the deaths of one and a half million Algerian people in the 1950’s and 1960’s in their effort to maintain Algeria’s colonial status. Recently, the French imperialists joined with U.S. imperialism to launch an unprovoked war on Libya in 2011, killing tens of thousands of Libyans, destroying the infrastructure and homes of millions of African people, including half a million immigrant workers, who had enjoyed the best education, health care and employment opportunities on the African continent under the Gadhafi government. In January 2013, the French imperialists sent combat troops to wage war on the people of Mali with logistical support from U.S. imperialism. In September 2014, France started bombing attacks on Iraq, a Muslim country, supposedly directed against ISIS.
The Nation, a left-liberal social democratic U.S. magazine, published an article entitled “To Be (Charlie) or Not to Be (Charlie)?’ in its February 23, 2015 issue. Algerian journalist Kamel Daoud concluded this article by saying, “I am Charlie ... I love freedom and I’ll stand up for it ...” But those who truly love freedom and desire to stand up for it, would not “be” Charlie Hebdo; they would oppose U.S.-led imperialism, including French imperialism, not support them!
ROL/SPN- by Leigh Charles- 03/09/2015
One of the largest student loan servicing and debt collection companies is actually in debt too. If you’re a company that holds student debt, though, not paying what you owe is apparently not a big deal. Navient (formerly a division of Sallie Mae) – the same company that harasses borrowers when they default on their loans – owes the Department of Education $22.3 million. There is no one trying to collect this money, which is now more than five years overdue!
After years of not repaying this debt, Navient spun off from Sallie Mae and agreed to be responsible and indemnify all claims, actions, damages, losses or expenses previously held by Sallie Mae. But to date, the Dept. of Education has not collected on the $22.3 million. The truth is, Navient should actually owe the federal government a lot more than the $22.3 million. In 2009, the interest rates on student loans was 5.6% for subsidized loans and 6.8% for unsubsidized loans, with a 1.5% origination fee. Taking all that into account the Dept. of Education would rake in an extra $9 million, and that is only if Navient made all of their payments on time over 10 years.
Many debtors see their interest rate go above 25% once they’re in default. And up to 40% of the principle can be added in as a fee or penalty for default. This unpaid debt would quickly become very expensive for Navient, the same way it does for so many individual borrowers.
But of course, Navient doesn’t receive the same “unforgiving” default treatment from the Dept. of Education that the 40 million regular student debtors receive who are struggling to pay back their loans, while facing the chronic jobs crisis of the past seven years. This nightmare is today a constant reality for the 7 million students who are in default on their federal student loans.
The Navient situation is yet another example of the Dept. of Education’s complicit role in the student debt crisis. It makes it clear that the department is serving not those who are trying to get a college education but, like the rest of the U.S. government, is serving the – “too-big- to-fail” financial institutions on Wall Street.
by Casey Cole
“Fast Track” authorization for Wall Street’s latest “trade deal” – the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) – is set for a vote in the US Congress as soon as this month, March 2015. Jim Hightower devoted his entire January 2015 edition of The Hightower Lowdown, to an exposure of the TPP and to alerting the 99% of us to get ready to oppose Fast Track Authorization for President Obama being promoted in Congress with Democrat Obama in cahoots with the Republican leaders of the House and Senate, Boehner and McConnell. Hightower exposes the fact that TPP is presented as a trade deal but “it only uses trade as a mask.” 24 of 29 chapters deal not with trade but “various ways to ‘free’ rapacious corporations from any accountability for the havoc they wreak and from any responsibility to the world community’s common good.” In other words, it is straight up corporate tyranny.
Negotiations for the TPP have been conducted under unprecedented secrecy by Wall Street with its ruling class financial counterparts in eleven other countries around the Pacific Rim. These include all three North American countries, the USA, Mexico and Canada as well as Peru and Chile in South America, Japan and Vietnam in Asia, and Australia and New Zealand. TPP involves twelve countries with about 40% of the world’s wealth. As Hightower writes: “... even our lawmakers have been denied ‘permission’ simply to attend the negotiations as observers ... As for the public and the press, it’s only because of leaks from appalled negotiators and the determined digging of public interest advocates that we know anything about the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s threat to our democratic rights.”
Democratically elected representatives are being strong- armed and cajoled into voting for Fast Track. Obama scolded House Democrats by stating they “shouldn’t learn about trade by reading the Huffington Post.”* The White House has been pushing for Fast Track authorization all along; it’s clear that the forces of global finance capital have the perfect stooge in Obama to get what they want in order to further extract wealth and inflict greater misery on the global working class. (Remember: George H.W. Bush was unable to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) but successor Bill Clinton – a Democrat – was able to push it through.)
A few bourgeois politicians like Senators Warren and Sanders who claim to represent the interests of working people have already declared their opposition to TPP. And such initiatives should be supported by proletarian revolutionary forces and militant working class activists.
In the labor movement, Communication Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen has challenged his more backward, corrupt and comfortable brethren to help build a working class opposition to TPP and Fast Track. Under principled pressure from CWA’s Cohen, and remembering the disastrous effects of NAFTA in exporting living wage manufacturing jobs from the US has spurred Wall Street’s “labor lieutenants” into half-hearted action. The AFL-CIO and Change to Win labor federations have initiated campaigns calling on members to demand Fast Track be voted down. While the various e-mails, fliers, and handbills being proliferated mention President Obama, the tone is more in line with convincing the President and the Congress to “do the right thing.” No labor federation has pointed the finger at Obama for being Wall Street’s point man on Fast Track and the TPP!
While there are definite ideological and political challenges in uniting with bourgeois politicians and spineless labor bureaucrats, our line has always been to work in united fronts with such people wherever possible, unite with these forces where we can get them to oppose finance capital or at least allow genuine left forces in the labor movement and political arena to mobilize the workers against monopoly capitalist and imperialist tyranny. At the same time, we need to wage constant struggle against their opportunism, their strong tendency to betray the working class in service to the U.S. ruling class, Wall Street capital.
If passed, the TPP will undoubtedly further strengthen the forces of Wall Street and monopoly capitalism while simultaneously undermining the global proletariat, including U.S. workers. TPP represents corporate tyranny over working people taken to a new level. Viewing the TPP as revolutionaries fighting for working class power, we must seize every possible opportunity to mobilize the working class against this capitalist offensive. Thus, we call on our readers to participate in mass mobilizations centered around opposing Fast Track and the TPP so that we can blunt this thrust of global finance capital and – equally important – unite with elements of the working class that have the stomach for the fight.
Celebrating Exemplary Women in Arms on International Working Women’s Day
By RAY LIGHT
As March begins and we approach International Working Women’s Day, it is fitting that we focus on the heroic struggle and great accomplishments in battle of the Women’s Protection Unit or the YPJ. The YPJ is an all-women, all-volunteer Kurdish military force formed in 2012 in Syria to defend the Kurdish population of Rojava (West Kurdistan) from the deadly attacks of the Assad government as well as from the al-Nusra Front (affiliated with al-Qaeda) and ISIS. The Women’s Protection Unit, composed of about 7,500 Kurdish women soldiers, has emerged as among the most effective fighters against ISIS and other reactionary forces in the Middle East. Even the BBC has acknowledged that YPJ and their male counterpart unit, YPG, have been “extraordinarily successful” in their war against ISIS, despite having limited resources.
This is very welcome and inspiring news for us. And yet it is not really surprising.
Given the extreme backwardness of the medieval approach toward woman taken
by the Islamic fundamentalist regimes and other criminal organizations that now
dominate the Middle East, the emergence of such a dynamic and enlightened
fighting force of Kurdish woman as the YPJ (armed also with a revolutionary
approach to the woman question) challenges and threatens to tear to shreds every fiber of the rotten beliefs of the soldiers in the reactionary armies and criminal gangs, including ISIS.* [*FN: Photographer Erin Trieb, who spent a week near the front taking pictures of YPJ armed fighters, recalled that, “The saying among many Syrian Kurds is that ISIS is more terrified of being killed by women because if they are, they will not go to heaven.”]
Possibly of even greater significance is the resurgence of the Kurdish Nation in the course of the liberation struggle that has developed in Rojava, and has already led to the liberation of Kobane, one of the self-governing cantons in Rojava (West Kurdistan). For years, we have pointed to the Kurdish national question as key to victory for the workers and oppressed peoples of the Middle East. In a recent Newsletter, we pointed out: “The Kurdish national territory extends across the borders of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Turkey. In all these reactionary states the Kurdish people have been dominated and oppressed in large part because their nationality was divided and deprived of sovereign territory.” (“The Kurdish National Question: Key to the Liberation of the Middle East,” Ray O’Light Newsletter #87, November-December 2014)
Stalin, the great Leninist teacher on the national question, explained: “A nation is an historically evolved stable community of people with a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.” (Marxism and the National Question, 1912) Stalin (whose own origins were in the working class of the oppressed nation of Georgia) went on to say that, if all of these national characteristics are present, that community of people constitutes a nation. That nation, like any other nation, according to Leninism, has the right to self-determination up to and including independent existence as a state. Furthermore, as this scientific socialist definition of a nation indicates, these national characteristics provide a people with a tremendous amount of human and other resources with which to fight for their national freedom against imperialism and all reaction.
It is quite natural that the fighters in Rojava are largely drawn from that area. But it is also noteworthy that significant numbers of Kurdish people from the territory of Kurdistan in the current states of Iraq, Iran and Turkey have come to their aid. As Jose Maria Sison, Chairman of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS) wrote last October, “…the heroic resistance of the YPG/YPJ…has inspired the people of the world to rally in support of Kurdish liberation. The acknowledged leader of the Kurdish liberation struggle, Abdullah Ocalan, has called on the entire Kurdish nation to mobilize in support of the resistance in Kobane. Kurds throughout the world have responded by organizing demonstrations in many countries calling for international support.”
No wonder the YPJ and YPG liberation fighters and the gathering forces of the Kurdish nation have become a real beacon of hope for the Arab masses and all the peoples in this vast and strategically vital region.
CURRENT DANGERS TO THE KURDISH RESISTANCE MOVEMENT IN ROJAVA
Comrade Sison concluded his October article, as follows: “We must show our solidarity to the Kurdish people in their hour of need and give them all-out support until victory.”* [*FN: “Support the Kurdish People’s Resistance against ISIS, Condemn US and Turkey for creating and using ISIS,” printed in Ray O’Light Newsletter #87, November-December 2014]
This is an historical moment when there is no genuine international communist
movement. Most communist parties are dominated by a bourgeois nationalist, every party for itself (“every man for himself”) mentality and culture. Whether in state power presiding over increasingly bourgeois states or being hounded themselves by the forces of openly reactionary states, most so-called “communist” or “workers” or “revolutionary” parties are overwhelmingly pre-occupied with “their own” particular national circumstances and concerns. In this situation, in response to comrade Sison’s call, one important form of solidarity with the Kurdish people is to share a revolutionary working class perspective on the Kurdish struggle from a different sector of the world’s proletariat. What follows is such an effort.
In her article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, the director of the
International Security Program at George Mason University, Audrey Kurth Cronin,
states that “no government supports ISIS.” She further points out that the groups
in al Qaeda and other terrorist networks “generally have only dozens or hundreds
of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS, on the other hand, boasts some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure, funds itself and engages in sophisticated military operations. If ISIS is purely and simply anything, it is a pseudo-state led by a conventional army.” (page 88, “ISIS Is Not a Terrorist Group,” Foreign Affairs, March-April 2015)
Professor Cronin also “lets the cat out of the bag” when she admits: “ISIS is now led by well-trained, capable former Iraqi military leaders who know U.S. techniques and habits because Washington helped train them….ISIS is now armed with American tanks, artillery, armored Humvees, and mine-resistant vehicles.” (ibid. page 96, my emphasis, ROL)* [*FN: Last September, we pointed out that the sudden emergence of ISIS in Iraq, seemingly out of nowhere, helped provide a cover for U.S. imperialist troops to remain in Iraq, force Prime Minister al Maliki out as Iraqi head of state and keep a U.S. military presence in Northern Iraq, in the Kurdish semi-autonomous region and especially the oil rich Kirkuk area. ISIS also provided U.S. imperialism at that time the smokescreen behind which it was able to begin open bombings and other incursions into Syria which it had previously been unable to do. As we pointed out then: “The alleged presence and existence of ISIS is of great benefit to both U.S. imperialism and the Israeli settler state both of which are thoroughly exposed and widely hated in the Middle East at this time. The ISIS factor puts everything up for
grabs…Indeed, the alleged threat of ISIS makes all kinds of alliances in the Middle East ‘possible.’” (See Ray O’Light Newsletter #86, September-October 2014, “U.S. Imperialism’s New Aggression in Iraq and Upcoming Aggression Against Syria”]
Based on ISIS’ apparent great capacity for waging war today, largely due to U.S.
imperialist support, Professor Cronin promotes the idea that the “best chance for
securing U.S. interests is one of offensive containment: combining a limited military campaign with a major diplomatic and economic effort to weaken ISIS and align the interests of the many countries that are threatened by the group’s advance.” (ibid. page 97) And the professor concludes: “for the foreseeable future, containment is the best policy that the United States can pursue.”
And this “limited military campaign” fits in with Obama’s current promise to have no U.S. “boots on the ground” in Syria, while waging a massive bombing campaign all over Syria. More importantly, at this time U.S. imperialism still has no substantial surrogate to rely upon in Syria among the Bashar al-Assad Regime, the al Qaeda-enmeshed anti-Assad rebels backed by Saudi Arabia and other reactionary Arab Regimes, and ISIS --- despite the fact that all of them were created and/or propped up by U.S. imperialism in the past! Especially because U.S. imperialism retains political, economic and military ties with all the contending reactionary forces there, this type of limited campaign approach maximizes the declining U.S. Empire’s ability to determine that the outcome of the current Syrian war will be favorable to U.S. imperialism, with minimum military exposure. .* [*FN: Of course, Obama is already trying to lift the “no boots” limitation with a three year war authority “to fight ISIS” everywhere, an open-ended authorization to invade anywhere. But all this is part of the same U.S. imperialist strategy.]
In a current Wall Street Journal (3-2-15) article, a former U.S. State Department planner and current professor of international relations, Henri Barkey, makes the
striking observation that, “The Kurds in Syria are the only bright spot in the fight
against ISIS.” This is a remarkable admission in light of the fact that ISIS is a pariah
“state” verbally condemned by every big power in the world and that all these
powers would seem to want ISIS smashed!
All the above considerations lead to the conclusion that U.S. imperialism, with its
“aggressive containment” policy toward ISIS, will fight to the last Kurdish person in Syria, while carrying out its sinister efforts to conquer Syria, Iran, Iraq and beyond. Clearly, with regard to U.S. imperialist direction and misdirection, the people of Rojava and all of Kurdistan need to maintain their revolutionary vigilance.
But this is not all. Because of the heroic struggle against ISIS waged by YPJ and YPG and the Kurdish forces in Syria, Turkey’s NATO allies, with at least the tacit approval of U.S. imperialism, have recently called for the removal of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from terrorist lists. In this political environment, The WSJ article cited just above contains the stunning news that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, still considered by many the outstanding leader of the Kurdish people, after spending the past fifteen years in a Sea of Marmara island prison south of Istanbul, Turkey, where he remains, has offered to end the three-decade old Kurdish military campaign against the Turkish state and disarm the Kurdish fighters. In exchange, Ocalan has demanded “a new constitution that enshrines pluralistic democratic principles such as recognition of ethnic identities and personal freedoms.” (“Kurdish Rebels in Turkey Make Peace Offer,” Emre Peker,
Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2015)
Such peace overtures --- revolutionaries offering to disarm in exchange for vague
“concessions” from the reactionary enemy --- are always extremely dangerous,
especially when dealing with reactionary big powers like the Turkish state. Underscoring the danger in this situation, Henri Barkey, quoted above, points out in the same article that “The majority of the PKK’s conflicts are currently in Syria, therefore it will [be] difficult for it to lay down arms.” This points up the fact that Ocalan seems to be using the battlefield accomplishments of the heroic and extremely effective YPG and YPJ fighters as leverage with which to sell out the struggle of the Kurdish people of Rojava as well as North Kurdistan (Turkey).*
[*FN: For those that could not conceive of Ocalan taking such a path, it is worth recalling how the intelligence apparatus of the South African apartheid state with much guidance from U.S. imperialism and its intelligence apparatus, was able to use the long imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, when he was totally under their control, to break down that former heroic national liberation fighter step by step and turn him into a comprador serving the interests of imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism. (See ad for the Mandela piece elsewhere in this Newsletter.)]
In earlier issues of this Newsletter, we have printed articles by both comrade Sison and me exposing the fact that both U.S. imperialism and the Turkish Regime have been supporters of ISIS. So disarming the Kurdish liberation fighters in Rojava would not be an obstacle for either of them. Finally, the Erdogan government in Turkey might well respond favorably to Ocalan’s apparently unprincipled compromise proposal (and may well be the source of the proposal) in order to undermine and decapitate the biggest popular challenge to the reactionary Turkish state, the Kurdish people’s thirty- year war of liberation inside Turkey.
Thus, the heroic Kurdish liberation fighters in Rojava, including the women fighters of the YPJ, need to be vigilant about a possible sell-out of the interests of the Kurdish people of Rojava from the very pinnacle of the Kurdish national movement!
JOIN THE “SPRING RISING” DAYS OF ACTION IN WASHINGTON, DC
In our International Working Women’s Day celebrations this year, the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA (ROL, USA) is sharing the inspiring story of the Kurdish women fighters of the YPJ and their heroic armed struggle against ISIS and other reactionaries propped up by the reactionary Turkish state and U.S. imperialism. We hope the outstanding example of YPJ will encourage our contacts and friends as well as ourselves to become more active in and wage more militant struggle against U.S.-led imperialist war.
An opportunity to be involved is coming soon. Comrade Cindy Sheehan initiated what has become a growing mobilization for a mass anti-war march in Washington, DC now scheduled for March 21. The Revolutionary Organization of Labor has endorsed this “Spring Rising, An Antiwar Intervention in DC.” While there will be scheduled events beginning on March 18th, our focus is on the March and Rally scheduled from 12PM until 4PM on March 21st. Especially on the East Coast, the international working women’s day celebrations we are involved in which raise up the Kurdish women heroes of YPJ should help in our mobilization for the anti—war Spring Rising that begins ten days later. Elsewhere in the country, for those unable to go to Washington, DC we urge our comrades, friends and contacts to heed the call of comrade Cindy Sheehan to “host a solidarity action in your area.”
We know that the U.S. Empire’s fourteen years of unending war of terror on the peoples of the world has brought the USA itself to a more violent and reactionary
current situation than ever. And we know that, no matter how complicated the
political situation is in the Middle East, U.S. imperialism is the source of the most
reactionary and most violent forces and situations almost everywhere.
Consequently, the weakening and defeat of the U.S. Empire can only help the peoples from Rojava to Ferguson, Missouri to be able to hold our heads up in
human dignity and be successful in fighting for a better life for all.
Long Live International Working Women’s Day!
Long Live the Heroic Kurdish Women Liberation Fighters of Rojava!
Let there be a SPRING RISING in Washington, DC and throughout the World!
Organización Revolucionaria del Trabajo, EE.UU. Declaración sobre el Día Internacional de la Mujer
McCrory Offers a Glass of Tears for North Carolina Citizens
by DRIKE JONES and PEARL HAINES
In several counties in North Carolina, tears may be the only source of uncontaminated water left for citizens to drink, since Governor Pat McCrory signed the Energy Modernization Act (EMA) June 4, 2014. The EMA lifted a moratorium on issuing permits to companies to frack in this state. Fracking (the informal term for hydraulic fracturing) has been used to extract oil and gas resources in the U.S. and other countries around the world. Gas corporations have already bought drilling leases in several counties in this state, including Lee, Chatham, and Moore. In a statement, the governor said that the law will spur economic development and “job creation.” However, these projected benefits are overshadowed by the damage done to the environment, our citizenry, and our future. McCrory claimed that “the expansion of our energy sector will not come at a cost to our precious environment.” But his decision not to veto EMA shows that he does not have the best interests of the people and environment of this state in mind. Evidence of this disregard was his connection with Duke Energy who was responsible for the coal ash spill in the Dan River last year. McCrory held stock in Duke holdings a few months before the incident, which he failed to mention to the state ethics commission. Since he identifies with corporations and the 1%, he was also too slow to pressure Duke to correct the faulty coal ash pits and repair the damage to the environment.
Two of our concerns with fracking are the huge amount and sources of water used in the process, and the disposal of the contaminated waste. The 4.4 million gallons of water needed every two to five days will be taken from North Carolina’s rivers and groundwater. One of the more frightening parts of fracking is the distribution of contaminated water. 5-90% of this water remains underground or in tanker trucks, disposed of at treatment plants, reinjected underground at disposal
wells, held in containment ponds (remember Duke Energy’s failure with containment ponds), or recycled and used in other wells. Most of these methods lead to increased probabilities of groundwater contamination.
A study conducted by scientists at Duke University found that levels of flammable methane gas in drinking water wells increased to risky levels when those wells were close to natural gas wells. The group tested 68 groundwater wells in the Marcellus and Utica shale drilling areas in Pennsylvania and New York. 60 of the wells were tested for dissolved gas. While most of the wells contained methane, samples from the ones closest to the drilling wells had, on average, 17 times the level of methane more than the ones farther away. High levels of methane in groundwater have been linked to explosions of houses near fracking sites.
Methane-polluted water is only part of the problem. One portion of the EMA makes it illegal to let the public know about chemicals used in fracking, such as benzene, lead, and radium. These chemicals can also contaminate drinking water in wells. The consequences of exposure to these agents can include anemia, irregular menstrual cycles, leukemia, damage to the central nervous system, harm to children’s neurological development, and a host of other ailments. McCrory knows the possible dangers of fracking. The reason why he’s gambling with the environment of North Carolina and the health of its citizens is for his own personal gain and for the private capitalist profits of his political benefactors, the corporate energy giants.
The title for this article came from a little rhyme that one of the authors made up as a child: “What cha going to do when the well runs dry, sit right down and drink my tears as I cry.” We hope the readers of this article will do a lot more than sit and cry. We the people need to fight this capitalist example of “profits over people” by supporting the FRAC Act (the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act), which would make it illegal for energy companies to hide the chemicals used in fracking and get rid of its exemption from the Safe Drinking Act. We need to inform others about the dangers of fracking so we can build a mass movement that will possess the strength through unity to vote into office politicians that will protect our land and water, homes and citizens, and to ensure that these politicians will not be swayed by the corporations but remain on the side of the people.
SPN--by CINDY SHEEHAN --01/04/2015
When I was barely two years old, an earth-shattering event occurred that would certainly alter the course of history, but also become intimately linked with my own story.
To make a very long story short, a band of revolutionaries in Cuba overthrew the brutal dictatorship of US puppet Fulgencio Batista and installed a Communist system led by Fidel Castro and other revolutionary heroes. Cuba became linked to the Soviet Union and I am pretty sure that I am not telling you (the reader) many things that you don’t already know (probably better than I).
However, how does the Cuban Revolution of 1959 connect to my history, my life, and my story?
I had one memento that Casey had given me soon after he joined the Army. It was a gold charm with hearts around the edge, a small diamond in the middle and the inscription reads: “To Mom, With Love.” After he died, especially, it became my most prized possession. Once when I was in Washington DC in 2005 for a major march, I thought I had lost it, but it was retrieved to my relief. The necklace has great sentimental value to me.
So, how does the story of the necklace fit with Cuba? Aw, you shall soon see!
After Casey was killed, I went on a very dedicated campaign to end the wars and see the Bush regime imprisoned for their war crimes and crimes against humanity. I am unfortunately still on that campaign, but in 2005, I camped out near George Bush’s fake ranch in Crawford, Texas demanding accountability and for him to answer my simple question: “What noble cause?” That effort brought me a lot of international attention and I was invited to Venezuela in early 2006 to be a guest at the World Social Forum in Caracas. Besides meeting with then president Hugo Chavéz and many others I also met Cuban officials and the families of the Cuban 5.
Until that very day, I had never heard one word about the case of the Cuban 5. I had heard my entire life, though, about how evil Cuba and Fidel Castro were. After all, I was born at the height of the Cold War. Didn’t Cuba want to help the “evil” Soviet Union nuke the USA into oblivion? Wasn’t Cuba the closest and direst threat to my way of life and me? Turns out, not so much.
The wives, sisters, brothers, and mothers, of the Cuban 5 laid out their story. How their loved ones: Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, and René González, were being held in US prisons on false charges and convictions. I sympathized with the families, but I was truly so busy at the Social Forum (interviews, meetings, speeches, protests, Alo Presidente, etc.) that I really didn’t have time to absorb what they were telling me. It was an extremely detailed case that I will try and briefly summarize here:
Basically, since the Revolution, Cuba has been the victim of terrible terrorist acts killing about 4000 Cubans and others over the years. The Bay of Pigs and Operation Mongoose are two noted US/CIA attacks on the Revolution, but perhaps the worst act of terrorism was the downing of the Cubana Airlines Flight 455 killing all 73 passengers and crew aboard.
That act of terror was planned and executed by two Cuban CIA-trained operatives: Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles. The ironic thing about these two terrorists is that Bosch was protected by the US until his death and Posada Carriles is still being protected. This fact is more evidence that the US Empire is the biggest provider of terrorism around the world.
So, to combat these heinous acts of terror, Cuba sent five intelligence agents to the Cuban community in Miami to infiltrate some of the worst counter- revolutionary groups that plan and execute these acts of terror, for example: Alpha 66 and Brothers to the Rescue. The 5 were battling terrorism in their homeland and sent valuable information to Cuba to prevent more harm. Also ironically, the Cuban government felt it should share some intelligence with the US government, and instead of steps being taken against the Miami-based terrorists, the Cuban 5 were arrested in September of 1998 and were subjected to some of the worst miscarriages of justice to date. It was even revealed recently that the USG paid news outlets to lie about the case and prejudice an already prejudiced community even further. To make matters worse, a change of venue was denied.
All 5 were convicted and before the remaining members of the 5 were released on the joyous day of December 17, 2014, Rene and Fernando had served their sentences and returned back to Cuba.
The morning of the 17th, I did what I usually do when I am home: I made coffee and opened my computer to check my email. Bleary-eyed, I must have passed the email that read: “The Cuban 5 are Free” about 10 times before my eyes finally focused on it. I opened it and started crying tears of joy! Reading what I just wrote also makes me tear up. This was the best Xmas present I have ever received since the birth of my youngest daughter on the 22nd of December: 29 years ago!
Of course, the entire propaganda that day was that a true spy, Alan Gross, a US “contractor” convicted in Cuba was returned home by Cuba for “humanitarian” reasons. It took literally hours before the US mainstream, sorry-excuse for a press, even mentioned anything about the Cuban 5.
(I am getting to my necklace).
Once when I was actually in Cuba in 2011, I think, Obama made a statement that the US couldn’t even negotiate for a normalization of relations with Cuba until Cuba “changed its society.” Recently, he also said that Cuba was a “hermetically sealed society.” The US has only “hermetically sealed” its citizens from Cuba; Cuba actually has full diplomatic relations with every other country on earth besides Israel.
I was there in Cuba. I have been to Cuba many times by now, and I am convinced that one of the reasons for the travel restrictions is that the Empire doesn’t want us to see what Cuba is really like after we have been lied to about it for decades.
I have always felt safe in Cuba.This past year the US itself is going up in flames over police violence and crackdowns on our freedom of speech. The US incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world. Cuba has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and is near the top for literacy rate. Cuba sent doctors to West Africa during the Ebola crisis and the US sent troops. Typical, huh?
I want US society to be transformed into a peaceful place where healthcare, housing, food, and education are human rights, not privileges for the wealthy.
Now, here is the story of my necklace and its relevance to the cause of the Cuban 5.
When I had heard that Obama said Cuban society needed to be transformed, I was in Holguin attending the annual colloquium for the Cuban 5 with many other international activists.
On the last day there was a march and rally where I spoke. As I spoke, I saw Rene’s mother and Antonio’s mother standing in the crowd looking up at me. I grabbed my necklace as I often did—for comfort and inspiration. This time, I slipped it from my neck and called the mothers up to the podium with me.
I presented them with my most prized-possession telling them that it was a loan to them until the 5 Heroes were back on Cuban soil. It was my pledge to those mothers of my commitment to see their sons return home safely. I was sobbing and, Cubans being the warm-hearted people that they are, there was not a dry eye in the place.
Now, I can go back to my “home away from home” Cuba and get my necklace because their sons are home! When I let it go, I never dreamed I would be receiving it back so soon.
I just want to thank all the people all over the world who have worked so hard on this cause over the years and send them my sincere congratulations and love. I would also like to thank the Cuban 5 and the families of the 5 for their profound dignity and unwavering dedication to truth, justice and the Revolution and for also welcoming me as a member of their extended family.
Most of all, I would like to thank the people of Cuba for maintaining their strength and dignity in the face of a most brutal embargo and an evil regime up in the states.
I hope travel restrictions will be lifted so my fellow USAians can go to the beautiful island and meet the wonderful people and see what they have been able to do to survive and thrive.
Viva la revolución!
Viva el Cinco!