The Workers' Advocate

Vol. 22, No. 7


25 cents July 1, 1992

[Front page:

They've got the courts, we've got the streets!;

NO to Bush, Clinton and Perot!--Join the protests at the Democratic Convention!;

Black people take action: South African racism won't die quietly]

Clinton's new economic plan............................... 2
Democrats 'third way' to help the rich................. 3
Supreme Court on kidnapping.............................. 3

Down with racism!

Bush and Congress answer L.A. riots................... 4
Protesters demand justice for Rodney King......... 4
KKK confronted in several cities......................... 4
Chicago rioters fight police.................................. 4

Strikes and workplace news

Get organized to fight for jobs.............................. 5
Activists fight evictions in Baltimore................... 5
Chicago homeless defend huts............................. 5
HUD employees march against Jack Kemp......... 5
Victory at Ravenswood......................................... 5
Chicago Post Office slashes work hours.............. 5

They've got the courts, we've go the streets

Supreme Court squeezes abortion rights ….......... 6
'Freedom of Choice Act' gets restrictions............ 6
Milwaukee has spoken, clinics stay open!............ 7
Randall Terry dreams of religious tyranny........... 7
Supreme Court denounced across the country...... 8
On the clinic defense lines.................................... 8

Environment Summit in Rio................................. 9
Protests at Earth Summit...................................... 9

The world in struggle

South Africa: struggle and compromise............... 11
Angry protests vs. Bush in Panama...................... 12
Against layoffs in Bangladesh.............................. 12
The tragedy in Bosnia........................................... 12

They've got the courts, we've got the streets!

NO to Bush, Clinton and Perot!

Black people take action:

South African racism won't die quietly

Clinton's new economic plan


Democrats rewrite platform:

A 'third way' to help the capitalists

Supreme Court on kidnapping: might makes right


Strikes and workplace news

Turning Roe v. Wade on its head

Governments posture, the earth suffers

Protests at Earth Summit

SOUTH AFRICA: The politics of struggle and compromise

The world in struggle

They've got the courts, we've got the streets!


The Supreme Court has approved another round of restrictions on abortion in the case of the Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. And the Congressional Democrats are busy amending their "Freedom of Choice Act" to allow the states to restrict abortion. They are coming closer together.

The conservative diehards want to abolish abortion rights altogether, and they are close to having a majority on the Supreme Court. But there is a new consensus developing among the rest of the ruling class, from the recent Supreme Court decision to the pro-choice politicians. They talk about abortion rights, but restrict abortion anyway. Rights for the rich, and one burden after another to fall on the poor. The Supreme Court and Congress are placing one burden after another on women, on workers, on minorities. And then they say they are humanitarians because, as they squeeze the people, they ask, is it an "undue burden"?

But it's not the people's consensus. In front of the clinics in Milwaukee since mid-June, as in Buffalo in April, hundreds upon hundreds of people are coming out to defend abortion rights against the religious bigots. The defenders of women's rights don't aim to place burdens, whether "undue" or not, on women for exercising their rights. We must extend the rights of the working people, and especially extend them to those who are most in need.

You only have those rights which you are willing to defend. The real defenders of our rights are those who come into the streets to defend clinics; it is those who march to denounce. reactionary Supreme Court decisions; it is those who organize at the work place against tyrannical employers; it is those who stand against the racist oppression that adds to the burdens on poverty-stricken women. These are the people who made the Supreme Court hesitate to abolish abortion rights, out of fear of "divisiveness."

Organizations such as NOW (National Organization for Women) and NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) tell us to look towards the politicians and the courts and the lawyers. This is the year of women's political clout in the establishment parties, they say. But what happened? The year isn't over yet, and they have already made a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitchell to include abortion restrictions in the "Freedom of Choice Act." This will set a national pattern to be copied in all states. It is the poisoned fruit from the tree of upper-class wheeling and dealing.

What is the path for the pro-choice movement? The upper class has the courts and the politicians, but the people have the streets. Let's use them, and use them well!

July will see more struggles for abortion rights.

The defense of the clinics in Milwaukee is continuing, and there will be other clinic actions in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and elsewhere around the country. Let's confront the anti-abortion zealots and keep the clinics open!

There will be attention focused on the Democratic Convention in New York. Inside the convention, the forked-tongue politicians will smile at the workers while cutting the real deals with the capitalists. Outside, the "right-to-life" forces will proclaim their hatred for women's rights. Let's denounce both the "we're all in it together, rich and poor, boss and worker" lies of the Democratic Party and the medieval bigotry of the anti-abortion fanatics!

There will be increased pressure of the employers against the wages, working conditions and benefits of working women and all workers. There will be more crippling speedup, more workers forced onto part-time, and more wage cuts. Let's organize against employer tyranny!

Down with the new establishment consensus against our rights!

Women's rights without legal restrictions!

Full funding for the needs of poor and working women!

No more lying politicians -- build the independent movement of the working class!

(For additional articles on the Supreme Court decision, on the Freedom of Choice Act, on clinic defense in Milwaukee and around the country, see pages 6-9)

[Back to Top]

NO to Bush, Clinton and Perot!

Join the protests at the Democratic Convention!


The Democratic Convention begins July 13. And the protesters are gathering. They want unrestricted abortion rights. They want measures to fight AIDS. They want an end to the police brutality and the racism and the economic devastation of the cities.

For 12 years the workers, the poor, the minorities and women have been under siege by the Reagan-Bush administrations. For 12 years the S&L bandits, the Wall Street tycoons, and the industrial billionaires have looted the treasury and grabbed virtually everything they wanted. Today the richest 1% have snatched up more wealth than the bottom 90% of the people. It's time for a change.

But the Democrats offer no alternative. Oh yes, Bill Clinton talks about a "third way." But this is no break from 12 years of Democratic accommodation with Reaganism. Rather, it is turning that accommodation into a system, a middle course combining the Republicans' loyal service to big business with the Democrats' liberal hesitations about the mass suffering that results.

Oh yes, the Democrats want more jobs, but only if the workers are forced to give up more concessions to the bosses. They want universal health care, but only if the corporations' co$ts are held down first and the coverage is minimal. They want abortion rights, as long as they are so restricted to be all but meaningless for poorer women. They want racial harmony, as long as there are 100,000 more policemen to hold down the black people and Latinos. Oh yes, the Democrats are concerned for the workers and poor, but the wealthy capitalists come first.


The Democrats are nothing but a party for the billionaires, just like the Republicans. And the independent billionaire, Ross Perot, is really no different. This year's three-ring election circus shows what American democracy is all about. It is big business democracy, where the candidates are either billionaires or bought and paid for by the billionaires. It is capitalist democracy, where no matter who wins, the agenda is set by Wall Street.


Working people are crying out for change. But it won't come from within this electoral charade. The mass suffering calls out for relief. But it won't come as long as every issue is first judged by how much profits it will make the capitalists.

If the working masses are to get relief, then the profits of the rich have to be cut. If the division into rich and poor is to be eliminated, then the whole profit system on which it is based must be challenged.

Who can stand up to the capitalists? Who can challenge the exploiters' system? Only the working masses themselves. By getting organized on their own. By standing up for their own class interests. By taking to the streets in struggle.


The masses are beginning to stir. It can be felt in Buffalo, where ordinary abortion rights activists took it upon themselves to come out to defend the clinics, chanting, "They've got the courts, but we've got the streets!" It can be felt in Los Angeles, where workers and poor people lashed out against the racist system with the cry, "No justice, no peace!" It can be felt across the country in the enormous disgust with these presidential elections.


It's time for a change. It's time to turn the mass dissatisfaction into mass struggle. Abortion rights for workers and poor! Down with police brutality and racism! Make the capitalists pay for jobs, health care, and social programs for the working masses!


[Back to Top]

Black people take action:

South African racism won't die quietly


Events in South Africa show that apartheid racism will not surrender quietly through polite talks and handshakes.

For one-and-a-half years, a dialogue has gone on between the racist regime and the African National Congress (ANC). This was to bring democratic rights to South Africa's oppressed black majority. The talks promised much, but have delivered little.

In the wretched townships of South Africa, the black masses are tired of seeing nothing come from these talks. They are groaning under the weight of poverty and bleeding from the violence which has its hidden origins within the racist state itself.

Largely under their pressure, Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the African National Congress launched a new campaign of mass action with a general strike on June 16. The black people stayed away from work in their millions.

But no sooner had they initiated this campaign than a brutal massacre of ANC followers took place in the township of Boipatong near Johannesburg. Though the killings were carried out by the henchmen of the sellout Zulu chieftain Buthelezi, witnesses pointed to the involvement of white security forces.


An outcry of anguish and outrage is sweeping the townships. The masses call out for struggle. The ANC leadership has had to break off the constitutional talks. And a stepped-up campaign of mass action has been declared, including another general strike on August 3.

A war of words has ensued between the De Klerk government and the ANC. Strikes and mass rallies are also taking place. Where will all this lead? On page 11, we carry details on the current impasse in South Africa.

We welcome the renewal of mass action. Life has shown many times that mass struggle is the powerful weapon of the oppressed against the racist slave-drivers. Even today, the mass campaign under ANC leadership -- limited as it is -- has succeeded in forcing the government to retreat a bit from its obstinate stands in the constitutional talks.

But the ANC leaders believe in keeping tight controls over the mass struggle. They merely want to use it as a tool to pressure the regime. This is because they want to simply reform the system, but not do away with it altogether.

South Africa stands at a crossroads today.


There is the immediate question whether the current negotiations will resume on the basis of concessions from the regime, or whether we are headed for a period of renewed clashes between the black people and the racist system.

What is more, behind the negotiations stands a bigger question. The black masses are not just looking towards voting rights and having blacks in government, but they have social demands as well. They want out of the desperate poverty to which the racist system has consigned them. The white rulers do not want to meet such demands. And the ANC leaders, in their search for a deal, are likely to abandon the fight for land rights, for jobs, for improved housing and education.

How can the black masses achieve their social and economic demands? Through their own struggle. Political rights are meaningful to the workers and poor especially if they help them organize for their own class goals. But the fight for social demands will take an even stronger struggle than today's campaigns. They would achieve the most if the black working people can develop a revolutionary challenge to the racist system.


[Back to Top]

Clinton's new economic plan



At the end of June, Bill Clinton released a new economic plan providing for $50 billion in new spending in each of the next four years and halving the federal budget deficit by the end of that time. Clinton claims his plan will build high-tech communications and transportation networks, clean up the environment, rebuild the cities, create a million new high-wage jobs each year, and expand education, job training, and other social programs.

Certainly, at a time when all the talk is about the need for further cutbacks against the masses in order to balance the budget, this program looks different. Unfortunately, however, the figures don't seem to add up. And it appears that all of his talk of building "an economy for the 21st century" is just a cover for more cutbacks on the masses and more tax incentives for the capitalists.

New tax breaks for the monopolies


40% of the new spending, about $20 billion a year, is to go into a "Rebuild America Fund" to "build an economy for the 21st century." Clinton declares this fund will be used to build "new roads and bridges, and streets and rail systems, to develop high-speed rail and a national fiber optic network, to develop new environmental technologies to clean our waters and our air, and to recycle more of our solid wastes." New York Times, June 23)

All this from $20 billion a year? Get real! You can't even rebuild the collapsing highway system for that amount.

But more, Clinton claims, "This $20 billion will create a million jobs a year in each of the next four years, driving funds into our cities." Now simple arithmetic tells you that if the $20 billion went to wages alone -- and the largest part of it could not possibly go to wages -- then these one million new jobs could only pay $20,000 a year, wages and benefits included. Is Clinton planning to slash the pay of the highly skilled construction workers needed to do this rebuilding?


Well, maybe. But that's not the main thing. What Clinton's plan really amounts to -- despite his talk of the government building roads -- is giving private capitalists most of this $20 billion a year in tax breaks and other incentives in the hope that it will trickle down to create more jobs.


The fact that such giveaways never trickled down under Reagan and Bush has not deterred Clinton in the least. He claims that since this money is targeted to rebuilding America then his handouts to the rich are different than the Republicans' welfare for the rich. But you better not count on it.

More police terror for the cities


Or look at Clinton's plan to rebuild the cities. He would provide about $12.5 billion each of the next four years to the cities. But Reagan and Bush cut over 60% of federal funding to the cities through the 1980's, and that's not counting the federal cuts to the states. Clinton's money won't begin to make up for those cuts. Indeed, it would barely cover this year's $11 billion budget deficit faced by California alone.

Clinton does not actually set out specifically what the money would be used for -- well, except for one thing. He says he'll hire 100,000 more police officers for the cities. That's a huge chunk of the money right there, leaving little to create jobs or expand social programs. It seems that what Clinton really has in mind is to ensure the necessary firepower to hold down the masses who are getting fed up with the racism and economic devastation.

Who is to pay?


And who is to pay for the new tax breaks to the rich, the new police forces, and the budget cutting? Well, Clinton claims he'll get the funds from "new taxes on the rich" and "foreign corporations" operating in the U.S. and by. "cutting waste" and "unnecessary programs" of the federal government. But once again the claims don't quite add up.

Forget for the moment that Clinton grossly underestimates what the budget deficit will be by 1996. And forget that even by his own figures he will fall $50 billion short of paying for the $200 billion in new spending plus $150 billion in budget cuts he plans. Just look at his claims for taxation and cutbacks.


Cutting back on the promise to give the middle class and poor a tax break


He claims he will add $60 billion in new corporate taxes over four years. What this means, at most, is that some corporations may pay more while others will reap the rewards of Clinton's new targeted tax breaks.

He also plans to raise $90 billion more from income taxes. He claims that this will hit the richest 2% the hardest. But he offers no specifics. All we really know about the new plan is that, in the name of balancing the budget, he has drastically scaled back his earlier promise to give the middle class a tax break. If he is already reneging on that promise, even before being elected, why should we believe that balancing the budget won't mean major tax increases for the working masses?

Cutting jobs and social programs


And what about the cutbacks of "waste" and "unnecessary" government programs that Clinton talks about? Clinton is, again, not very specific, but the few things he says are quite revealing.

He will continue to spend around $300 billion a year for the imperialist war machine. He plans to cut only about $50 billion from the military over four years, because he says the U.S. must be maintained as "the strongest country in the world." (New York Times, June 16) That's close to Bush's program. He will continue Bush's bailout of the S&L's, now costing about $80 billion a year. And he will continue to pay interest to the banks on the federal debt, now at about $268 billion a year.

Well then, what waste and unnecessary programs will he cut? Clinton mentions only that he'll slash 100,000 federal jobs and further cut welfare. From this it's obvious that the main cuts are going to be jobs and social programs needed by the masses.

Another version of Reaganism


From this quick look, it is fairly clear that Clinton's plan does not "put people first," as he claims. Rather it is simply another version of Reaganism dressed up with talk about "rebuilding America" and making the rich pay their "fair share."

But that empty talk was enough to win the support of the union bureaucrats and respectable black leaders. Clinton's economic plan was immediately endorsed by prominent leaders of the AFL-CIO, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of Mayors. Even Jesse Jackson praised the plan, although he has not yet endorsed Clinton himself.

The workers must not be fooled by them. Clinton, and his Democratic Party backers, have sold their souls to the rich. The people will come first only when the workers break from these liars and build their own independent movement.


[Back to Top]

Democrats rewrite platform:

A 'third way' to help the capitalists


With every presidential election the Democrats rewrite their platform. This is usually just a show. The platform is binding on no one, least of all the Democratic presidential candidate. And so it is used to promise the masses the sun, moon and stars during the campaign and is then quickly forgotten as soon as the elections are over.

But this year's rewrite of the platform is a little different. Oh to be sure it is still filled with many empty election year promises. However, drafted under the direction of Bill Clinton, it also reflects the Democrats' attempt to cast aside their former image of concern for "special interest groups" -- that is the workers, the minorities, and the poor who make up the vast majority in this country. And, instead, the Democrats brazenly declare their loyalty to the capitalists.

A party for big business

The draft of the new platform, which was released at the end of June, does come up with some criticism of the Reagan and Bush administrations. But it also adopts the Reagan-Bush criticism of the Democrats themselves.

It states, for example, "We reject both the do-nothing government of the last 12 years as well as the big government theory that says we can hamstring business and tax and spend our way to prosperity. Instead, we offer a third way." (New York Times, June 26)

And what is this "third way"? It is nothing other than slavishly fawning on the capitalists. The platform declares, "We honor business as a noble endeavor." And it eulogizes that, "The private sector is the engine of our economy and the main source of national wealth." Forget about the workers whose sweat and blood alone has produced everything of value in this country. No, instead, praise the filthy rich capitalists. Why, the Democrats love them just as much as Bush, maybe more. That's what the platform says.


But don't get them wrong. The Democrats don't love all of the capitalists equally. Oh no, they love only the supposedly good capitalists, like those who make "long-term investments." Why, they actually write into the platform that they will cut the capital gains tax -- Bush's favorite economic panacea -- but only for those among the wealthy who make long-term investments in new technology. On the other hand, the platform denounces the bad capitalists -- "those at the top of the totem pole, the inside traders, quick-buck artists and savings and loan kingpins who looked out for themselves and not for the country...."

Of course such distinctions are ridiculous. A capitalist can only stay in business if he beats the competition to pull in the maximum profits. He will invest where the most profits are to be made -- whether from S&L's, or insider trading, or whatnot. The Democrats dream of a capitalism without the excesses the system necessarily produces. This is their "third way." But it is a hopeless illusion, and their love affair with business can only result in making the rich richer and the poor poorer, no different than under Reagan and Bush.


Demanding concessions from the workers

Such is the class logic of capitalism. If the capitalists are to benefit, then the workers must suffer. And so dutifully, the Democratic platform demands that the workers give up still more concessions to the bosses.

"Workers must be prepared to give up outdated job descriptions and work rules and become more open to change." (New York Times, June 13) The platform doesn't mention that such changes mean the loss of untold numbers of jobs, cuts in wages and more suffering. No, the Democrats won't talk about that. They simply want to let it be known that they are not dupes to "special interest groups" like the workers. They want to declare that they can be as hard-nosed against the workers as Reagan and Bush.


There was a time when the Democrats liked to claim they were a party of the workers. But for 12 years they have been accommodating themselves to Reaganism. This year they have written that accommodation into their platform and admitted that they are just as much a party of the wealthy capitalists as the Republicans. The union bureaucrats may deny it. But it is plain for anybody to see. The workers' only hope is to take their own road, to build up an independent movement that fights for the workers' interests against both capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans alike.


[Back to Top]

Supreme Court on kidnapping: might makes right


On June 15 the U.S. Supreme Court backed the right of the U.S. government to kidnap people anywhere in the globe and bring them to the U.S. for trial. The word "kidnapped" is not ours -- it is from the legal case itself, which involved kidnapping a Mexican doctor accused of murdering an American drug agent. The U.S. government has already given itself authority over alleged crimes committed outside U.S. borders by citizens of other countries. Now it also gives itself the right to operate a global kidnapping ring and to violate the laws of other countries at will.

This is the brazen law of might makes right. No country willingly allows other countries to snatch people from its soil. It is a warlike act against other countries. But the U.S. being the world's military superpower, it does what it pleases and thumbs its nose at the rest of the world.


The Supreme Court endorsed kidnapping by 6-3. Chief Justice Rehnquist showed that he can stretch words until they are meaningless. He advocated that there was no legal barrier to kidnapping. If the U.S. has diplomatic relations with another country, it doesn't mean that the U.S. has to act in a civilized fashion. If the U.S. has an extradition treaty with another country, it doesn't mean the U.S. government has agreed to follow its procedures. After all, Rehnquist asks, did the treaty itself say that kidnapping was ruled out?


No, it didn't. No such extradition treaties bar kidnapping. Nor do they bar taking suspects' children as hostages, or cutting off their arms and legs. It is taken for granted that the treaties are discussing ways of dealing with suspects within the bounds of a certain respect for the sovereignty of each country and a certain pretense of legal procedure. Otherwise, why bother with the extradition treaties at all?

Actually, of course, the U.S. often doesn't bother with treaties and the niceties of international law. That's why it has a global network of spies and CIA agents. The U.S. routinely spies on people around the world, bribes journalists, and tries to assassinate foreign leaders (unsuccessful examples being the plots against Cuba's Castro and Libya's Khadaffy). And there is always the U.S. army if the country concerned gets uppity

The Supreme Court ruling doesn't even deal with these routine kidnappings and crimes. But it gives a green light to the police departments to themselves go into kidnapping in a big way. Put a price on someone's head, advertise for mercenaries and kidnappers, and carry out a streak of lawlessness around the globe. The Supreme Court says it's just fine. The little criminals go to jail, while the big criminals run the imperialist system.

[Back to Top]



Remember all the talk in the wake of the Los Angeles riots that now Washington would start to provide some relief for the unemployed and impoverished? Well, in mid-June Congress finally passed its first urban aid bill. And on July 2, a second bill passed the House and is now awaiting action in the Senate.

In pushing through these compromise measures, both Bush and the Democrats sought to prove that they are acting to deal with the problems afflicting the masses. But they, in fact, proved the opposite. The money involved in these bills is so piddling they won't begin to bring relief to the hard-pressed masses.

A gesture to enterprise zones


The July House measure provides only $1 billion a year for the next five years. And that is spread out over 50 urban and rural enterprise zones to be created around the country.

Half the money is to give tax incentives to convince businesses to open up or expand in the zones.

The other half is for Bush's "weed and seed" program. It is aimed at creating special police forces, such as SWAT teams, to crack down on the masses in the name of weeding out drug dealers and gangs in the enterprise zones. After weeding, the program is supposed to seed a few dollars to drug rehabilitation and other social programs.

There are already 600 enterprise zones in 38 states, and the vast majority have proved incapable of creating jobs or relieving poverty. And the House bill provides so little money it is doubtful that many of the new zones will even come into being. They end up mainly providing a pretext for creating new special police units.

L.A. gets a few loans


The June urban aid bill is equally useless. Most of the $1.3 billion measure is for loans to businesses that were destroyed by the L.A. riots and by the flood in downtown Chicago. $500 million was for a one-time summer youth employment program spread over 75 cities. As unemployment mounts, this is just a drop in the bucket. The bill also provides the LAPD with another $8 million.

Conditions worsen


All the while, the situation for the masses just gets worse. California is suffering an $11 billion budget deficit and, for the moment, is paying its debts with IOUs. Enormous cuts in education, welfare and other social programs are being rammed through. Washington's urban aid won't get near making up for these cuts.

And this is going on while official unemployment has risen above 9% state-wide. In the south-central area of L.A. joblessness has soared over 50%. And McDonnell Douglas just announced it will close its Torrance plant this summer, wiping out 2,000 L.A. jobs. And GM will close its Van Nuys plant in August, eliminating another 3,000 jobs. Homelessness is also growing in the city and is now estimated at between 40,000 and 70,000 people.

Revenge against the masses


Obviously, the masses are desperate for relief. But instead they only get more police abuse. 16,000 people were arrested in the riots, most for curfew violations and in house-to-house searches when things had quieted down. By mid- June reports indicated as many as 6,000 were still languishing in jail.

Prosecutors have been taking revenge on the masses by frequently pushing felony burglary charges instead of lighter misdemeanor looting charges, even in cases of young teen-agers and where there were no previous offenses.

The deputy city attorney has also refused to drop charges against homeless people arrested for violating the curfew. He claimed they should have gone to shelters. When it was pointed out that many shelters were full, he argued they should have gone into vacant buildings. Of course then, they could have been arrested for things like breaking and entering and burglary.

At the same time, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) continues to hound immigrants. There have been sweeps of day laborers waiting on corners to be picked up for temporary jobs and house-to-house searches through Latino neighborhoods. It appears that over 900 people have now been deported, most without even receiving a hearing.

Mass actions break out


Despite the police terror, some mass actions have continued to break out against the police.

100 people marched in south L.A. on May 25 demanding amnesty for all those arrested and an end to INS raids against immigrants.

On May 28, over 1,000 people marched through Compton, a community in Los Angeles County. They protested the freeing of two cops who had murdered two unarmed members of the Samoan community. As the protesters marched by the police headquarters they shouted "19 bullets," the number of times the cops shot into the two brothers as they complied with the demand to kneel on the ground. A judge declared a mistrial in their case when the jury deadlocked, and he denied a request for a new trial.

Meanwhile, seven white supremacists of the Mississippi-based "Nationalist Movement" came into Simi Valley on June 6 to support the racist police who had been acquitted there in the brutal beating of Rodney King. More than 300 anti-racists came out to confront them. Anti-racists from Simi Valley were joined by other activists from L.A. and the San Francisco Bay Area. They pelted the racists, and the 100 cops there to protect the racists, with rocks and soda cans. Several cops were injured. Five of the anti-racist activists were arrested.

[Photo: Outside LAPD headquarters during the L.A. rebellion, April 29.]

Protests for Rodney King

Protests have also continued in other cities against the acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King.

Shouting "Rodney King's beat, the cops go free -- that's what you call democracy!" over 200 people marched on the mayor's house in Houston, Texas on May 25. Hundreds of police blocked off streets and closed a nearby park to protect the rich residents in the mayor's neighborhood. The protesters also demanded summer jobs for the poor youth and denounced police brutality in Texas.

About 300 people also demonstrated in New York on June 19. And many teachers and other workers held sick-outs at New York colleges and public schools. Juneteenth is the anniversary of the day word of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the black people in the southern slave states during the Civil War. This year Juneteenth was used to protest against the King verdict in New York, Washington D.C. and some other cities.

KKK confronted in several cities

Anti-racists came out to confront the Ku Klux Klan in several cities at the end of May and in June.

Hundreds of angry protesters gathered in Kingston, North Carolina, late in June to confront the Klan. Police from five counties set up barricades and kept the protesters a half mile from the center of town. A handful of racists were allowed to march through the town.

In Birmingham, Alabama, 300 anti-racists denounced about 50 Klansmen and Nazis on June 13. About 100 policemen protected the racists, and three activists were arrested when they tried to get at the racists.

500 protesters surrounded an area where about 30 Klansmen were rallying in Dubuque, Iowa. Cops kept them away from the racists. The activists targeted the racists even though some respectable leaders told people not to confront the Klansmen and organized a "celebration of diversity" in a park outside the city.

About 400 activists also confronted Klansmen on May 30 in Janesville, Wisconsin. Some 160 policemen put up snow fences to protect the racists. But the activists eventually pushed down one of the fences. The cops turned a water hose on the crowd. And the protesters began throwing rocks, sticks, mud and other objects at the police. When the cops tried to push the demonstrators back, they linked arms and stood their ground. The confrontation continued for some three hours.

Chicago rioters fight police


In the wake of celebrations of the Chicago Bulls' NBA championship victory June 14, rioting broke out around Chicago. Crowds confronted the police with rocks and bottles. Some 95 cops were injured and 61 police vehicles were damaged. There was also looting, of stores and several fires were set. The police arrested over 1,000 people and over 300 face felony charges. The black masses in Chicago face the same kind of brutality and impoverishment as that in L.A. As one youth declared when he was released from jail, "It was time for this in Chicago."

[Back to Top]

Strikes and workplace news


Get organized to fight for jobs

In June the official unemployment rate jumped up to 7.8% Although Bush keeps telling us the recession is over, jobs continue to be cut and the workers suffer.

According to government figures, there are now 10 million who are officially unemployed. But this doesn't count many of those who can't get work. There are at least another 1.1 million "discouraged" workers -- those who have given up looking because they can't find a job. As well, there are at least 6 million who are working part-time because they can't find full-time work. Altogether that is 17.1 million workers, or 13.4% of the work force, who are unemployed or half employed.

Worried over growing anger against the joblessness, Congress quickly passed another temporary extension of unemployment benefits. After March, this measure ends. But the new law will also slightly lower the trigger which allows 13 weeks of extended benefits to kick in. Under the present trigger, only Alaska and Puerto Rico would qualify for extended benefits. President Bush had threatened to veto the bill because he opposed the lower trigger and wanted to add to the bill a cut in the capital gains tax (giving the rich an average $19,000 a year savings) and the elimination of a luxury tax on boats. But facing sagging popularity in the election campaign, Bush agreed at the last minute to sign the bill.

It is claimed that these extensions may give about 2 million workers benefits for up to another 26 weeks. But the benefits are small. And this won't help the 7.1 million part-time and discouraged workers who get no benefits. Nor will it help millions of other unemployed workers who have been denied benefits because of the heavier restrictions that states have been imposing to qualify for benefits.

Congress is only doing the minimum. Workers have to get organized to make the capitalists pay to provide jobs or relief for all the unemployed.

Victory at Ravenswood!

After 19 months of hard fought struggle, the workers at Ravenswood Aluminum Company (RAC) in West Virginia have won!

The 1,700 steelworkers had been locked out of RAC since the fall of 1990 when their contract expired and RAC ringed the plant with barbed wire, installed surveillance cameras and hired armed guards. RAC hired "permanent replacements" to take their jobs.

But the workers stayed united and won wide support in a series of big solidarity protests. RAC finally caved in. It gave the workers a new contract that dropped various take-back demands and included a raise, $2,000 in back pay, and an amnesty clause dropping all legal charges against strikes. Of the 14 workers fired during the lock-out, 12 will return to work. As well, the "permanent replacements" were given no recall rights and will go out the door as the workers return to their rightful jobs.

Chicago homeless defend huts

It is estimated that there are some 50,000 people who are homeless in Chicago. The run-down city shelters can't house them all and are often unsafe.

Last fall, a group of volunteers built 18 huts for homeless men and women to live in. The 6X8 foot plywood structures each contain a sleeping loft, shelves and three small windows. They were placed on abandoned railroad property and were quickly filled by homeless people. There is a waiting list for new huts.

At first, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley praised the huts and said they could stay where they were even though they were not up to building codes. But recently he changed his mind. City officials removed seven of the huts, claiming they are firetraps. The occupants were pushed into shelters.

Homeless activists point out the the Mayor's sudden concern for the safety of the homeless is pure hypocrisy. It turns out that the abandoned railroad property where the huts are located is now being considered as the site for new development projects -- including a proposed 4,000 seat outdoor concert theater. Few believe Daley when he claims there is no connection between the hut removal and the proposed projects.

So far protests have temporarily stopped Daley from destroying the rest of the huts.

Fighting evictions in Baltimore

As the economy worsens, the vicious cycle of homelessness grows. A job is lost, mortgage payments fall behind, the bank sells the home at public auction. More and more workers face this tragedy.

In Baltimore, Maryland, over 650 evictions occurred during the month of May alone. But activists from the movement of the unemployed are fighting back. Dozens of activists have begun to show at the home auctions. Twice recently they were able to stop the auctions. In each case, the banks have had to negotiate with the families living in the homes.

HUD employees protest Kemp

More than 100 employees of the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) headquarters in Washington D.C. demonstrated June 4. Chanting "No justice, no peace!" the protesters declared they were fed up with Jack Kemp. They say he ignores racism and discrimination at HUD and ignores his own employees' demands for training. They point out, for example, that Kemp vetoed a contract clause that banned discrimination against lesbian and gay employees at HUD. The clause was only saved because it was negotiated by their union and upheld by a court.

The protesters asked how Kemp can posture as if he's concerned for the poor when he mistreats his own employees. Not only Bush, but various liberals have been promoting Kemp as a compassionate fighter for relief for the poor and homeless. But his plans for enterprise zones and privatizing public housing are just new ways to give incentives to the capitalists and push the poor out of government benefits. His employees know him best. We should listen to them.

Chicago P.O. Cuts work hours

The June 26 issue of the Chicago Workers' Voice reports that management at the Main P.O. in Chicago drastically cut the hours of workers classified as part-time flexibles and injured workers on light duty. Some were cut to only 4 hours every two weeks, others to four hours per day. Most of the ninety-day temporary employees were laid off.

The official rationale for the cutback was that the Main P.O. is "over budget." So to cut costs management slashed the work force and tried to force more work on those remaining. However, they weren't able to process the mail fast enough, suffered several "plan failures," and were forced to restore most of the hours.

Nevertheless, the cutbacks forced many injured workers to give up their "light duty" medical status in order to get full hours and enough pay to live on. They now risk more serious injury and dismissal if they can't perform their jobs. But this is just what the management wants. Management is on a job cutting, automation drive. And the first workers it is trying to get rid of are those who have been injured slaving for the post office.

The Chicago Workers' Voice warns that this was the opening of a series of attacks to come and calls on workers to get organized to fight back.

[Back to Top]

Turning Roe v. Wade on its head

Supreme Court puts the squeeze on abortion rights


On June 29, the Supreme Court slashed abortion rights. It upheld most of the serious restrictions on abortion contained in the sadistic Pennsylvania Abortion Control Act. This will prevent a number of women, especially young women, from getting safe, legal abortions, and will force others to endure unnecessary grief and harassment.

By upholding this law, the Supreme Court indicated that it will approve many of the restrictions on abortion rights in effect or pending in dozens of states. And this ruling will encourage conservative state legislatures to come up with new measures to harass women.

But a peculiar feature of the ruling was that some Of the Supreme Court judges wrote that they were upholding the 1973 Roev. Wadedecision that legalized abortion. Judges Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter, for example, proudly proclaimed that: "Our cases recognize 'the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.' " And they were echoed by much of the press and media. For the Supreme Court and the media, it doesn't matter that many women will not be able to obtain abortions and hundreds of thousands of women each year will be humiliated by laws intentionally written to harass them. They proclaim a right in theory, while increasingly taking it away in practice, especially from poor women and young women.

This decision actually is a continuation of the path the Supreme Court began in July 1989 when its infamous Websterdecision opened the flood gates for state-by-state restrictions on abortion by allowing Missouri to ban most abortions in hospitals, put a gag order on medical counseling of women, and otherwise harass women and doctors. The Court's newest decision is nodding in approval at the wave of anti-abortion laws they encouraged with Webster.Only this time, the Court is doing it under the pretext that it upholds Roev. Wade. Meanwhile four Supreme Court judges are chafing at the bit to overthrow Roe v. Wadecompletely, and push all poor and working women back to the days of the coat hanger and the back-alley butcher.

The Pennsylvania restrictions


According to the "wisdom" of O'Connor, Kennedy, and Souter, even though a woman has the right to abortion,, it is acceptable to harass her for exercising this right, so long as the harassment doesn't place an "undue burden" on her. They ruled the Pennsylvania law was OK because it supposedly didn't place "substantial obstacles" in the way of women seeking abortions, and thus was not an "undue burden."

No rights for teenagers


The Pennsylvania law requires young women under 18 to get permission from a parent or approval of a judge to get an abortion. This takes the decision out of the hands of a sizable group of women who seek abortions. Yet the esteemed justices say this is not a "undue burden" on them.


Parental consent laws are promoted as a way to preserve families. In fact, such laws do nothing to help families, but instead create conditions for tragedies. It is best when a teenager is part of a supportive family, but the law cannot provide that. The law only creates the conditions for tragedy, by putting teenagers at the mercy of dysfunctional families, or by forcing them to desperate measures when they do not feel that they can approach their parents about their pregnancy.

The Supreme Court claims that the provision to get approval from a judge avoids the problem of absent or abusive or incestuous or intolerant parents. But abundant experience, in Michigan and Indiana, shows that many judges are opposed to abortion rights and humiliate girls who come to them. And it is utterly unrealistic to expect troubled teenagers, acting alone without support from their short and simple statement that a woman had the right to choose. But it family, to be able to deal with complicated legal procedures and an unfeeling court. Only those teenagers wealthy enough to have access to legal counsel or fortunate enough to be helped by a knowledgeable friend or a sympathetic organization, will have a chance to appeal to the legal system.




There is an "informed consent" provision in the Pennsylvania statue. It requires women who go to a medical clinic for an abortion to be subjected to a diatribe aimed at discouraging the abortion. The woman is not to be presented with fair and accurate information, but special anti-abortion propaganda specified by the state government.

The waiting period


After being subjected to state-mandated lies, the woman must wait 24 hours before returning to the clinic for the procedure. Such a provision is an insult to all women as it assumes they are making a rash decision. Moreover, it is a real financial and personal hardship for the many women who live a great distance from any clinic that performs abortions. (Only eight of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania have such clinics.) So the 24-hour waiting period means a poor woman must not only pay for the abortion but must arrange and finance two long trips. This means facing the option of foregoing the procedure or going broke or perhaps losing a job.

But for the highest of all courts, far removed from the real problems of the workers and poor, this is no big deal. Rights are for the rich, let the poor fend for themselves.

Harassment of women and doctors

The Pennsylvania law also requires a strict reporting of abortions that may be used to single out medical personnel for harassment and retaliation from clinic bombers and other religious fanatics.

Spousal notification

The only Pennsylvania restriction struck down by the court was a requirement that women notify their husbands of their intentions to have an abortion.

Denying Roe v. Wade

These restrictions would all have been struck down under Roe v. Wade (and its companion decision of the same day, Doe v. Bolton).

Under Roe v. Wade, for example, the state could not impose special conditions on abortion in the name of medical necessity when it didn't impose such conditions on any other medical operation. It was not sufficient for a state to say that restrictions were solely for medical reasons; the state had to prove this. And the court, at the time of Roe v. Wade, struck down a number of absurd regulations in Georgia.

But now the Supreme Court allows special "informed consent" and waiting period laws. And O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter support this measure even though they know it is not needed for safety or to provide accurate medical information but is "a state measure designed to persuade her [the woman] to choose childbirth over abortion." Let the woman be burdened, so long as it isn't "an undue burden," that's the new wisdom.

The Roe v. Wade decision set up a trimester scheme outlining the abortion rights of the pregnant woman. Roe v. Wade prevented almost all interference with abortion during the first trimester (first three months) of pregnancy. It was up to the woman; the government could not interfere with her and her physician; and at most she could be required to sign a written consent form. During the second trimester, the state could only impose certain regulations to protect the woman's health. During the final trimester, Roe v. Wade allowed the state the option of banning most abortions after the point of fetal viability, but even here the state could not override the medical judgment of the women's physician in determining fetal viability and threats to the women's life.

Yet now the Supreme Court itself admits that it is striking down the trimester scheme of Roe v. Wade. Instead, it is allowing state interference at all points of the pregnancy. And it is also playing with the term "fetal viability," hinting that it is willing to give the states leeway in defining the point of viability.

The Supreme, Court says that the actual rulings of Roe v. Wade against restrictions on abortion aren't really important. Its ruling reverses two previous Supreme Court rulings of 1983 and 1986, that had struck down waiting periods and "informed consent" laws as violations of Roe v. Wade. Yet it says it is upholding Roe v. Wade.

Restrictions across the country

By deciding that states can limit abortion rights, the court has insured that there will be more and more restrictions across the country.

For instance, 33 states have passed laws requiring parental consent or parental notification. Of these, 16 states had not yet enforced their laws because they were being challenged in the courts.

Thirteen states passed waiting period restrictions all of which are pending in the courts.

Another 15 states have milder "informed consent" laws.

And only 13 states still have public funding of abortions.

The June 29 decision will encourage even more restrictions. Already on July 1, encouraged by the Supreme Court decision a few days earlier, Governor Walter Hickel of Alaska announced that he would eliminate public funding in his state.

How long will abortion rights last?

The recent Supreme Court decision still forbids states from outright banning abortion. But, for many poor and working class women, it will soon be a right in name only -- if there are enough restrictions, if the number of facilities and doctors performing abortion keeps declining, if poor women can't finance abortions.

And the Supreme Court may do worse. Only two of its nine judges, Stevens and Blackmun (who is going to retire soon), want to really maintain Roe v. Wade. Three judges, O'Connor, Souter, and Kennedy, now want to retain Roe v. Wade in name, while allowing more and more restrictions in practice. And four judges, Scalia, Thomas, White, and Chief Justice Rehnquist, want to go whole hog and throw out Roe v. Wade lock, stock and barrel. It will only take a change of one vote in the Supreme Court, and the court will either allow the states to ban abortion, or themselves ban abortion by declaring it murder. And it should also be noted that the rationale given by Scalia and Rehnquist in their minority opinions denouncing abortion rights would apply in large part to the right to birth control as well. If Roe v. Wade is to be thrown out because the Constitution doesn't explicitly mention privacy or abortion rights, then what about Griswald v. Connecticut legalizing contraception, as the Constitution doesn't mention birth control either?

As O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter themselves admit, their main reason for not discarding Roe v. Wade was the fear that it would discredit the court in the eyes of the people. Or, in their own words, it "would seriously weaken the Court's capacity to exercise the judicial power" and harm "the people's acceptance of the judiciary as fit to determine what the nation's law means." It is the mass support for women's rights that worries the Court. It is the clinic defenses, the mass demonstrations, and the anger of the people that demonstrates this support. This is the real defense for abortion rights. The only guarantee is to bring more and more workers, youth, and minorities into the streets in defense of women's rights.

Anti-abortion provisions added to 'Freedom of Choice Act'

The Freedom of Choice Act is back in the news. And now Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, a Democrat who has blocked the bill in the past, announced at the end of June that he would himself introduce the bill, and let it come to the floor of the Senate. But his new version of the bill contains additions guaranteeing the right of states to restrict abortions. And the House has now also added such language to its version of the Freedom of Choice Act.

The promise


The Democrats tell us that the Freedom of Choice Act will preserve abortion rights no matter what the Supreme Court does. And Senator Mitchell too posed as a defender of women's rights, saying that "Unwanted pregnancy is a common and painful occurrence for millions of American women. The right of a woman to choose the option of a safe, legal abortion must be preserved." Yet he refused to touch the bill until language was added that would deny abortion to untold numbers of poor and disadvantaged women.

The reality


For example, his new bill spells out that states could continue to refuse to fund abortions for poor women. This means that the "freedom to chose" will be a hollow mockery for thousands upon thousands of poverty-stricken women who don't have the money to afford medical care. His bill also specifies that states can require a minor seeking an abortion to "involve a parent, guardian or other responsible adult" in the decision. Thus it would set a federal standard for states to adopt parental notification and consent laws. These laws create tragic situations for pregnant teens with a difficult family situation, and deny theseyoung women the right to choose.

Even the original Freedom of Choice Act contained loopholes to allow restrictions on abortion. True, it apparently was a short and simple statement that a woman had the right to choose. But it would have allowed the courts to continue to impose requirements in the name of medical necessities or of determining the point of fetal viability. It lacked the additional language of the Roev. Wadedecision of 1973 that prevented most of such trickery. In fact, when the House Judiciary Committee voted a few days ago to amend the Freedom of Choice Act, some members argued that it was unnecessary to write parental consent and other restrictions into the Act, because the original Act already allowed this. They pointed to prior Supreme Court decisions and held that the Act would be interpreted in their light.

The status quo


Thus the Freedom of Choice Act would keep the states from banning abortion outright, but it would allow one restriction after another. It would not guarantee women's rights, but it would keep the present status quo, where abortion rights exist but are being chipped away piece by piece. It bears a striking resemblance to the position of Supreme Court Judges Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter in their recent June 29 decision which prevents the states from banning abortion outright, but imposes burdensome new restrictions.

A result of believing in the politicians


Mitchell's new form of the Freedom of Choice Act, which spells out abortion restrictions, was worked out through backdoor negotiations between Mitchell and the pro-establishment wing of the women's movement. The bourgeois-led groups had been promising that this is the year of political action, and they have been working hard to channel the movement into electing a few more women Democrats or Republicans. They desperately wanted the Freedom of Choice Act to come to a vote in Congress before the election. This is not because they thought it would become law -- they expect Bush to veto it. Instead they want to use it to embarrass Bush in the elections.

Well, nothing wrong with embarrassing Bush, but these groups were willing to sell out fundamental principles in order to help the Democrats. Thus they agreed to have the bill allow terrible abortion restrictions in order to get Mitchell on their side. They are now in the difficult position of supporting the Democrats for doing what they condemn when it is done by the Supreme Court Justices O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter.

This is the sorry result of propping up the Democrats instead of propping up the working people against both the Democrats and Republicans. Only building a strong movement based on the working class, the poor, and the minorities could really embarrass Bush and all the anti-woman politicians.

In fact, this backstage sell-out by some pro-establishment women's leaders to Mitchell's bill is just a continuation of what NOW and NARAL have been doing out in the open. NOW and NARAL have been promising everyone that the Freedom of Choice Act embodies abortion rights. They were hiding from women's rights activists the testimony at congressional hearings, the statements from congressional staff members supporting the bill, and the analysis in the Congressional Quarterly, that showed that the Freedom of Choice Act would only stop an outright ban on abortion, but would allow the states to continue restricting it.

The bourgeois politicians are split between two positions: either allowing abortion rights but restricting them more and more to the rich, or banning them altogether. Let us do something else! Let us instead defend women's rights! This requires building the movement as a force independent of the capitalist politicians. This requires building up a new politics, the politics of struggle in the streets, in the workplaces, and in the communities, to fight the old, corrupt politics of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the capitalist establishment.

'Milwaukee has spoken, the clinics stay open'

"Missionaries to the pre-born" and other bible-thumpers came to Milwaukee to shut down the clinics. But their plans are going up in smoke. Each day since June 15, hundreds of pro-choice activists have protected the clinics. Two weeks have passed and the clinics are open.

On the defense lines, June 16


From the beginning, the large turnout of clinic defenders set back the religious bigots.

The first serious attempt to disrupt the clinics was June 16. But early that morning 1,000 pro-choice activists deployed at three clinics, awaiting the anti-women zealots. Some anti-abortion forces showed up at the Imperial clinic. Seeing themselves outnumbered by 200 clinic defenders, they took off for the suburban Wisconsin Women's Health Center. But 340 pro-choice forces were on hand to meet the 100 "Missionaries" and their fellow thugs with chants like "Hey, hey, ho, ho -- we kicked you out of Buffalo!"

There were plenty of defenders to keep the anti-abortion forces well away from this clinic, but the police prevented the activists from holding a line at the gate leading to the parking lot in front of the clinic. This gave the anti-abortion zealots an opening and some crawled right through the police "guarding" the gate and into the parking lot. They were eventually arrested, but the cops took their time. Despite this debacle caused by the cops, all the patients made their appointments.

Those arrested included children -- a pattern that would be repeated in the ensuing days. It seems the anti-abortion forces are good at harassing women at clinics when pro-choice activists aren't around, and bombing clinics in the dark of night. But these brave crusaders have been getting cold feet when faced with clinic defenders or the threat of having to spend a few days in jail. So now they send kids, as young as eight, to do their dirty work. The "pro-life" movement sure has a lot of nerve trying to hang the label of "anti-child" on the pro-choice side!

Over the next three days, the pro-choice side maintained a large presence at the clinics, and the anti-women bigots could do nothing but continue getting themselves and their kids arrested.

June 20


The next big test was on Saturday, June 20, when both sides turned out in larger numbers. Once again, the antiabortion forces failed to stop patients from using the clinics. At one clinic, faced with 600 defenders, the anti-abortion "Missionaries" didn't even try to rush the clinic. And at the Summit clinic, the "pro-life" forces sent 15 children to run at the clinic, and then drop to their knees when they reached the police line which separated them from the wall of clinic defenders. Periodically the antiabortion forces would send groups of people across the street to repeat this stunt. The pro-choice activists shouted: "Milwaukee has spoken, the clinics must stay open!" The clinic stayed open, but 143 anti-abortion bullies were arrested including 31 youth from eight to seventeen years old.

The second week


The second week was another fiasco for the "pro-life" mob. Unable to dent the clinic defense lines, the "Missionaries to the pre-born" flailed about. On June 24, they sought easier targets by picketing the homes of two doctors with placards reading: "Your neighbor kills pre-borns." And then on June 25, they had their children run at patients and lie down at their legs as the patients crossed a busy street to approach the Summit clinic. Pro-choice escorts helped the patients overcome such harassment, however.

The biggest actions were on Saturday, June 27. At the Summit clinic, over 500 clinic defenders stood guard against a crowd of anti-women blockaders. All 16 women scheduled for appointments that day made it into the clinic. The anti-women zealots continued to approach and lie down in front of police lines, and a number got busted.

The same day about 400 clinic defenders faced off against 150 abortion opponents at the Wisconsin Women's Health Clinic. There were no attempts to rush the clinic, but some anti-abortion zealots paraded close to the pro-choice lines. Angry activists denounced them at close range, and pro-choice slogans rang out. The anti-abortion side beat a hasty retreat.

What path for the pro-choice movement?


The Milwaukee clinics are open due to the many people who came out to defend women's rights. Women and men came from all over to defend the clinics: Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, Racine and elsewhere. They were willing to confront the anti-abortion zealots and block their way.

The success isn't due to the police. When left to their own devices, the cops let the "right-to-life" bullies right through their lines. If it were not for the presence of clinic defenders, it is doubtful the cops would do much.

And what of the courts? Injunctions were supposed to stop the "Missionaries" and their friends. But the courts released many holy fanatics over and over again to return to harass women at the clinics.

Unfortunately, however, the establishment-oriented groups which dominated the Milwaukee Clinic Protection Coalition (MCPC) are still doing their best to keep the clinic defenders under wraps. They have demanded that activists sign pledges to not confront the anti-women bigots, not to denounce them, or even look them in the eye. They even tried to keep activists who disagreed with them away from the clinic defense lines.

Groups like National Organization for Women (NOW), National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) and Planned Parenthood had opposed mass clinic defense in Wichita, and the results had been disastrous. In Buffalo, by way of contrast, mass action booted OR's "Spring of Life" right out of the city. This encouraged a mass presence at the clinics in Milwaukee. But NOW, NARAL etc. stuck to the view that, if activists come to the clinics, they should certainly not confront the anti-abortion bullies. They still think the police and courts and injunctions are the key to victory.

MCPC's policy puts the damper on clinic actions and undermines their significance. But in practice a number of clinic defenders have gone beyond the official guidelines. As the "pro-life bullies" push forward, many clinic defenders are confronting them with collective slogan shouting and face-to-face denunciations. Many pro-choice activists are also upset at MCPC's policies and its heavy-handed attempt to impose them. When MCPC marshals tried to throw a supporter of the Marxist-Leninist Party off the clinic defense line for denouncing some anti-abortion bullies, other clinic defenders voiced approval of her actions and told the marshals to back off.

Supporters of the MLP have worked to encourage the mass action, and they also distributed a leaflet critical of the passive clinic defense policy of MCPC. They explained that muzzling clinic defenders is the flip side of reliance on the courts and the cops. And they criticized the efforts of groups like NOW and NARAL to channel everything into ordinary politicking and support for selected ruling class politicians. NARAL, for example, had numerous placards calling on activists to work to elect a pro-choice president despite the fact that both Perot and Clinton are on record as favoring restrictions on abortion rights.

The MLP leaflet pointed out that militant defense tactics "have frequently demoralized the pro-lifers." After all, "getting in their face and ruining their day is exactly the cure the anti's need to make them stop harassing women and health care workers." Indeed, it was only large and "confrontational" protests that won abortion rights in the The leaflet concluded that "The task at hand is working to build up mass rallies and marches, the militant clinic defenses and other actions. We need to inspire working women and men that we must act on our own behalf."

[Photo: Clinic defense line in Milwaukee, June 21.]

Anti-abortion leader dreams of a religious tyranny

Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry is not content to oppose abortion rights. When he directs his troops to harass women at clinics or terrorize doctors at their homes, he has broader objectives.

Terry is the president of the Christian Defense Coalition which has established something called the Joshua Project. It holds that most of the present arts, media, social services, schools, government and rival religious leaders are under the sway of Satan. As a pamphlet of the Joshua project puts it, "If America is to survive, she must be rebuilt on the foundation of the laws and principles found in the Word of God."

What would life be like under Terry's version of the "word of God"? Well, Terry has also helped build another like-minded group called the Coalition on Revival (COR) which describes itself as "Christian leaders who are capable of dying for Christ" in the battle against the "forces of darkness." And according to COR literature, God's law means being "willing to submit to the hierarchical order that God has created in which we are willing to submit as [we submit] to Christ, to employers, civil government and church leaders, and within families, wives to their husbands and children to their parents."

Let there be no mistake: Terry's band of refugees from the Dark Ages is not merely interested in living this way themselves. Oh no. All must submit. As COR publication Crossroads writes: "We deny that anyone, Jew or Gentile, believer or unbeliever, private person or public official is exempt from the moral and juridical obligation before God to submit to Christ's lordship over every aspect of his life in thought, word and deed." Thus in Terry's ideal world, there is no dissent. If the employer cuts wages and benefits, or lays you off, accept it as Terry accepts Christ. If the civil authorities march you off to war for the greater glory of Big Oil, accept it as Terry accepted the Gulf War. If a woman is being abused in marriage, accept it as Terry demands obedience from all women. Accept hierarchy, nay worship it, as Terry worships God's law.

Of course there is an escape clause. When Randall Terry feels the authorities are under the sway of Satan, such as when they allow rights to nonbelievers, then he calls on his vigilantes to terrorize their opponents in the name of God's law.

And then there are Mr. Terry's "family values."

Women are to be mere house-slaves for their husband-masters with no will of their own. To ensure that women remain "barefoot and pregnant" Terry argues in Crossroads, as he does in OR's publications, that "if you are using any kind of birth control: stop. Leave the number of children you have in God's hands."

And it scarcely needs mentioning what sort of regimentation, corporal punishment, and guilt-tripping would be inflicted upon the children.

What would a regime of rabid Terry'ers do with the power to impose their gospel? The country would become a theocratic state, like the late Khomeini's Iran only in the name of Christ instead of Islam. And then: Would strikes and workers' organizations be banned? Would any criticism of the government be heresy? Would husbands. be allowed to beat wives who disobey?

And the Bush administration and many establishment columnists suck up to these "Christian warriors." They need the ultra-right kooks for the dirty work in perpetuating the second-rate status of women, and driving down the workers and the poor. They want a liberal state with all the materialist gravy for themselves, while the lord's dictatorship is to be preserved for the workers and poor.


Supreme Court denounced across the country

The Supreme Court thought it could sugarcoat its anti-abortion decision of June. 29 and avoid "divisiveness" by sprinkling the words Roe v. Wade over it. But it's not so simple to get people to sit on their hands while their rights are being taken away. Below we report on a few of the protests against the Supreme Court decision, with more reports still coming in as we go to press.


On June 30, a day after the Supreme Court put another nail in the coffin of, abortion rights, 200 activists held a rally and march to denounce the Supreme Court, the government, and the antiabortion movement. Organized by Buffalo United For Choice, speakers pointed out the necessity to confront Operation Rescue (OR), to keep up the clinic defense and to not let the anti-abortionists have a moment's rest.

When the Reverend Drzymala, a well-known and well-hated leader of the anti-abortion movement tried to enter the rally area, he was pushed back by a large crowd, and soundly denounced. He finally slinked off into a corner, visibly shaken by his reception.

After a series of speeches, the activists took to the streets. A "die-in" at the Federal Courthouse, and a coffin that was carried throughout the demonstration, symbolized the women's deaths that will result from the new restrictions on abortion. The march through downtown Buffalo ended up at the Federal Building, where an open mike was set up. Speaker after speaker denounced the Supreme Court and pointed to the successes in clinic defense as a foundation for moving the pro-choice movement forward.

A speaker from the Marxist-Leninist Party said: "Today we need to ask ourselves -- where do we go from here? Looking to the federal elections in November -- or to the Congress to pass the Freedom of Choice Act is a dead end. Neither Bill Clinton nor Ross Perot give two hoots about women's rights. Even though they both claim to be pro-choice, neither has any program or any intention of improving the lives of the workers and poor. And what will we really gain if and when the Freedom of Choice Act is passed? We will see starting all over again the process of erosion, the long drawn-out court cases, the twisted interpretations, the debates on fetal viability. No, we must learn the lessons of our local fight against OR well -- we must turn our attention to broadening the pro-choice movement, especially looking for support from among working and poor women who in fact are today bearing the brunt of the right-wing offensive on every front."

The rally ended with a piece of street theater, which hilariously denounced the male dominance, ignorance, and religious medievalism preached by the leaders of the anti-abortion movement. Buffalo Mayor James Griffin came in for particular ridicule for welcoming OR's "Spring of Life" and for his backward, bigoted views.


The day of the decision 300 people, loud and spirited, rallied in Federal Plaza. Some activists burned a judge's robe, and a placard depicting the Supreme Court judges.

The anti-abortion crusaders showed up, led by notorious bully Joseph Scheidler. The pro-choice activists formed a picket and marched around the anti's, denouncing them.

The demonstration then marched through downtown, meeting with much support from cars and pedestrians passing by and from people hanging out of office windows. The activists then took a voice vote to go to the busy "Taste of Chicago" festival in Grant Park. The police tried to keep the demonstration out. But after a few minutes and a shoving scuffle, the cops had to let the activists proceed for two blocks through the event, during which time the pro-choice cause got cheers and thumbs-up salutes from the crowd.

As the demonstration marched back to Federal Plaza, it spotted a motor-scooter cop assigned to crowd control sporting a piece of cardboard with lettering proclaiming it a "beauty board." The cop was chalking up the number of pretty women walking by. Demonstrators denounced him, with one woman jumping into one of the police three-wheeled scooters. As a result, a police sergeant seized the "beauty board" and ripped it up.

The next morning a number of pro-choice activists picketed Scheidler's house. There were also two rallies at Federal Plaza, one at noon held by NOW and another at 4:30 p.m. by the PCAC coalition.


The day of the Supreme Court decision 1,000 people picketed the federal court building and then marched to Government Center. The next day 2,000 people attended a rally organized by a local affiliate of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), which turned it into an election rally for various politicians. The Marxist-Leninist Party carried its banner, handed out leaflets, and put forward slogans at both events.


A dozen people rallied outside the Federal Building in downtown Detroit the day of the Supreme Court decision. The next day at the same place, 100 people attended another rally against the Supreme Court decision.

New York City

Several hundred people blocked the Holland Tunnel on the afternoon of Thursday, July 2, tying up traffic for 45 minutes. They demanded full abortion rights, without any legal restrictions, and hundreds of bystanders agreed with them. The police arrested 140 demonstrators.

[Photo: Cops haul away one of 140 activists who blocked the Holland Tunnel in New York City, July 2.]

On the clinic defense lines

The biggest clinic defenses last month took place in Milwaukee, but other actions took place around the country.

At the Linwood Ave. clinic in Buffalo


Fifteen Operation Rescue (OR) thugs blocked both entrances of the clinic on June 5. Three clinic defenders therefore helped six women with appointments climb through the front window. The people who came with the patients to the clinic were so outraged at OR's activity that, after helping their friends into the clinic, they came out to assist other women. Meanwhile the police stood at the end of the driveway, informing OR that they were breaking the injunction, and then watching them do it.

Every week at Womenservices


OR attacked Buffalo's Womenservices clinic throughout June. For the last few weeks, they outnumbered the clinic defenders by three to one, with 125 or 150 OR and 25 to 50 defenders. But the pro-choice activists have stood their ground. Some go right in the faces of the worst anti-abortion thugs and denounce them. And they interfere with OR's "sidewalk counselors" engaged in harassing women who enter the clinic; whenever there are sufficient clinic defenders, the "sidewalk counselors" are shadowed and harangued. Slogans are shouted periodically, especially when the holy bullies start singing their religious songs. More and more, when the sanctimonious OR'ers start a prayer meeting outside a clinic, the pro-choice forces encircle it, shout slogans, and denounce OR leaders.

OR, on its side, has stepped up harassing patients. At least twice, they have physically assaulted women and their escorts who were trying to enter the clinic. They have also shoved clinic defenders, hit them with signs, and threatened them. These are the tactics of their desperation, as seen by their increasing use of children. Most recently they brought 20 youth, some of them pre-teens, and had them try to block the driveway to the clinic. The police didn't interfere. They said they didn't have enough cops and besides, OR was violating a federalinjunction, but they are only localpolice. So the cops ask the clinic defenders, instead of OR, to move aside. But the pro-choice activists said that if the police wouldn't defend Womenservices, then they would. And they did so, encircling the children's crusade and preventing it from closing off the driveway.

OR fizzles in Boston


OR announced that they would be targeting a clinic for the whole month of June. But throughout this month they were outnumbered and in low spirits, while clinic defenders would shout slogans and mock them.

OR began on Saturday May 30 with five women from OR posing as patients of the Gynecare clinic which would be OR's target for June. They came in and chained themselves to the clinic, which put walls around them and continued business as usual.

OR began daily rallies outside Gynecare. The big turnout was on Saturdays, when they numbered 75 to 125, but pro-choice activists numbered far more, from 200 to 450. During weekday mornings, a handful of anti-abortion crusaders would have to face 30 or 40 lively pro- choice activists, the numbers would be more equal in the afternoons.

In other actions, OR organized picketing outside the homes of several doctors. But 300 pro-choice activists picketed outside Boston College High School in Dorchester on June 18 where Randall Terry was scheduled to speak to an OR rally. He never even showed up, and the OR's numbers were pathetic.

Canadian activists are angry!


600 defenders of abortion rights from all over Canada showed up on Saturday June 27 in Toronto, and there were also 50 people from nearby Buffalo. They marched outside a confab of assorted anti-abortion freaks holding a "Campaign Life" meeting at a downtown hotel. Inside, invited to speak along their Canadian brothers in crime, were Cardinal O'Connor of New York City, the Reverend Schenk brothers of Buffalo, Joe Scheidler of Pro-Life Action League and other women haters from the U.S.

The pro-choice activists marched up and down the street in front of the hotel. When an anti-abortion fanatic attempted to enter their lines, he was quickly surrounded and pushed back. Speakers pointed out that the anti-abortion movement was part of an overall attack on women's rights. And they condemned the May 18 bombing of Dr. Henry Morgentaler's Toronto clinic (see the last issue of The Workers' Advocate).

"Right-to-life" tries to burn down California clinic


Unable to close it down any other way, the anti-abortion thugs set a fire in a Feminist Women's Health Center in Redding, California. They used a flammable liquid to set it ablaze in the early morning hours of Saturday, June 6. The local fire marshal estimated $70,000 worth of damage. The clinic is seeking support from the community to pay for repairs.

The "right-to-life" forces had tried to burn down the clinic at least once before, in October 1989.

800 protest Cardinal O'Connor's anti-abortion march in New York

New York City's Cardinal O'Connor organized a couple thousand of his followers to hold an anti-abortion march on June 13 to the city's Eastern Women's Services clinic. But all along the way, the march was hounded by 800 pro-choice counter-protesters. They held up placards and shouted slogans condemning O'Connor and his anti-women throng, and some made their way into the street to confront the anti-abortion marchers. The police protected the anti-abortion crusade and arrested several counter-protesters.

O'Connor is a notorious bigot against gays, people with AIDS, and women. But the presence of a Catholic church big shot like O'Connor was supposed to give an air of respectability to the wing of the "pro-life" movement that terrorizes women at the clinics. O'Connor poses as above the violence, but his march went by a clinic that was bombed by antiabortion thugs in 1986. He was seeking to prop up the sagging fortunes of the clinic blockaders who suffered a major setback in Buffalo this April.

[Photo: Hundreds of pro-choice activists confronted New York City's "anti-abortion Cardinal" O'Connor in front of his church, June 13.]

[Back to Top]

Governments posture, the earth suffers


Michael Dorsey, a student at the University of Michigan, was chosen to represent youth in the official U.S. delegation to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held June 3-14 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Dorsey went to Rio expecting that the Earth Summit would help solve the serious environmental problems which plague the planet.

By June 11, however, he had walked out of the conference and resigned from the U.S. delegation in protest. Dorsey and seven other student representatives from other countries were hauled away by UN security guards and detained. In explaining their stand, they denounced the U.S. government for being an obstacle to environmental sanity and sustainable development, the officially proclaimed goals of the Rio conference.

These protesters weren't the only people angered by the UN conference. There were several mass demonstrations as well. Many activists denounced the Rio Summit as a worthless farce.

What led these people to condemn the UN conference? What led to disappointment even among those who had initially believed in the grand declarations of the Rio Summit?

Bush administration sabotages treaties


For reason number one, turn to George Bush and the U.S. government.

The United States is the world's largest polluter. With 5% of the world's population, this country consumes 25% of the world's energy and a disproportionate share of other resources as well. It produces about a quarter of the so-called "greenhouse gases" which are responsible for global warming.

When Bush arrived in Rio, he made a grandstanding speech declaring that the U.S. is the "world's leader" when it comes to concern for the environment. This rang totally hollow to anyone who followed what went on at the Rio Summit.

Originally Bush was not even going to Rio. The White House was opposed to a proposed treaty on global warming which would have required countries to cut down their emissions of carbon dioxide to 1990 levels by the year 2000. Only when other countries watered down the treaty so that it would only call for best efforts -- but no specific requirements -- did Washington signal its readiness to sign, and Bush finally decided to go to Rio.

The U.S. also refused to sign a biodiversity treaty which 98 countries had negotiated. And it would not offer more than a pittance to help the poor countries convert to cleaner technology.

But Bush was only the most obvious problem with the Rio Summit. What if the U.S. had signed all these treaties, like most other governments agreed to do? Even then, all you would have had is one more set of grandiose declarations that come from the United Nations but mean very little in reality. After all, if one goes by UN declarations, the world would be a place where human rights are respected by all, where poverty is overcome, and where the rights of workers, women and children are all defended. The governments of the United Nations sign all sorts of fine statements, but since they are all representatives of exploiters, their words don't mean anything.

Nevertheless, the wheeling and dealings at the Rio Summit do teach valuable lessons in world politics, in the relationship among the world's powers, and in the gulf between word and deed. They especially tell volumes about the stands and interests of "our" government.


The U.S. on global warming: To hell with the earth's future!


What does Bush's refusal to cut greenhouse emissions mean?

Two centuries of industrialization have created an accumulation of gases which trap sunlight in the atmosphere. This may be leading to a greenhouse effect. If true, this will cause massive climatic changes, and could reduce food production and raise the level of the oceans, flooding areas in which a billion people live today.

There is a scientific consensus that some global warming is indeed taking place, although whether or not a greenhouse effect will kick in, and when, is not so clear. But it is also generally accepted that when it does, it will be too late to take preventive measures.

This is why it is important to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, today. But the Bush administration refuses to pledge any serious effort to cut these emissions. They plead that not enough is known. By their short-sighted stand, they are potentially imperiling life on the earth.

As it stands now, the global warming treaty coming from Rio is merely a set of pious intentions. Don't expect much to come from it.

The U.S. on biodiversity: Our profits are sacred


The biodiversity treaty was designed to preserve the earth's rapidly vanishing species. It is estimated that a quarter of the existing 10 million species could be wiped out over the next 50 years. Some species are bound to die out anyway, but many are dying as victims of development as we know it. If humanity does not try to preserve the earth's diversity of species, the vitality of food crops will be harmed and the ecological balance of many regions will be destroyed, with dangerous consequences.

But the biodiversity treaty ran into a snag over the exploitation of the diversity of the earth's species. Over 80% of the earth's species can be found in the Third World. The U.S. is however the world's leader in biotechnology, an industry now worth $4 billion a year. The Bush administration and U.S. corporate interests want to ensure that any biodiversity treaty enshrine "intellectual property rights." Under U.S. law, life forms and processes can be patented, and Bush wants to extend this to the rest of the world. Bush's demand means that U.S. corporations are free to exploit the species found in the Third World in order to develop drugs, agricultural seeds, etc., but the profits will be monopolized by the rich countries like the U.S.

Governments from the Third World justly refused Bush's demands. It is well known that the U.S. defense of "intellectual property rights" means that the poor countries are charged monstrous prices for medicine, agricultural technology, and other scientific research.

The U.S. on funding: We don't have an open checkbook


Some environmental forces from rich countries suggest that to cut world pollution, economic growth must be stopped. For the less developed countries, this means consigning billions to starvation and death. Such a stand has been denounced as environmental imperialism. However, if the poor countries are to have growth and at the same time, pollution levels are to be cut down, one thing that is needed is a transfer of cleaner technology to the Third World.

The United Nations estimates that at least $125 billion would be needed annually to assist poor countries in development and environmental projects. That is about 1% of the Gross Domestic Product of the developed countries, a mere l/8th of the $1 trillion spent by the U.S., Europe and Japan on weapons.


But funds on that scale are not about to be given to the poor countries. Washington was of course the stingiest of the lot, promising to increase its environmental aid only to $700 million a year. The European Community pledged a combined total of $4 billion. And Japan promised $1.4 billion a year.

A transfer of cleaner technology would indeed slow down pollution levels in the Third World. But did the governments of the poor countries haggle at Rio with the rich because they are really interested in the conditions of the environment or of the poor masses at home? No. As in most haggling for foreign aid, they wanted more in order to enrich the wealthy ruling classes of the Third World and to preserve their power.


What was behind the U.S. foot-dragging?


In explaining his stubbornness over the Rio agreements, Bush explained that he was simply defending "jobs" in the, United States. That is simply a nicer way of saying that he is defending the profit interests of U.S. capitalists.


Environmental cleanup obviously means incurring some economic costs. After all, capitalist production in ordinary circumstances merely treats ecology as a "free good" that it doesn't have to pay for. But life has shown that pollution has a serious cost -- in the health and life of human beings and the planet itself.

While environmental action does mean cutting into the profits of certain entrenched interests, it does not necessarily mean that jobs have to be sacrificed. This or that job may go, but whether or not workers are discarded on the scrap heap is quite another matter. But "defending jobs" is a longstanding excuse to oppose environmental regulation or cleanup. And this is what Bush was up to.

In reality, Bush was voicing the worries of a declining economic power. Bush and the U.S. ruling class are fearful that accepting the limits suggested by Rio would weaken U.S. capitalism further vis-a-vis their rivals in Europe and Japan. Indeed, Vice President Dan Quayle's Competitiveness Council wrote a secret memo urging the White House not to accept new limits in Rio because that would require expanding environmental legislation. And as is well known, the Bush-Quayle administration is spearheading efforts to strip past legislation, like the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Meanwhile, Europe and Japan struck a different posture in Rio. Although they watered down the global warming treaty in deference to Bush, they also signaled their willingness to cut carbon dioxide emissions to T990 levels by 2000. And they offered more aid money. Why these stands? Because they have ambitions to dominate the world, and showing up Washington was easy to do in Rio. Meanwhile, with their promises of more aid to the less developed countries, they wanted to curry favor with Third World ruling classes. For example, Japan is a leader in developing new cleanup technology, and its aid is only meant to clear markets for this technology in the Third World. Behind the declarations at the Rio Summit lies an ever-increasing rivalry among the imperialist powers over who will dominate the markets and raw materials supply from the less developed countries.


But let's make no mistake. Neither the European governments nor Japan are paragons of environmental virtue. For example, Europe is notorious for shipping its toxic wastes to poor countries, and Japan's ravenous hunger for lumber is one of the main reasons behind deforestation in Southeast Asia.

To fight pollution, fight capitalism!

In the final analysis, not much can be expected from a UN conference like Rio. Such conferences produce tons of paper documents and cost millions to organize. But they are typically nothing more than forums where the governments of the world posture and strut, where the big and small powers haggle and squabble, and more bureaucracies of "international experts" are created to monitor the compliance of paper treaties of at best symbolic value.

For serious action against pollution and environmental destruction, we have to go beyond the UN framework which suggests that "we are all in it together" and that rich and poor, rulers and subjugated can somehow join together to solve problems spawned by the exploiters and their profit-based system.

For real change, we need the action of masses, by the working people, within countries and across national frontiers. Life has shown enough times that when environmental destruction has been blocked, it has been due to mass action.

To fully do away with the steady destruction of the planet, we need a society based on a radically reorganized system of production and of how "waste" is handled. This necessarily means eliminating the capitalist system. And replace it with what? Not a state-capitalist order as existed in Eastern Europe. No, that has also shown its total bankruptcy when it comes to environmental concern. We need instead a workers' socialist society, where the working class itself rules through its mass organizations and consciously reshapes society according to the needs of the people and the earth.


[Back to Top]

Protests at Earth Summit


[Photo: 10,000 protesters denounce Bush during the "Earth Summit."]


The politicians and bureaucrats from over 140 nations who gathered at the 1 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development were not the only presence in Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of activists also came to present an alternative viewpoint. Many of them fervently condemned the official Earth Summit for being a farce, a conference only meant to show hypocritical concern for the planet's ecological problems.

The largest demonstration took place on Sunday, June 7, when 10,000 marched on Copacabana Beach to denounce U.S. president George Bush. Banners and signs carried slogans like "Stop Bushwhacking the Planet!" T-shirts carrying the message "Go home, Bush pig!" have also been popular among environmental activists gathered in Rio. Bush has earned particular wrath from activists because his government has arrogantly watered down environmental treaties that most of the rest of the countries were prepared to sign.

Young people held several protests during the Rio conference. On June 5th, 200 students from many countries staged a protest to denounce military pollution. Although wars like the recent Gulf War create environmental havoc and the military spawns tons of toxic wastes, the United Nations conference did not denounce war or nuclear waste.

On June 7, several hundred youth tore down the booth of the World Bank at the Global Forum, the "alternative summit" going on in Rio during the UN conference. The World Bank is notorious for imposing the interests of the rich imperialist countries onto the poor nations and it has itself been responsible for many development projects which have devastated the environment.


Much of the protest activity in Rio centered around the Global Forum. This alternative summit was organized by Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) from around the globe. But the NGO's are a mixed bag, representing different economic interests and various political viewpoints, including some fairly conservative and self-seeking points of view. So, business groups paraded their "green" concern and looked for profitable opportunities. And at the same time, there were also activists who used the Global Forum to denounce the ravaging of the earth and human life by the exploiters and the powerful imperialist countries.

The Global Forum itself came in for a protest aimed against it -- from Rio's poor. Organizations representing the residents of Rio's favelas(shantytowns) denounced the fact that the Forum had an entrance fee of $50 which meant excluding the poor from it. The protest drew many participants from the Global Forum as well. A favelaleader pointed out, "Ecology must consider that people need a home and basic sanitation."

He made a valuable point. The lack of sanitation is one of the worst environmental calamities facing the largest number of human beings today. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.5 billion people suffer from illness resulting from insufficient or contaminated water or lack of sanitation. But this catastrophe was not a major item on the agenda of the so-called Earth Summit.


[Back to Top]

SOUTH AFRICA: The politics of struggle and compromise


A new wave of mass struggle has broken out in South Africa.

The racist De Klerk government wants to hold on to as much power as possible in the face of black demands, and so the black masses have become disillusioned with the negotiations going on between the government and the African National Congress (ANC).

The ANC leaders began a campaign of mass action to force concessions from the government. They were not willing to settle for the arrogant stance of De Klerk, and moreover, they were under pressure from their followers.

In the midst of this campaign, however, terrorist forces within the government carried out a brutal massacre. Since then, the ANC has withdrawn from negotiations and called for a stepped-up mass campaign.

How did events in South Africa reach this point, and where are things likely headed?

Operation Exit


For the past year and a half the leaders of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela, have been carrying on talks with the racist regime headed up by President F.W. De Klerk. But during this time De Klerk has dragged his feet, trying to find ways to avoid giving substantial power to the black majority.

Earlier this year, De Klerk called a referendum for white voters to express their stand for or against his reform program. He was given a hefty two-thirds majority in the March 17 vote.

But soon after, negotiations reached a deadlock. De Klerk sought to use his mandate as a bargaining chip against the ANC. He put forward a constitutional plan which would allow the white elite a substantial veto power against black representatives in a future government and legislature. But this plan was too much even for the ANC leadership to accept.

The ANC leadership has a mass base, and they knew that accepting De Klerk's offer would not go well with the masses. The ANC leaders are also aware that their reputation with the ANC rank and file has declined. The masses are tired of seeing nothing come of the promises that their leaders have made about a negotiated solution.

Indeed, ANC officials who carry around briefcases have become a target of ridicule among the masses. Township residents have given the briefcase a new name -- codesa -- after CODESA, the Conference for a Democratic South Africa, the body for constitutional talks. The black masses can see that certain deals have been worked out to give these "codesa" cadres a certain amount of influence within the lower levels of government, and they resent the status climbing by ANC officials going on at a time when their lives remain the same, or get worse.

Faced with De Klerk's arrogance, the ANC was finally forced to call for a campaign of mass action to pressure De Klerk. The ANC sought to tip the balance in the negotiations in their favor. This campaign was dubbed "Operation Exit," the announced goal being to force De Klerk's government to hand over power by year's end to a regime that would include black representatives.

Mass strike paralyzes the country on Soweto Day


The ANC began its campaign on Soweto Day, June 16. This day marks the uprising of Soweto youth in 1976 against the racist educational system.

Operation Exit began with a general strike on June 16. This was hugely successful. Millions of workers stayed away. The Chamber of Commerce itself admitted that 90% of workers did not come to work in Johannesburg and other major cities.

Massacre at Boipatong


But the next evening there was a massacre of blacks in the township of Boipatong, near Johannesburg. Boipatong is under ANC control.

But nearby, living in hostels are workers affiliated to the Inkatha Freedom Party. Inkatha organizes terrorist squads to murder and intimidate ANC-affiliated blacks. Inkatha is led by the Zulu chieftain Buthelezi who opposes the ANC from the right; he has a long record of scabbing on the mass struggle against white minority rule, preferring instead to work out backroom deals with the white racists.

On the evening of June 17, these Inkatha thugs broke into Boipatong and savagely murdered scores of people, using guns and axes. The murderers then quickly vanished into the night.

There was a strong feeling among the black masses that the Boipatong massacre was a direct reply from the regime to Operation Exit. The outrage was so intense that ANC leaders were forced to call off further negotiations with the government. This was by no means the first such massacre -- some 1,800 people have been killed by Inkatha in the last couple years. But coming at such a time, as a deliberate slap at ANC's mass campaign, the ANC leaders felt compelled to do something.

White racists organized the massacre


There is strong evidence that the government itself, or at least ultra racists within the security forces, were complicit in the massacre.

The attack was preceded by a barrage of tear gas fired by police, to chase away people standing guard at roadblocks around Boipatong. A number of survivors of the massacre have related seeing white men directing the massacre. Also, survivors saw the killers make their withdrawal in hippos, the armored troop carriers used by the South African army and police. A squad of hippos would not be accessible to Inkatha thugs unless they were acting jointly with government forces. Witnesses have also testified that they actually saw some troops in motion the night of the massacre.

Since the massacre occurred, government investigators have detained some people allegedly involved. And De Klerk declared "mourning" for the massacre victims. But he still insists that these massacres are not government-organized and that government forces are not involved, when evidence proves the opposite.

The racist establishment in South Africa has altered its tactics in the last couple years, from outlawing black political organizations to legalizing them and negotiating with them. This change was forced on them because the old order was no longer tenable, and the ground was slipping away under their feet. Their timing was also influenced by the pressure of the economic crisis, the cost of suppressing the mass struggle, and the economic effect of their international isolation.

But behind the scenes the racists are willing to massacre thousands. If it is just the ultra-racists involved, they clearly want to make sure the negotiations go nowhere and the racist system is preserved. But whether or not the government itself is directly involved, the massacres also help the De Klerk government, by weakening the ANC and ensuring that the balance of power in the negotiations, and their outcome, are maintained in favor of the white minority.

Police shoot down black demonstrators


The apartheid police produced a second massacre at Boipatong a few days later when De Klerk came to visit. On June 20 De Klerk came to the township, supposedly to offer his sympathy. Angry residents chased him out of the township, chanting "De Klerk go to hell." Shortly after De Klerk withdrew, police hippos pulled into Boipatong and disgorged heavily armed troops who began firing into the crowds. Among the many injured, at least three died.

ANC breaks off talks


At a mass rally on June 21 Nelson Mandela declared that the ANC leaders had had enough, and he broke off talks with the government. This was met with jubilation from the gathering. People at the rally chanted, "Give us arms!" -- their idea of how to deal with Inkatha and De Klerk's government. They also sang a song with the refrain, "Why do you act as lambs while the enemy is killing our people?"

But the ANC leaders are not about to give arms to anyone. And they made it clear, in statements to the press, that calling off negotiations does not mean reviving their armed struggle, and they insist that a negotiated solution is still necessary. Even during the height of their "armed struggle" the activity of the ANC's military wing was limited to a few scattered bomb blasts per decade. It was mostly talk, combined with militaristic posturing, and never included plans for arming the masses.

However, the ANC issued a set of 14 demands to De Klerk. It has also made militant declarations calling for the masses to sweep aside the government. A nationwide strike has been called for August 3.

But it is hard to believe in the ANC's declarations of militancy. For example, when De Klerk attacked them for calling for the overthrow of his government, they replied that this isn't their goal. True enough.

The sticking point: immediate power sharing


If De Klerk were ever willing to seriously negotiate, he would find the ANC leaders willing to accommodate him.

De Klerk's principal goal is that any future constitution preserve special privileges for the white minority. The reformist leaders of the ANC, while speaking generally of "one person, one vote" are willing to negotiate De Klerk's safeguards, though they disagree on the details of these provisions.

But while De Klerk wants the present government to oversee the transition process, the ANC wants an interim government. This interim government would be a form of power sharing, with ANC leaders given prominent positions. This seems to be the main sticking point.

Why doesn't De Klerk agree to immediate power sharing, even to a nominal measure? It would appear that De Klerk is still more interested in appeasing the ultra-rightists within his regime. He apparently wants to drag out the talks long enough that the ANC's potential electoral strength is reduced such that they could not dominate a future government. De Klerk wants time to develop a voting base beyond his traditional base and his party has even won over certain figures in the "colored" and Indian communities,

Meanwhile, the economy is entering its third year of recession. Injured by economic boycotts as well as drought and low gold prices, the economy is subject to serious, irreparable damage from black workers' strikes. The major white capitalists themselves are calling on De Klerk to resolve the issue before the economy goes in the dumpster, as it may do if the strike movement escalates.

Where now?


As a result of the present standoff, there are signs that the government is ready to make some concessions to the ANC.

It is allowing international representatives to join an investigation of the township violence, and more significantly, De Klerk is offering to scale back white veto power in the constitution. His demands do not still amount to full democracy and respect for the principle of one person, one vote, but they are a retreat towards what the ANC has signaled its willingness to accept in the past.

Whether this will restore the constitutional talks, or whether other developments will take place, is unclear. The ultra-racists could carry out some other atrocity to polarize the situation further. The black masses may not be in a mood to accept piddling concessions. Or the situation could develop a logic of its own.

The revival of mass action is a welcome development. It has already shown that a few days of mass struggle can have an impact on the government more than months of haggling at the negotiations table. It has the potential to do more. A major problem, however, is that the ANC leaders see the mass struggle as a mere form of pressure to turn on or turn off according to their reformist goals.

The apartheid system is indeed slowly, though tortuously, breaking up. But how much of its institutions and legacies remain is another question. Much depends on how far the masses can develop their initiative. A thorough smashup of racist rule by the masses would best clear South Africa of the racism that is so deeply entrenched there. A negotiated compromise offers less, but even during the process in which a reformist deal is being sought, various crises and clashes can break out -- as we see today. And such crises can create conditions where things go beyond what the government offers or what the ANC is willing to settle for. But to really utilize such crises in the best interests of the masses, a revolutionary alternative has to emerge. That requires that militant activists go from dissatisfaction in the ANC leadership to politically breaking from its reformist framework.


[Photo: Anti-apartheid youth uses a slingshot against armored police vehicles.]


[Back to Top]

The world in struggle


Angry protest disrupts 'Welcome Bush' rally in Panama


[Photo: Vehicle belonging to a US soldier was burned during the anti-Bush demonstration in Panama.]


On his way to the Rio Earth Summit, President Bush stopped in Panama on June 11 for a publicity stunt. Bush's campaign managers staged a big welcome for him there to remind Americans about what a great success Bush's foreign policy has been. The great conqueror of Manuel Noriega was returning to the scene of his triumph, and the population of Panama would turn out to hail the conquering hero as their savior.

But it didn't turn out that way. The Panamanian toilers, cuss 'em, refused to cooperate. Oddly enough, they refused to kiss the boots of the imperialist who bombed Panama City, killing thousands of poor workers and slum dwellers. They refused to thank Bush for putting in power another government of rich exploiters and drug dealers.

Bush rode into Panama City on a carefully designed route, through affluent neighborhoods. There he was dutifully cheered by the rich. He arrived at the city's main square for a rally, where a number of Panamanians had been mobilized by the U.S. embassy and given little flags to wave.

Suddenly, though, hundreds of demonstrators appeared on the outside of the rally, denouncing Bush with cries of "Assassin!" One protester threw a rock at the riot police stationed all around the square. The police went into a panic at this, fired their shotguns and let loose a barrage of tear gas. The gas drifted back to the rally site where it brought tears to the eyes of Bush and his man in Panama, President Endara. Suddenly it became, clear that many in Bush's welcoming rally were in fact Secret Service agents, as they whipped out their pistols and M-16s. Bush and Endara were rushed off the platform and out of the city.


Bush fled from chaos. The rally crowd dissolved as people ran away choking from the gas. The police chased the demonstrators, beating any they could lay their hands on and arresting them.

Bush's spokesmen tried to play down the disaster, saying the demonstrators were simply diehard supporters of Noriega, or simply relatives of those killed in the invasion. But none of the demonstrators said a word or chanted a slogan in support of Noriega. And as to those killed in the invasion -- isn't that just like an imperialist to say "Well, they're just upset about people being killed."

Bush himself tried to laugh off the event, saying the protest was nothing compared to demonstrations in San Francisco. Yes, George, it's true -- people here have many grievances and hatred for you, too, just like our class brothers and sisters in Panama!

Workers prepare to fight back

World Bank pushes Bangladesh to lay off 100,000 workers


Another wave of strikes is rocking Bangladesh.

In mid-June, the drivers of the country's 65,000 privately-owned buses, trucks, and motorized rickshaws stopped work. They are demanding that the price of diesel fuel be cut in half.

Meanwhile, the trade unions of Bangladesh are gearing up for a new round of struggle against mass layoffs.

Jute and textile mill workers have held mass rallies and protest marches. On July 24, the workers have called for a dawn-to-dusk blockade of rail and road transport. Meanwhile, the Workers and Employees Unity Council has called for a 48-hour general strike to start July 7.

Last fall, workers had organized several transportation blockades. The struggle was however suspended because the reformist labor union leaders adopted a wait-and-see attitude after the government set up a Wages and Productivity Commission. The commission was supposed to announce its decisions by April 18, but this hasn't taken place.


Instead, the government has announced that, according to the "structural adjustment" prescriptions of the World Bank, it will have to lay off 100,000 workers who are being deemed unproductive. The bourgeois government of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party has embraced a right-wing economic platform and believes that the World Bank plan makes economic sense. After all, the business community and the politicians will remain rich, and that's all that counts.


Struggle heats up against Islamic right-wingers


Meanwhile, Bangladesh is currently also engulfed in a huge struggle against the right-wing religious party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.

On June 21, the country was paralyzed by a dawn-to-dusk general strike. Stores and offices stayed shut, and transport came to a complete halt. The strike was called by a broad opposition movement that is demanding the execution of Gholam Azam, the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami.

During the strike in Dhaka, the capital, armed gangs of Jamaat supporters, with police support, repeatedly attacked demonstrators. They threw bombs and Molotov cocktails. The police prevented the masses from chasing down the thugs. In a further act of intimidation, the police attacked journalists and photographers near the National Press Club. At least 50 people were injured, several in critical condition.

On May 18, Dhaka had been the scene of a half-day shutdown against the Jamaat. Then too, police had helped Islamic thugs attack demonstrators.

Gholam Azam had been head of the Jamaat in the 1960's. In 1971, he supported the Pakistani government's brutal crackdown, killing hundreds of thousands against the Bengali liberation struggle. He and his party organized death squads which were responsible for some of the worst outrages. After Bangladesh became independent, Gholam Azam fled to Pakistan and the new government revoked his citizenship. A decade ago he returned during the reign of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). But he kept a low profile. Today, however, the present BNP government rules in a tacit alliance with the Jamaat, and the Jamaat took the opportunity to elect Gholam Azam as their chief once again.


This decision galvanized mass sentiment which had already been growing against the use of religion in politics. A rally of hundreds of thousands on March 26 convened a "People's Court" which found Gholam Azam guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to death.

Since then, the mass movement has kept up pressure upon the government to carry out this decision. But the government has resisted. While it has taken Gholam Azam into "protective custody," it has also charged the organizers of the mass trial with unlawful activities. Meanwhile, its police help the fundamentalists attack anti-Jamaat demonstrators.

The anti-Jamaat campaign has called for a march on the National Assembly on June 30.


The tragedy in Bosnia


A terrible human tragedy is taking a heavy toll on the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is the scene of a relentless and brutal war. With Sarajevo under siege, more than a thousand people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have become refugees from their homes.

Who's responsible?


Bosnia-Herzegovina is a multinational republic where Bosnians make up 44% of the population and where there are large Croatian and Serbian minorities. In the past, people of all nationalities in this republic lived together without much national strife as part of the Yugoslav federation.

As the federation collapsed, earlier this year the majority in Bosnia-Herzegovina voted to secede and set up their own independent state. At that point, Bosnia's tragedy unfolded.

The Serb-dominated Yugoslav federal army, together with Serbian irregulars, launched a war against the seceding republic, determined to carve out large regions from the republic so that they can be incorporated into a Greater Serbia, which is largely what the remaining Yugoslav federation amounts to. Meanwhile, the Croatian republic also got into the act, trying to carve out some parts of Herzegovina to join Croatia.

On the surface, there is not much doubt where the source of Bosnia's tragedy lies. It is with the Serbian rulers, who oppose the right of other nationalities to set up separate states, and are determined to punish and weaken them. The principal blame lies with the Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, who is a nationalist demagogue. However, all is not unified among the Serbian people. There is anti-war sentiment among Serbs, and in recent weeks, many have been demonstrating in the streets against Milosevic's government.


Meanwhile, the leaders of the breakaway republics do not have clean hands either. The Croatian regime is playing a dirty role in Herzegovina, and it is reported that there have even been secret talks between the Croat and Serb leaders to carve up parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And the leaders of Bosnia-Herzegovina themselves appear to drag their feet when it comes to ensuring rights for the non-Bosnian populations in their territory. This only feeds the Serb nationalists wooing local Serbs towards the Greater Serbia cause.


Was communism the problem?


What are these intractable conflicts based on? Some blame it on age-old rivalries, others blame it on communism. Neither is true. Yes, there are ancient national rifts which have on occasion become tense, but history also shows that peoples in these regions have lived side by side and intermingled.

What about communism then? In Yugoslavia, a powerful communist movement developed in the 1920's and 30's. Though the leaders of this movement around Tito embraced many of the non-working class and bureaucratic ideas and practices coming from the Soviet Union of Stalin's time, still the movement as a whole was a revolutionary movement of the workers. During World War II, this movement extended into the countryside as well, and became the main fighting force against fascism. The communists united working people across nationality lines to fight fascism. And despite many problems and weaknesses, the liberated country of Yugoslavia did unite the different nationalities on a largely equal basis and succeeded in combating many old prejudices and tensions.

Fascism and the old Yugoslavia of the landlords and capitalists was smashed up. But a state-capitalist bureaucratic system was set up instead of the democratic rule of the toilers oriented towards socialism. In the long term, this new capitalist rule was bound to undermine the harmony won among the nationalities. But still, for decades, the working people of different nationalities lived side by side and integrated with one another.


It was the economic crisis of the 1980's that blew apart the old arrangement. Serbian nationalism reared its ugly head inside Yugoslavia. So, one by one other nationalities began to demand secession.

What next?


There are no easy solutions to the Yugoslav wars today. The workers of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, etc. have common interests which are not served by fratricidal war. If there had been a unified workers movement among them, this could have stood up to the Greater Serb chauvinists and fought for a democratic order based on national equality and recognition of the right of all peoples to self-determination.

In its absence, the national wars in Yugoslavia will probably go on until the different sides get exhausted and arrive at some accommodation among themselves. Or unless the Serbian people can oust from power the nationalist champions of Greater Serbia. Until then, millions of ordinary people will become victims at the altar of the self-seekingambitions of nationalist elites.


The involvement of outside powers could complicate the situation.

Outside powers are now coming in under the UN flag. So far, they are focusing on bringing relief supplies to Sarajevo. As long as it stays that way, it is unlikely that an outside destabilizing factor will emerge from this.

But this does not rule out the danger of outside intervention into the conflict itself. The big powers do not have much strategic interest in this region today after the Cold War ended. But as the war continues and as the mass exodus of refugees mounts, there is a debate in European capitals and in Washington over intervention, and on how far. So far no plans for outside intervention have emerged. But the big powers have a tendency to think they can impose their solutions on other places, and wars have a tendency to develop a logic of their own.

No one's interests will be served by outside intervention. It will not help the development of conditions where the working people can organize for their own interests. And the European and American workers have no interests in seeing their sons and daughters in the military get drawn into a military adventure in the Balkans.


[Back to Top]