Workers Advocate

Vol. 23, No. 6


25ยข September 1, 1993

[Front page:

Defend the immigrant workers!--Politicians jump on racist bandwagon;

'Pro-life' is a lie--Another attempt to kill a doctor;

Nigerian workers fight dictatorship]


Defend women's rights!

'Right-to-life' turns to murder............................................................ 2
Kill doctors, says 'pro-life' priest....................................................... 2
Clinic defense during the Pope's visit................................................ 2
The Freedom of Choice Act that isn't................................................ 3
NOW calls for the use of RICO......................................................... 3

Strikes & Workplace News

Coal miners get overseas support....................................................... 4
Organizing victory at R.I. Hospital.................................................... 4
Staley workers resist lockout............................................................. 4
Food Lion hit with record fine........................................................... 4
In brief: Iron Range miners; Trinity steel; Mushroom; Chemical; Cement; Bakery................................................................ 4
Protest versus L.A. cutbacks.............................................................. 8

Clinton health plan: who's not covered?.......................................... 5

Save the old-growth forests!.............................................................. 5
For radical change & socialism.......................................................... 9
British Columbia forests..................................................................... 12

Defend immigrant workers!

The racist campaign in California...................................................... 6
Immigrant bashing = racist poison..................................................... 6
No help from the Democrats.............................................................. 6

Down with racism!

Detroit cops convicted of murder....................................................... 7
Evidence exposes the killer cops........................................................ 7
Judge OKs racist beating of Rodney King......................................... 8
75,000 march in Washington, D.C..................................................... 8

Where is South Africa headed?........................................................ 11

The world in struggle

More Thai workers sacrificed to profit............................................... 12
Thai workers demand justice & safety............................................... 12
AFL-CIO boss vs. Thai workers........................................................ 12
In brief: Hyundai; Uruguay; Timex workers; Indian workers; Asian oil workers......................................................................................... 12

Defend the immigrant workers!--Politicians jump on racist bandwagon

'Pro-life' is a lie

Another attempt to kill a doctor

'Right-to-life' turns to murder

Clinic defense during the Pope's visit

The 'Freedom of Choice Act' that isn't

NOW calls for the use of RICO

Strikes and workplace news


Clinton health plan: Who won't be covered?

The racist campaign in California vs. immigrants

Immigrant bashing = racist poison

No help from the Democrats

Detroit cops convicted of Malice Green's murder

Evidence exposes the killer cops

Judge OKs racist beating of Rodney King

75,000 march in Washington

Protest against cutbacks in LA

Where is South Africa headed?

The World in Struggle


Defend the immigrant workers!--Politicians jump on racist bandwagon


In August Republican Governor Pete Wilson of California proposed to impoverish the undocumented immigrants as the way to solve the state's financial crisis. Moreover, he has declared this to be a national problem.

Governor Wilson blames the financial problems of California on providing education and health services for illegal immigrants. Yesterday he blamed his budget problems on teenage mothers who were allegedly flocking to California to get welfare benefits. The day before that, he blamed it on teachers' salaries. America has become the scapegoat society, where the problems caused by the rich and powerful are blamed on the poor, the disenfranchised, and the workers.

Governor Wilson proposes that the federal government should stop mandating that the states provide education and health to everyone so that the states can refuse service to illegal immigrants. And if that doesn't save enough money, he is demanding a change in the U.S. Constitution in order to deny citizenship to native-born children of illegal immigrants. Then he could deny education and health services to them as well, and they would become stateless people.


Wilson's economics is a big lie. Every impartial study shows that illegal immigrants pay twice as much federal, state and local taxes as the government spends on them for health or education for their children. The illegal immigrants are America's slaves: hard-working, low-paid, and without rights.


Indeed, without the undocumented, California would be in a worse economic plight. Wilson's proposals only make sense if he intends to have California keep the undocumented workers, and collect their taxes, and have the employers grow rich over the labor, but return nothing to them in social services. Just as the slaves of the old South were forbidden to read and write, the children of the modern slaves are to be thrown out of the public schools.


These children are to be denied legal status in this country. To do this, Wilson proposes to remove from the American constitution a guarantee that stems from the war against slavery. It is the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to everyone born in the U.S. Ratified in 1868, it was one of the amendments passed in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Today a new civil war is brewing. The capitalists are slashing wages and the politicians are cutting social benefits. As the cities and schools deteriorate, and most people watch their living standards decline, the CEOs and executives are getting richer and richer. This is creating an explosive situation. So the politicians try to divert the people into blaming anyone but the rich. It's the welfare recipients. It's the minorities with their affirmative action. It's the powerless and disenfranchised, for having been born. It's the immigrants.

But if we allow the capitalists to enslave any part of the population, then we will be forging our own chains. To persecute the illegal immigrants, they will regiment the whole country, with "tamper-proof' national ID cards and computer tracking. To deny social services to the immigrants makes it easier to deny social services to everyone. It's not a matter of whether a group gets more or less social services than they pay for. This country has enough resources to provide full social services and a decent wage for all.

The only way the workers can avoid impoverishment is if they stand together against the employers and the pro-capitalist politicians. They have the money; we just have our numbers. Don't let them divide us. Let the workers and the poor inscribe on their banner the great ideals of universal solidarity of all peoples, while the capitalists advocate racism and hate. Let the workers and the poor stand for solving the economic problems of today by uniting for a common struggle against exploitation, while the rich advocate searching for scapegoats.


[Back to Top]

'Pro-life' is a lie

Another attempt to kill a doctor


[Photo: Pro-choice activists marching against Operation Rescue in San Jose in July.]


The "pro-life" movement has struck again. On March 10, Dr. David Gunn had been shot to death at a Florida clinic. And now, on August 19, anti-abortion activist Rachelle Shannon opened fire on Dr. George Tiller at the Women's Health Care Services clinic in Wichita, Kansas. She fired five times.

Luckily, Dr. Tiller, shot in both arms, only suffered minor wounds. Meanwhile Shannon fled to Oklahoma, where she was arrested. She has been charged with attempted first-degree murder.

Dr. Tiller bravely returned to work the following day. Such dedication is typical for him. One of the few doctors who will perform late-term abortions, he was targeted by Operation Rescue during their 1991 siege of Wichita clinics. He has been forced to wear a bulletproof vest. The clinic he works at has been firebombed in the past and recently vandalized. But Dr. Tiller has not let this deter him from serving the needs of his patients.

A history of anti-abortion violence

Shannon was devoted to the "pro-life" cause. She often showed up at Operation Rescue's crusades. She has a history of arrests for anti-abortion violence, and there are two outstanding warrants for her actions at clinics in cities around the country.

She has also campaigned in support of anti-abortion violence by others. She edited a newsletter in Oregon on behalf of a man convicted of firebombing a clinic. And the Pensacola News Journal has published excerpts from fan letters she sent to Michael Griffin, the murderer of Dr. Gunn.


Advocates for murder


The group Shannon belongs to, the Advocates for Life Ministries, was proud to claim the murder attempt as their own. The group's leader, Andrew Barnett, proclaimed: "I'm supportive of what she did. It was a courageous act."

Dawn Stover, another of the sect's leaders added: "We have been saying abortion is murder, but we have been hypocritical in not treating it that way. Any one of us would use force to protect the lives of our children. We should not view the pre-born any differently."

Psyching themselves up for murder

Meanwhile, Operation Rescue (OR) and some other anti-abortion crusaders maintain the fiction that they have nothing to do with these shootings. Why, they are just peace-loving saints. They don't shoot anyone -- they only justify the shootings and blame the victims. They only incite their followers against the "child-killers." They only put up "wanted posters" and train their followers on how to stalk doctors.

If OR had really opposed the shooting, they would have paused their activities for a while and engaged in a period of public regret. But neither OR nor any other anti-abortion group did so. On the very next day after the shooting of Dr. Tiller, they were back picketing his clinic. Meanwhile, in Pensacola that day, antiabortion crusaders put out a "wanted poster" for the doctor who replaced the murdered Dr. Gunn. It seems they were, if anything, inspired by another shooting of a doctor.

Indeed, a few days before the shooting of Dr. Tiller, OR leader Randall Terry had called for the death of a doctor in Boulder, Colorado. Dr. Warren Hern had publicly criticized the anti-abortion movement. In response, Mr. Terry stated that "I hope someday he is tried for crimes against humanity, and I hope he is executed. I make no bones about it, friends, it is a biblical part of Christianity that we pray for either the conversion or the judgment of the enemies of God." (New York Times, Aug. 14)

Behind the mask of piety

Behind the anti-abortion movement's talk of life is the loaded revolver. It is not life that Randall Terry is defending, but his own religious tyranny.

The anti-abortion movement is against the rights of women, the rights of doctors, anyone's rights but their own. It has no respect for the life of women, of doctors, or of anyone but their own. It is not a movement of people who don't want to have abortions themselves, but of people who want to prevent anyone else making up their own mind. The "moderate" groups want to ban abortion and put doctors and women in jail. The zealous groups don't want to wait for a law, but want to harass and firebomb and close down clinics themselves. They both want to impose their religious ideas on the population as a whole.

And now they're shooting doctors.


[Back to Top]

Nigerian workers fight dictatorship




The last weekend of August, some four million Nigerian workers began a strike to force out the military-backed government and protest a gasoline price hike.

A few days earlier, the country's dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, had resigned after months of mass pressure. But he refused to turn over the government to Moshood Abiola, who had been the apparent winner of the June 12 presidential elections. Instead, the general set up a government of his civilian supporters. It is headed by industrialist Ernest Shonekan, and the military continues to play a dominant role.

Ever since the June election was scrapped, a major protest movement has been building up in Nigeria. Abiola is a billionaire businessman, and the Nigerian opposition is dominated by elements from the country's wealthy elite, but the anti-dictatorship movement is far broader. It includes workers and students who are tired of years and years of military tyranny and corruption. Indeed, as the latest general strike shows, the working class has taken up a powerful place in the movement for democracy.


Strike gathers support

The general strike coincided with a holiday weekend, and it will take a few days to gauge its full effects. But some of its impact was automatically felt-- especially in the oil industry that supplies 80% of government income. Shell, the biggest oil producer, was struck Friday, and more oil workers joined the action the next day. Some oil tankers were unable to load and the commercial wharf was closed at Port Harcourt. At the two major ports in Lagos, which handle more than 60% of Nigeria's trade, 15 ships waited at sea.

Transport in Lagos, which is the capital, was also disrupted. Air traffic controllers and other airport staff struck, forcing the cancellation of most airline flights. Few buses were on the streets. And many stores were empty.

The general strike was called by the Nigeria Labor Congress which includes 41 unions with a membership of 3.5 million. It coincided with a stay-at-home protest mobilized by the opposition during most of the previous week. The trade unions have asked workers to stay off work until the interim government resigns and hands power over to Abiola.

Abiola, who fled abroad earlier after receiving death threats, has declared that he is coming home to put together his own government. The interim government warns that it will consider that move as "an act of insurrection."

As we go to press, Nigeria's worst political crisis since the civil war of 1967-70 is nowhere near resolution.

Babangida makes and breaks Nigeria's politics

Ibrahim Babangida seized power in a palace coup on August 27, 1985. The army leadership has always justified its coup by saying it intended to return the country to civilian rule. Babangida prepared for this transition by setting up a two-party system. The two parties organized by him are the National Republican Convention, a conservative, military loyalist party, and the Social Democratic Party, a party with an "opposition" shading. Both parties, however, were creatures of Babangida and thoroughly committed to his plans for transition to civilian rule.

Babangida also handpicked the leaders of both parties. As presidential candidate of the Social Democrats, he picked Moshood Abiola, one of the richest men in a country with many oil billionaires. Abiola is head of a communications conglomerate. He was originally one of the most enthusiastic supporters of Babangida's coup, but recently the newspapers owned by him have become critical of Babangida's regime, and they were temporarily shut down by Babangida for a period last year.

Babangida promised to hold free and fair elections on June 12 of this year and to hand over power to the winner on August 27. In fact the elections were held June 12, and, according to international observers, were fairly carried out. In the days after the elections, while the ballots were being counted, the news leaked out that Abiola was ahead by a large margin. But Babangida refused to release the vote results, and on June 23 he suddenly announced that the election was null and void.

This sparked a storm of protest, especially in the western part of Nigeria where Abiola's support is strongest. Babangida sent in the army to quell protests in western Nigeria, and in the first week of July over 100 people were killed.

Political maneuvering at the top

Babangida then tried a number of maneuvers to try and assuage the rising opposition. On July 12, he announced that new elections would be held. This did not appease the Social Democrats, however; they announced that they would boycott a new election. Without the Social Democrats, a second election would be a farce, and could probably not even be held in large parts of the country.

Many members of the civilian and military ruling class urged Babangida to hand over power. It's not clear why he suddenly reneged on his original transition plan. Apparently he didn't trust Abiola; there were rumors that Abiola might launch investigations of the military, of corruption and abuses under Babangida's regime.

The Nigerian Labor Congress threatened a general strike in July, but Babangida met with labor leaders and was able to put them off. Meanwhile, Babangida vacillated on the proposal for an interim government. This idea was floated as a compromise by leaders of the two parties: Abiola would not take over as president; instead, representatives of both parties would form a coalition government, in which Babangida and the military would also have a prominent role. Abiola would be made premier, a weaker position than president.

Babangida first rejected this compromise, but as opposition mounted he changed his mind and accepted the proposal in late July. By then, however, it was too late. An organized coalition of opposition forces -- mainly trade unions and human rights groups -- had emerged, and they insisted that Babangida hand over power to Abiola on August 27.

Babangida's power base within the military had also become weak. Many generals are tired of Babangida's corruption and personal political aggrandizement, and more and more are opposed to Babangida's intelligence network (which has jailed a number of generals in the last year).

And the ordinary soldiers have suffered greatly from Nigeria's economic malaise during the last few years. While Babangida and his clique have enriched themselves, the mass of soldiers were being impoverished.

Mass protests mount in August


In mid-August the opposition coalition carried out mass protests to enforce its demand that Babangida step down August 27. A general strike was organized August 12, 13 and 14. The strike was successful, with millions of workers staying home. The streets of major cities were practically empty. This emboldened the opposition to call for more protests if Babangida did not relinquish power August 27. The trade unions announced their plan for an indefinite strike.

Faced with growing protests, the threat of a massive labor strike, increased criticism from the big powers abroad, and cracks within the establishment itself, Babangida decided to exit from the presidential palace. But he was unwilling to acknowledge the will of the June 12 elections. Now a regime of his flunkies has been left to fend for itself in the face of the general strike.

What role will the workers play?


The working class is not claiming leadership of the opposition, but it is using its muscle to back up the democratic aspirations of progressive Nigerians. Indeed, it is showing that it has in its hands the capacity to paralyze the economy and press hard against the government.

This shows the critical role the workers have in the country. But if they are not simply to be used as cannon fodder by the billionaire politicians, they will have to do more than simply supply the troops for the opposition campaign. They have to stamp the democracy movement with their own demands and aspirations.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous country. And its oil and gas have endowed the land with huge riches. The people had high hopes that this wealth would be used to develop a prosperous economy. But political power in the hands of a succession of civilian and military regimes of the wealthy establishment has meant that the country's riches have been squandered. The government treasury has simply been used as a funnel for private appropriation by the generals, bureaucrats, and big businessmen. While the elite ride around in their Maseratis, Lamborghinis, and Mercedes Benzes, and shop in European luxury stores, the people's conditions have steadily worsened. The collapse of oil prices and the weight of a huge foreign debt have meant that Nigeria has gone backwards since the 70's.

Babangida came to power and claimed he would end corruption. Instead he took it to new heights. Abiola also says he will end corruption. It is doubtful that someone from the wealthy elite will carry out more than token measures.


This is where the working class needs to step in. It is the only organized force which can force serious change. But the labor movement is not currently guided by far-sighted aims. There is no revolutionary workers' party with a radical strategy. But perhaps the present crisis will play the role of a powerful school for activists who want change beyond replacing a clique of generals with a billionaire president. They could then form the nucleus for a political force committed to more thoroughgoing change.

[Back to Top]

'Right-to-life' turns to murder

[Photo: Clinic defenders rally Aug. 14 in Denver where Operation Rescue had threatened a big attack during the Pope's visit. OR fizzled. Story on p. 2.]


There is no deed too foul for the holy warriors of "right-to-life." This year they have opened fire on two doctors who perform abortions, killing Dr. Gunn in Florida and wounding Dr. Tiller in Kansas. They are not only stepping up their clinic vandalism, but encouraging the murder of doctors.

These shootings are not chance events. They are the logical outgrowth of a movement based on intimidation: on clinic blockades, stalking medical personnel, and firebombing clinics. They are the logical outcome of the rhetoric that labels abortionists "baby killers."

These shootings however also show growing desperation in the ranks of "right-to-life." They are despairing of winning people to their side. Thousands upon thousands of people have come out to defend clinics. This has not only helped keep clinics open, but it has shown, that the real mass movement is the pro-choice movement.

Defy the shootings!

But the shootings show that the struggle for abortion rights is reaching another critical point. What can be done to stop these shootings? Are the "right-to-life" groups going to be allowed to dictate to others by bloodshed?

There is no way to immediately end the violence. What is needed is to continue the mass mobilization for women's rights. The indignation over the shootings must be converted into a defiant expansion of this movement. This is what will bring the shootings to an end.

Clinic defense must continue. The anti-abortion bullies should be confronted at every turn; this is what gives life to the pro-choice movement, and helps demoralize the "pro-life" forces. Other forms of mass involvement are also of value. When "pro-life" fanatics try to harass clinic personnel at their homes, abortion rights activists have tailed them into the neighborhoods and held counter-protests. There have also been counter-demonstrations at anti-abortion meetings.

The shootings should be used to expose the anti-abortion movement in the eyes of more and more working people. They mock the claim of "right- to-life" to be a moral movement concerned about "life." It shows that their morality is simply religious fanaticism, the same fanaticism that led to witch-burnings in the past.

Literature should be distributed and networks formed at work places, communities and schools. The significance of the struggle for women's rights in fighting the capitalist offensive should be explained. And it is the people in the factories and communities that must be brought into the debates of the pro- choice movement. There must be an end to the lying literature that presents politicians and courts and police as the protectors of women's rights. Instead an analysis of the role of the different classes and institutions should be discussed among the working people.


A new law?


The pro-establishment groups such as NOW and NARAL say that new laws and injunctions are the answer. For them, the workers and poor are just a voting bloc or passive audience.

True, right-to-life violence shouldn't be above the law. But there are already plenty of laws on the books that cover the criminal activities of the religious terrorists. Yet the "pro-life" intimidation goes on because the cops and the courts are usually reluctant to crack down on the "pro-life" fanatics. Indeed, they often regard both sides as equal, the victim and the perpetrator. In San Jose, California this July the police arrested not just pro-life stalkers but some pro-choice activists under anti-stalking laws designed to stop anti-woman violence.


Nevertheless, the pro-establishment pro-choice groups like NOW insist that a new law or injunction is the key to stopping anti-abortion terror. They are touting a new clinic defense law as the answer. Maybe one day Congress may pass such a law. Maybe. Presently the law is stuck in congressional committee, and may not make it out without being watered down to nothing.

Worse yet, NOW supports some vicious laws like RICO in the hope that they will be used only against anti-woman violence. But RICO is an elastic conspiracy law. With the courts packed with conservative judges, isn't it likely that these laws will be used against the people instead?

There is no point in waiting for the authorities to act. If the holy bullies are to be curbed, it is up to the working people to take action.


Kill doctors, says 'pro-life' priest


David Trosch is the pastor of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Magnolia Springs, Florida, about 30 miles from Pensacola. And he favors killing doctors who do abortions.

Trosch recently tried to take an ad in a Mobile, Alabama newspaper. It showed a man aiming a gun at a doctor while the doctor holds a knife over a pregnant woman. The drawing has the caption "justifiable homicide."

The Mobile Press Register refused to carry the ad. But Trosch, the founder of Life Enterprises Unlimited, continued to preach murder. In an interview with the Register he announced: "If 100 doctors need to die to save over one million babies a year, I see it as a fair trade." According to Trosch, killing a doctor is like killing people in wartime to serve a greater good.

He also said he supported Michael Griffin, who murdered Dr. David Gunn in nearby Pensacola. He stated, "Michael Griffin has used a method which is unfortunate, to say the least, but I can't go against him for doing it." Indeed, Trosch added that it couldn't be ruled out that he himself would kill a doctor. And he admitted that his ad about "justifiable homicide" might encourage people to kill, adding "It doesn't bother me."


The Catholic church couldn't have a priest openly advocating murder. So they asked Trosch to recant, which he formally did. All was forgiven. Far be it from the church to expel a priest for a little indiscretion like advocating murder. Or for it to look into the views being spread from this church. Yet theRegisterhad found that some in Trosch's congregation also supported murder. Terri Russel said, "I feel in my mind that this man was trying to save babies. This is one time when you have a right to kill someone."

But the church officials simply swept this under the rug. As long as Trosch showed a bit more discretion, he could go on doing as he pleased.


Yet the stand of Reverend Trosch is further evidence that the shootings and bombings of clinics are not the actions of some randomindividuals. It is the likes of Trosch, whose church is only 30 miles from Pensacola where Dr. Gunn was slain, who inspired the gunman. Trosch, and Protestant fanatics like Randall Terry, egg on their followers to stalk clinic personnel, firebomb clinics, and harass women patients. Meanwhile the Catholic hierarchy looks away and pretends that its anti-abortion crusade has nothing to do with these acts.

But the anti-abortion crusade is based on intolerance for the rights of others. The preaching of murder shows the hatred for existing life that is peeking out from behind the "pro-life" mask of religious piety.

[Back to Top]

Clinic defense during the Pope's visit

Operation Rescue (OR) decided to single out clinics in the Denver area on August 9-15. They hoped that they would swamp the clinics with reinforcements from the large number of Catholics coming out to see the Pope as he visited Denver for the Church's "World Youth Day." Not a single abortion would be performed, they boasted.

But everywhere OR went, they were outnumbered by defenders of women's rights. As many as 2,000 activists from Denver and elsewhere joined to defend a number of clinics and also the homes of two doctors.

OR claimed to have handed out 50,000 fliers to participants in World Youth Day. Nevertheless, OR's campaign fizzled. For example, OR rallied at a church, with leaflets titled "expose the killer" and a map of directions to the Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado. But only 40 anti-abortion crusaders showed up at the clinic, and they faced over twice as many clinic defenders. The largest number at any OR rally or activity was 175. OR threw up its hands on August 13 and said it no longer planned to close Denver clinics -- as if it depended on them. At their final rally on August 14, they were outnumbered four to one by hundreds of clinic defenders.


Meanwhile prominent OR leader Randall Terry threatened the life of a local doctor, Dr. Warren Hern, for daring to criticize OR. Terry declared that "I hope he is executed." Hern refused to back down, and denounced Terry saying "He's clearly inciting someone, anyone, to kill me."

OR failed to pull in any significant numbers of Catholics coming to hear the Pope*. The Pope might be fervently against abortion rights, contraception, and the equality of women, but many of those who came to see him had their own opinions on these subjects.

[Back to Top]

The 'Freedom of Choice Act' that isn't

Wouldn't it be nice if there were a federal law legalizing abortion? It would prevent the states from passing one law after another restricting abortion. It would protect women's rights even if the Supreme Court gave up altogether on abortion rights.

The Democratic politicians promised that they would pass such a law. Many people voted for Clinton hoping that this would safeguard such a law from a presidential veto. Among the supporters of abortion rights, the establishment-oriented groups promoted such a law. You don't have to go into the streets to defend the clinics, said these groups, just get this law.

And so the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) was put before Congress for several years running. And this year, with Clinton president, it was expected to pass.

The bill is in trouble

But now the FOCA bill is in trouble. The Democratic Party politicians and various women's groups have split on this bill. For example, Carol Mosely-Braun, the newly-elected black woman senator from Illinois, has withdrawn support from this year's Senate version of FOCA. And she was one of the sponsors of this bill. She, NOW, the National Black Women's Health Project and others are opposing the bill because of the many restrictions it has on abortion rights. In particular, they are opposed to the parental consent rules and bans on public funding of abortion which the bill allows. A coalition opposed to the bill has formed under the name "Campaign for Abortion Rights for Everyone."

On the other hand, other "pro-choice" politicians will only accept a bill if it has these restrictions. And groups such as NARAL are quite willing to accept a bill which throws many women to the wolves.

The reader of The Workers' Advocate has long been aware that FOCA was written so as to allow such restrictions on abortion. But establishment-oriented groups like NOW and NARAL, and the liberal politicians, always neglected to tell this to their followers. For a long time, NOW and NARAL were presenting FOCA as just as strong as the famous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 that legalized abortion; why, it even had some of the same words. But now the truth is coming out.

No choice for young or poor women

It turns out that the politicians don't really support freedom of choice. Oh sure, they call themselves pro-choice in order to get votes. But only a minority of the "pro-choice" politicians are in favor of abortion rights for all. The majority are in favor of limited rights. Abortion rights -- but not for teenagers. Abortion rights -- but not for poor women. Abortion rights -- but only if the woman walks through a gauntlet of screaming religious maniacs.

As a result, the various versions of the Freedom of Choice Act have included one restriction after another on abortion.

Restrictions in the name of choice

The present House and Senate versions of the act explicitly allow states to pass parental involvement laws. Such laws require young women seeking abortions to go through their parents, creating potentially tragic situations for women from tyrannical or dysfunctional families.

The states will be allowed to deny funding to poor woman who can't afford abortions. This in effect denies abortion rights for the majority of poor women. And most states have such laws.

As well, it looks like each state would be allowed to ban abortions after the point of alleged fetal viability, and the state would be allowed to define when that point is.

In short, the current FOCA bill wouldn't save the country from the present Supreme Court. Instead, it is in line with current Supreme Court decisions which prevent the states from outright banning abortion but allow numerous restrictions, under the pretext that they are not an "undue burden" on women.

The liberals and FOCA

The present fight over FOCA has divided the "pro-choice" liberals into two camps. A number are considering withdrawing their sponsorship of this year's FOCA. But even the camp that has finally criticized this year's FOCA are no great heroes. They accepted previous versions of FOCA, which allowed similar restrictions, but didn't spell that out so clearly.

The best Congress will do is a halfhearted bill on abortion. If it does anything. The defenders of women's rights shouldn't look to the pro-capitalist politicians, but to their own action.

[Back to Top]

NOW calls for the use of RICO

For several years, the National Organization for Women (NOW) has been supporting the use of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) law against the anti-abortion fanatics. Lower federal courts have not yet reached a consensus on whether RICO can be used for this purpose. Recently two federal courts ruled against a NOW lawsuit filed on the basis of the federal RICO law. So NOW, with the help of the Clinton administration, is appealing to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case this fall.

Anti-abortion crusaders, with their clinic bombings and blockades and their harassment of patients and medical personnel, certainly violate enough laws. If they are rarely charged with anything serious, it is not lack of laws, but lack of interest on the part of police and courts. The best defense against anti-abortion violence is not legal maneuvers, but building a mass struggle for abortion rights in particular, and women's rights in general.

A law to defend clinics?

Still, a special federal law that specially protects clinics would only be just. It would reverse the Supreme Court ruling of January 13 this year, which singled out anti-clinic violence and gave it a specially protected position. The judges, writing their own biases into law, exempted such violence from being covered by the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. The KKK Act prohibits conspiracies depriving "any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws." It has historically been used to allow the federal government to intervene in cases of illegal violence which the states and localities wink at, such as racist KKK violence. But the judges themselves want to wink at anti-abortion violence; Justice Scalia for example thinks there are "respectable reasons" for anti-abortion violence.

So a new federal law defending clinics would simply eliminate this new loophole for anti-abortion violence. Some versions of such a proposed law seem to have been written carefully to avoid interfering with political demonstrations or workers' strikes; they would interfere with nothing but anti-woman violence. So they might help a bit.

The nature of RICO

But RICO is not such a law. It is a particularly vicious and dangerous law. While its name refers to "racketeering," as if it applied only to organized crime, it actually applies to any economic situation where the law is violated more than once in a similar way. This is automatically defined as racketeering, and severe penalties are imposed. Even now, it is not just used against organized crime, but it has become a weapon by which one company hits another one over the head, seeking to gain triple damages. So far, RICO has not been used against demonstrations and political activity. But NOW's lawsuit opens the door towards this.

The lower court rulings that bother NOW stated that RICO applies only to crimes with an "economic motivation." The Clinton administration is arguing that "economic motivation" should be defined broadly, so that it would cover any activity that involved money in any way. In capitalist society, that's just about any activity. For example, does an activity result in an organization attracting more dues-paying members? Then it's "economically motivated," says the Clinton administration.

If NOW and the Clinton administration succeed, the resulting use of RICO might hurt outfits like Operation Rescue. But what is to stop its use against any demonstrations which may hurt the profits of some business, or violate some of the many anti-demonstration ordinances in this country? What's to stop its use against strikes? Or even against women's rights activists who repeatedly confront OR outside the clinics? And note that the conservative judges who now dominate the judiciary would have no qualms in applying the full force of the law against working class and progressive demonstrations; they only have qualms when restricting fellow conservatives like OR.

Well, no matter what happens to NOW's lawsuit, the courts may eventually give RICO a broad interpretation anyway. But it's not the job of progressive people to bring this day closer.

All this doesn't bother the NOW leadership, however. They aim for positions in the establishment, not for building the mass action of the underprivileged. They want to prove to the establishment that they can keep the streets quiet. Even when they take part in clinic defense, as certain NOW chapters do, they have their own idea of what should be done. They issue guidelines asking people not to confront the anti-abortion zealots, not to argue against them, not even to look them in the eye -- in fact, not to do much of anything except escort patients. They say to leave things to the police and the lawyers.

No wonder NOW doesn't worry about strengthening the hands of the courts and the cops.

[Back to Top]

Strikes and workplace news


Coal miners get overseas solidarity


Since we last reported on the coal strike in the U.S. -- a story that is being ignored by the national capitalist media -- the United Mine Workers' strike has been extended to include 2,000 miners at 10 Virginian mines. By late July, over 17,000 coal miners were on strike throughout the country.

On July 26 in Wharton, West Virginia, 1,000 more coal miners struck. They occupied the mine for eight hours and stopped an entire shift of scab coal miners. Police arrested 64 miners.

In mid-July, over 5,000 miners and their supporters rallied in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. At this rally, trade union officials from Europe turned out to pledge their support. Also at the Waynesburg rally, a delegation of striking Timex workers from Dundee, Scotland stood with the banner from their union.


The U.S. miners have also been supported by several mass solidarity actions overseas.

In June, 1,000 United Mine Workers of Australia walked off their jobs at two Peabody-owned mines in Australia to show their support for the U.S. coal miners. The Peabody Holding Co. is the largest employer of the U.S. miners on strike. And on August 6, over 750 workers at the Eveready battery factory in Port Elizabeth, South Africa staged a one-day walkout in support of the striking U.S. coal miners. The Eveready factory is owned by the same conglomerate -- Hanson PLC -- which controls Peabody Holding Co.

On the home front, the UMW has won representation elections for 800 miners at two previously non-union mines in West Virginia and Kentucky.


[Photo: 5,000 mine workers and supporters rallied in Waynesburg, Pa., July 14.]


Food Lion hit with record fine


The Clinton Labor Department is gloating -- the largest penalty ever levied against a private employer in the U.S. was recently brought against Food Lion, Inc., a supermarket chain with more than 1000 stores in 14 states. Food Lion has agreed to pay $16.2 million in fines for violating federal child labor laws and overtime regulations.

After a Labor Department investigation, Food Lion is being forced to pay its 40,000current and former workers back wages for unpaid overtime as well as a fine. This amounts to an average of $330 per worker.

Ah yes, the Labor Department is looking after the workers' interests.

But examine this more closely.

According to the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Food Lion has been stealing approximately $65 million per year from its employees. The recent agreement covers' only the last three and a half years. Food Lion robbed its employees of over $200 million and is only paying back $16 million. Talk about an inadequate settlement!

No wonder the penalties mean nothing to Food Lion. In 1989, Food Lion paid $300,000 in fines after being cited for violating federal overtime regulations. In 1993, Food Lion will pay $16.2 million in fines. What will be the total fine due in 1997?

Food Lion workers are still getting the shaft.

Unionizing wins a victory at Rhode Island Hospital


Rhode Island Hospital is that state's largest hospital and employer. For decades, employees there have been defeated in their attempts to unionize. But that era has come to an end.

In July, by a three-to-two margin, 1,250 registered nurses at Rhode Island Hospital voted in the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (a division of the American Federation of Teachers) as their representative. The vote was won in the face of a vicious, poisonous anti-union campaign run by hospital management. But the nurses did not kowtow to the pressure. They were angry at a 400% increase in health insurance premiums and wanted a greater voice in patient care issues.


Organizing drives are also going on among other employees at the hospital. The nurses' victory is expected to encourage them to unionize.

Staley workers resist lockout



On June 26, over 4,000 unionists rallied in Decatur, Illinois in solidarity with workers at the A.E. Staley corn processing plant. The participants came from all over Illinois - workers from area Caterpillar plants who have been working under a company-imposed takeaway contract, electrical workers who have been locked out since spring by the Central Illinois Public Service Company, striking coal miners, operating engineers, and rubber workers. The theme of the boisterous rally was Illinois is a war zone!


The next day, June 27, Staley workers were locked out of their plant. And still are.

The Staley struggle began when the contract expired at the end of 1992. The union refused the company's last proposal. The Staley bosses imposed their own draconian contract terms -- 12-hour work shifts with no overtime pay, and no union rights over job security and working conditions.

But the Staley workers are not idle. Since being locked out, they have marched on Staley headquarters in Decatur, and, along with their fellow workers, they marched on the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on June 30 and occupied the capitol rotunda.

Under Illinois law, locked-out workers are not entitled to unemployment benefits. The Staley workers have responded to this with two large-scale demonstrations in Springfield demanding that the state legislators change this unjust law.


[Back to Top]



Iron Range miners strike

Since the beginning of August 1,350 miners have been on strike at National Steel's taconite mine in Keewatin, at Hibbing Taconite, and the Eveleth mine -- all in Minnesota. Another 1,800 miners are on strike at mines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This area is known as the Iron Range, and this work stoppage is the area's first strike since a 142-day stoppage in 1977.

The miners are demanding better pensions which will continue whatever the financial condition of the mine owners. They oppose job combination and the company's proposal for "managed health care" (which would restrict the services covered by their health insurance). The miners also want an increase in wages which have remained at the same level for over 10 years.


Trinity steelworkers win their long strike

After nine months on strike, steelworkers in Bessemer, Alabama won a major victory exactly one day before the scheduled shutdown of Trinity Steel. The strike against Trinity began last September after the company demanded concessions (including health insurance co-payments). The settlement -- raising wages 13% over three years, firing all scabs, etc. -- was reached June 2. The workers attributed much of their success to the solidarity and support they enjoyed from the rest of the labor movement -- including IG Metall, the 2.5 million member German metal workers' union.


Mushroom workers win representation

In early July, mushroom pickers and packers of the Kaolin Company in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania won the

right to have a union. But even the vote itself was a hard fought struggle.

Just before the election took place, Kaolin fired 33 of the most militant pro-union workers. Then the company tried to add workers from other work sites and job categories who were thought to be anti-union. Still, the mushroom workers voted 124 to 101 in favor of union representation.

Given the behavior the Kaolin Company displayed toward the election, the struggle for a contract may well be grueling as well.


General Chemical workers fight in two states

Workers at General Chemical plants in Delaware and West Virginia have been locked out or gone on strike.

During contract negotiations in Delaware, even though the union offered to extend the contract and work for less wages while bargaining continued (read: crawled on their knees!), the company locked out the workers on April 30. The West Virginia workers struck on August 1.

The major issue in the struggle is health benefits. General Chemical demands that workers and retirees pay more of the costs.


Cement drivers strike in New York City

In late July, 200 truck drivers at ready-mix concrete facilities in New York City struck, paralyzing much of the city's heavy construction industry. The contractors' organization is demanding concessions -- including a "flexible" starting time without being subject to overtime penalty, consolidation of holidays and reduction of hours.


Other construction crafts have negotiated new work agreements with the contractors. So far, the contractors are insisting that the concrete truckers bear the brunt of the drive to cut costs.


Philadelphia bakery workers win strike

On August 3, after a 12-day strike, workers at Continental Bakery in Philadelphia ratified a new contract. The company had demanded an end to full medical coverage for workers and their families. Not only did the bakery workers maintain their health coverage, but they also won a 60 cents an hour wage increase over three years. The workers stood their ground and had refused even to discuss cuts in their health benefits.

This contract has been described as a pattern settlement which will affect all Continental plants and other bakeries throughout New England.


[Back to Top]

Clinton health plan: Who won't be covered?


Workers want a universal health plan which covers everyone with full and equal coverage. But Clinton is offering only promises, while his task force considers a plan that will leave out tens of millions of people until some future date when money grows on trees and the federal deficit magically disappears.

Who may be left out in the cold?

* First of all, they haven't decided what to do about the 5.8 million temporary and part-time workers without health insurance. The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that there are almost 29 million part-time workers. 5.8 million don't have health insurance, and millions more have inadequate plans that don't cover much.

* Moreover, as health costs escalate, fewer and fewer part-time workers will be able to afford insurance. Already few employers offer health benefits to part-time workers. And as these workers don't make much money, they are hard pressed to buy insurance themselves.

* The Clinton task force also hasn't decided what to do about the estimated 2.6 million self-employed persons. As more and more people lose their jobs and turn to self-employment, this category too can be expected to grow.

* There arc nearly one million retirees who are too young for Medicare. These workers too wouldn't be covered by work place plans. Nor does the Clinton task force yet have any idea of how to cover them.


* There are an estimated 3.2 million jobless women between the ages of 46 and 64, and the task force hasn't figured out what to do about them either.


* Poor people covered by Medicaid would be covered under the Clinton plan, but quite possibly with inferior coverage. The Clinton task force is considering starting with a two-tier health plan.

* If the Clinton task force decides to gradually phase in coverage for workers in small work places, these workers might not be covered for some time.

* So-called illegal immigrants work long hours for little pay and who suffer every indignity. They might well end up outside the health plan altogether. Given the growing wave of anti-immigrant hysteria, they probably won't even get a promise of coverage. Already a senior White House official said that the Clinton administration has asked the Justice Department to study the legality of excluding them altogether. This might be done by giving "health security" cards to everyone else, and leaving the undocumented workers out in the cold. (New York Times, Aug. 16) They might however be treated for infectious diseases -- presumably in the last few hours before the Clinton administration tosses them out of the country.

Health care is a human right. It's a crime that in this highly developed and wealthy country, tens of millions of people have inadequate and second-rate health care. A national health care plan must be universal and equal. It must be a plan based on giving care to all, and not based on cutting the tax burden on the rich.


[Back to Top]

The racist campaign in California vs. immigrants

Earlier this year, the May Day meeting of the Marxist-Leninist Party in Oakland, California discussed thegrowing racist campaign against the immigrants. Below are some excerpts from one of the speeches:

The California state legislature in recent months has been debating nearly two dozen bills attacking immigrants.

In our view, the rich have long maintained the immigrant workers as a super exploited section of the working class, extracting enormous profits from their labor. You need only look at the agricultural fields of California, or at the sweat shops, restaurants, and hotels. But today the economy is in the ditch, so the wealthy are turning the screws once again, in the hope of squeezing out even more from these workers.

At the same time, while focusing on the immigrants, particularly the undocumented, the rich are really targeting the entire working class. Driving down the conditions of the immigrants, they hope to further drive down the livelihood of all workers.

They hope to create divisions among the workers and poor and scapegoat the immigrants for the economic crisis created by the rich.

This is how the rich deal with immigration in their own class interest.

But what about the working class? What is its class interest? It's pretty simple. The workers should welcome immigrants with open arms, oppose discrimination and racist attacks, and demand full rights for immigrants.

Growing numbers of workers around the world have been forced to emigrate in search of jobs. For one thing, capitalism is in crisis around the world, and millions have been thrown out of work.

At the same time, there is the globalization of capitalist production going on, where more and more capitalists are sending their capital and factories all over the world. This includes the capitalists of the less developed countries. The factories are moving, and the workers are moving too.

This is painful for the working class in the sense of the hardship faced by millions of immigrants. At the same time, the working class welcomes this development because it pushes forward the amalgamation of our class. It brings together millions of workers of many nations to work and struggle side by side against the capitalists. It breaks down barriers and creates possibilities for workers to see themselves as one international class fighting against an international capitalist class.

FAIR and the anti-immigrant think tanks

Now let's look at one part of the escalating war against the immigrants. And that is the racist anti-immigrant groups. Let's look at one in particular, called FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (not to be confused with the liberal media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, which has the same acronym). There is presently much promotion of such groups in the press, in order to create the impression that there is a grass-roots anti-immigrant mass movement sweeping California. Such a movement does not exist, but the capitalists have unleashed racist groups.

FAIR is a right-wing, racist anti-immigrant lobby based in Washington, D.C. One of its affiliates, the Citizens Committee on Immigration Policy, is carrying out racist, anti-immigrant organizing in San Rafael, California.

FAIR was founded in 1979 with the stated aim of stopping illegal immigration and limiting legal immigrants. John Tanton, the founder, and others he hooked up with, saw Zero Population Growth as too soft on immigration. Among his associates was Professor William Paddock, who concluded Central America was "overpopulated" and that the way to eliminate excess population was birth control and forced sterilization.


For years after FAIR was founded in 1979 it concentrated on lobbying Congress for racist anti-immigrant legislation. It has number of associated think tanks, such as the Center for Immigration studies (CIS), PACs, and publications. Its program is to fund the INS to the max -- increase its numbers, build impenetrable ditches and fences at the border, have checkpoints for vehicles along major highways, develop a national ID card, and enforce employer sanctions. They also talk about a moratorium on all immigration.


In the last few years they have broadened their activities. They have opened an office in Sacramento (as part of a plan to target states with large immigration) and have looked for local issues for racist agitation and anti-immigrant organizing. They are looking for a way to draw in more people.

Another part of their policy is to make links and contacts and work closely with the INS. In Houston, when they unleashed a media blitz of racist radio ads against immigrants, the regional INS director was there to give his support, and the head of the INS under Reagan became a honcho in FAIR.

Financed by wealthy racists

FAIR has an official budget of two million dollars per year. A sizable chunk of this money comes from the extreme right wing of the bourgeoisie. 5-10% comes from the Pioneer Fund, originally created in 1937 to promote the propagation of descendants from white settlers of the first 13 states. The Pioneer Fund also promoted eugenic sterilization and selective breeding. In the 70's the Fund supported William Schockley who argued that whites are superior to blacks, and today they fund Professor Rushton of the University of Western Ontario who argues that Asians are the superior race on the planet, followed by Caucasians, and on the bottom are the Africans.

Another big contributor is Mellon heiress C.S. May who has contributed $2.5 million to FAIR and its affiliated think tanks and PACs. In '83 her foundation financed the distribution of a novel The Camp of the Saints, in which Third World immigrants invade Europe and destroy its civilization.

FAIR'S arguments against immigrants are much the same as politicians like Governor Wilson's. But their brazen words reveal the rabid racist thinking that lies under the politicians' words.

Blaming capitalism's crimes on overpopulation

Their basic line is that the fundamental problem in the world is the overpopulation of the Third World. This is supposedly the cause of poverty in the Third World, which pushes people to immigrate to the U.S. Of course, they don't see any issue of the rich exploiting the poor, of imperialism, or of capitalist economic crises.

They also scapegoat immigrants for the economic crisis in the U.S. It's not the rich who are looting society and exploiting the poor. No. They blame the economic problems -- unemployment, poverty, budget deficits -- on population growth due to immigrants and what they claim are the immigrants' high birth rates. It's here where some of their more rabid nazi racism comes out openly. They portray the political situation as where whites have held power and being threatened by immigrants "out-populating" them.

Worried about white power

Consider a 1986 memo by John Tanton: "Will the present majority peacefully hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile?" And he wrote: "As whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night? or will there be an explosion?"


And there's Dan Stein in the December 8, 1991 Albany TimesUnion: "It's almost like they're getting into competitive breeding... You have to take into account the various fertility rates in designing limits on immigrants... Immigrant women have more babies..."


And a 1991 letter signed by Dan Stein: "Because Congress has not taken action to regain control of our southern border, our future is literally being decided in Managua and Mexico City rather than Washington, D.C."


Appealing to other groups

They also blame the destruction of the environment on the immigrants. This is part of their attempt to get into environmental circles. "Most of the people coming to California are immigrants with very high fertility rates. And if you start looking at liveability indexes... -- housing costs, crime, congestion, pollution, water availability -- by any indicator the quality of life is plummeting and immigration is the cause..." (Dan Stein quoted in the March 14, 1991 San Jose Mercury)


They also try to pit blacks and Hispanic citizens against the immigrants. For example, they claim that immigrants have taken the jobs of blacks.


Against the racist campaign


Not just INS attacks and reactionary legislation, but FAIR'S activities along with those of other racist, anti-immigrant groups, must be opposed by all working people. One good sign is that some people in Marin county are getting organized against the racists in San Rafael. Another is that a protest was held on the University of California, Davis campus to denounce the attacks on immigrant activists and defend immigrants. Also there has been considerable outrage expressed at the proposed anti-immigrant legislation.


Build the mass movement against this racism and for full rights for immigrants!


[Back to Top]

Immigrant bashing = racist poison


The California economy sinks deeper into crisis. The rich and their apologists dictate that the working people make almost all the sacrifices in deep cuts and layoffs. A desperate Governor Pete Wilson leads a big campaign of anti-immigrant scapegoating to divide and confuse workers.

Wilson wants to help build the racist movement and also protect his political career. He knows that many big corporations and their media are giving him a wink, a nod, and plenty of cash.

Wilson and his kindred spirits use the Big Lie technique. They blame immigrants for allegedly draining social services. A recent Los Angeles County study exposes this lie. According to this study, in 1991 and 1992 immigrants generated $4.3 billion in taxes to all levels of government. Health and other social services provided to them as well as to children of undocumented workers amounted to $947 million and county school districts spent another $1.5 billion. Thus the immigrants actually made a POSITIVE tax contribution of $1.85 billion. (LA. Times-Studies, Aug. 13)

Thus in their typical dishonest and racist way do Wilson & Co. demand cutoffs of state health and education services to undocumented workers and their families, as well as amending the Constitution to deny the children of those workers born in the USA their citizenship rights.

Wilson wants not only to put up a smokescreen for the bosses, he wants to cover his own ass as well. As a senator during the 1980's, Wilson had his palms greased to a fare-thee-well by the savings and loan sharks. He pocketed at least $231,000. (Who Robbed America? by Waldman & Nader, Random House, 1990, Appendix #2) His votes helped the criminal banksters in their $500 billion ripoff. This was probably the second biggest robbery in recorded history. If we wish to attack the real spongers and parasites, how about the $45 billion-a-year installments to bail out the savings and loan swindlers, courtesy of the U.S. Congress? The Republicans and Democrats say we should go no further than the Keating 5 but what we really suffer from is the Keating 535 and Mr. President too.

Just think of how many millions of good jobs could be funded with the $45 billion a year of S&L bailout money. Think of the great health services, free education and housing for the people that we could have if not for the crimes of Wilson and the class of rich idlers he serves.

CON-servatives and right-wing ultras like Pat Buchanan, David Duke and George Putnam are not alone in creating scapegoats as a smokescreen to shield the rich. Sections of the Democratic Party liberals are joining forces with these reactionaries. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein also demand stepped-up persecution and repression against the immigrants. They love much of Wilson's program, and they in addition call for big deployments of California National Guard troops at the U.S.-Mexico border. They also want a national hi-tech ID card system so that the immigration cops (La Migra) can step up harassment and deportations.

Workers should not be duped by these political demagogues and corporate media hirelings. The rich must be held accountable as their immigrant-baiting campaigns lead to stepped-up physical assaults. We should unite with all workers, immigrant and native-born, to organize and press forward our struggles for a better life.

(Excerpted from an Aug. 18 leaflet by the L.A. Supporters of the MLP.)

[Back to Top]

No help from the Democrats

Republican Governor Wilson is, for the time being, the leading immigrant-basher in the country. But the immigrants can expect no help from the Democrats either.

The liberal senators from California, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, agree with much of Wilson's anti-immigrant agenda.

President Clinton has been riding the anti-immigrant wave as well. He abandoned his campaign promise of humane treatment for Haitian refugees. Instead he adopted Bush's policy of intercepting Haitians at sea and sending them back to Haiti.

The Clinton administration is also considering excluding illegal immigrants from the national health plan it will propose. (New York Times, Aug. 16) This would satisfy Governor Wilson's demand to exclude these immigrants from health benefits.

And on July 27 Clinton asked Congress for more money and stricter laws to keep out immigrants. He wants to limit the right of political asylum, and all but eliminate the right of refugees to appeal to a court. At a time when millions of refugees are searching for a place to stay, Clinton's only concern is to keep as many people out of the country as possible.

This anti-immigrant legislation is expected to be sponsored by, among others, liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy in the Senate. (New York Times, July 28)

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans care about the plight of workers around the world. They are pro-capitalist parties, and their anti-immigrant stand reflects different shades of ruling class chauvinism and racism.


[Back to Top]

Detroit cops convicted of Malice Green's murder


On August 23, two Detroit police were found guilty of second-degree murder for beating to death Malice Green, an unemployed black steel worker. The convictions of ex-officers Budzyn and Nevers was a rare bit of justice as racist police violence routinely goes unpunished in Detroit and across the country.

But will they ever serve a day in jail? Already there is talk of appeals.

Moreover, a third officer on trial, Lessnau, got off scot free. Unlike the others, Lessnau waived his right to a jury. His case was decided by Judge Crockett, a liberal black judge, who delivered an outrageous "not guilty" verdict. Crockett simply waved aside two eyewitness accounts by EMS drivers on how Lessnau punched and kicked a non-resisting Green. He declared he was reluctant to convict on the testimony of a single eyewitness, thus entirely ignoring one of the EMS drivers while accusing the other of lying from hatred for all police. (This supposed police-hating technician has been quoted by the press as believing that Lessnau suffered enough just from losing his job.)

A number of other officers who did nothing while Green was being beaten, or may have even landed a few blows themselves, did not even face trial.

Even when convicted, they're still good guys

But when cops are convicted of murder, they're still good guys in the eyes of the legal system. Murderers are almost always sent to jail while awaiting sentencing. But Crockett said that since Budzyn and Nevers were cops, this showed their "character," and he let them stay free pending sentencing on October 12.

So it is not yet clear what sort of sentences he'll give Budzyn and Nevers. If he taps them on the wrists, then the trial will be turned into a farce.

The toll keeps mounting

Meanwhile, it's still open season on blacks, Latinos and poor people in Detroit. The trial of Budzyn and Nevers hasn't even put a crimp on the aggressive behavior of the Detroit police. Since Green's death last November the unjust police murders of Ricardo Gordy and Cornelius Stanley have come to light. Police officers also face charges for shooting to death an unarmed Cuban, Jose Ituralde, when he allegedly reached inside his clothing. Black teenager Gary Glenn was murdered for the crime of running away from a youth home. And police fired shots into the chest of DaVern Riley for no good reason, nearly killing him.

This police rampage is an integral part of our capitalist system. It's the other side of the capitalist legacy of mass unemployment, poverty and homelessness. From Clinton to Michigan Governor Engler to Detroit Mayor Young, the politicians just let the inner-city neighborhoods rot. Their answer for all the social problems is more police. And the police are given a free hand to terrorize the poor, especially blacks and Latinos.

A movement of the oppressed

Detroit is one of the big cities that now have black mayors, and black police chiefs. But these mayors won their positions by taking part in pro-capitalist parties like the Democratic Party. They still protect the business interests, rather than organize the black and other working masses against the capitalist ruling class. That's why racism and oppression of the black masses continues even in cities like Detroit.

We need a movement of the oppressed, which unites the black and Latino masses with all the working people. Not the courts, not even black officials, will defend the black masses. Only the class struggle of the oppressed can make a difference.


Target the system

The convictions in the Malice Green case are a victory. But even if Budzyn and Nevers go to jail, it's no time to sit back and trust the system. The police haven't changed. It is time to keep organizing against the racist system.


Don't rely on the promises of the authorities. Build the mass struggle of the workers and poor of all nationalities.


[Back to Top]

Evidence exposes the killer cops


[Photo: Rally following the verdicts at the site of Malice Green's murder.]


The evidence was overwhelming in the Malice Green murder case. It proved the guilt of the cops beyond a doubt. It also gave a picture of the police brutality that is a daily fact of life in the inner-city.

Officer Budzyn assaults Green

Numerous eyewitnesses described how Officer Budzyn leaped on Green, who was sitting in his car, and proceeded to flail away with his heavy metal flashlight at Green's head.

Besides the eyewitness testimony against Budzyn, a Detroit police evidence technician testified about the pattern of blood that was splattered across the inside of Green's car. It was consistent with someone swinging up and down on Green from where Budzyn was.

The witnesses, and even Budzyn himself, said Green never presented any threat to the officer. Indeed, Budzyn admitted that while he straddled a prone Green, he was able to get on his radio to tell other police cars that there was no officer in jeopardy.

So there was no way the vicious beating could be justified as self-defense. Nor was Green doing anything when the police started to harass him. Budzyn started beating him because Green refused to open a clenched fist quickly enough to suit the officers. Budzyn said he thought Green might have been holding crack cocaine rocks.

Then it's Nevers' turn

After Budzyn pounded Green from the passenger side, Nevers took over. Four EMS technicians who had arrived on the scene that day testified about this. They said they saw Nevers hit Green several times in the head with his flashlight as Green's body hung halfway out the driver's side door. They testified that, despite Green being covered with blood and in no shape to do anything but writhe in pain, Nevers pounded away.

Officer Lessnau joins in

Two EMS technicians testified they saw Officer Lessnau join in. They said Lessnau grabbed Green from his car and dragged him on the ground. Then Lessnau punched Green, and finished up by kicking Green in the head or neck area.

One of the EMS technicians testified that he was so horrified by what he saw that he sent a message to his supervisor. He had asked, over his vehicle's communications system, what he should do when he witnesses "police brutality/murder."

EMS technicians also described how Green suffered a big seizure soon after the police clubbing and died on the way to the hospital.

The testimony of the EMS technicians was especially damning since, unlike some other witnesses, they had not personally known Green. Moreover, the EMS technicians often work closely with the police at crime scenes.

Fairy tales

The lawyers for the cops made a big deal about the reliability of the other witnesses because they were people who used drugs and one was a prostitute. But it was the "respectable" police who told unbelievable fairy tales during the trial.

Take Budzyn. He admits he was straddling Green in the car. Yet he said he had no idea of how blood came to be splattered all over the car, including on the passenger side where he was located.


Moreover, though he was present at the scene the whole time, he says he did not see Nevers -- or any other officer -- hit Green. How was it he didn't see what his partner Nevers was doing, as Nevers was less than a body's length away? Well, Budzyn contended he fell into Green's car backwards. This contradicts every other witness. But even if he did fall in backwards, how is it that Budzyn never glanced backward to see what his partner was doing? And how could he have been unaware of the blood flying all over the place?

Needless to say, Budzyn also denied hitting Green at all.


By the time Nevers took the stand, EMS workers had already testified he bludgeoned a helpless Green in the head with his flashlight. So Nevers admitted striking Green five or six times to the head.

But Nevers claimed it was self-defense. In retrospect, but not at the time of the incident.

Yet witnesses had also established that Green had no weapon. So Nevers concocted a story that Green had grabbed at his gun and swung his arms around. Of course, at the time this supposedly took place, Green was hanging halfway out of the car, with his head dangling toward the ground, as Nevers himself admits. Moreover, Budzyn was apparently still pinning Green down from inside the car. So even if one believes Green reached for the gun, all Nevers had to do was take a step back.

But if the rest of Nevers' testimony is any criterion, there is no reason to believe his self-defense tale. For example, he says he saw Budzyn in the car on top of Green but did not see which way Budzyn was facing. This was an obvious attempt to cover for Budzyn's story that he could not see Nevers because he had his back to Nevers.

Nevers also wanted everyone to believe that he was not aware of seriously injuring Green despite seeing Green and himself drenched in blood. He pretended that he was unaware of the growing danger to Green. But then Nevers had to explain why he hailed a passing EMS truck. He claimed it was not because he had an injured person on his hands -- but to get the EMS people help him subdue Green! But, as Nevers has had to admit, when the EMS technicians came over, he did not ask for any help in subduing Green. In fact Nevers said he never asked anyone else for help either, neither his partner, Budzyn, or any number of other officers standing around. Pretty amazing for someone in fear for his life!


Then there was also the small matter that none of the EMS people saw any threatening actions by Green.

Evidently, Nevers was having too good a time pounding Green to ask for any help. Indeed, Nevers seemed to be having fun that night. He confirmed other witnesses' testimony that, right after bludgeoning Green, he playfully tossed a plastic gun to a civilian on the scene, telling the person he could use the gun in robberies.

The beating didn't matter?

Since it was all but impossible to deny that the cops pummeled Green, the defense lawyers banked on casting doubt that the beating really mattered. They sought out some medical experts who equivocated on the cause of Green's death. They made a big deal about some cocaine and alcohol being in Green's body and argued that this was a. big factor in his demise. Evidently the jury was supposed to believe it was just a coincidence that Green died right after being beaten to a pulp.

But two of these experts had to admit the blows played at least some role in Green's death. The other defense expert claimed Green would have died anyway if he had not been beaten. Her theory was that the stress of the struggle with the police caused Green to have a heart attack. Apparently it never dawned on this "authority" that being smashed in the head with heavy metal flashlights caused the fatal stress.

So even if one accepted the far-fetched analysis of the medical experts for the defense, it was still the beating that triggered Green's death. Moreover, this evidence would show that the police, who suspected Green was using drugs, should have realized that a savage beating could kill him.


Meanwhile prosecution experts pointed out that Green only had miniscule amounts of cocaine and alcohol in his blood. This wouldn't have had much effect on Green at the time of the beating, and couldn't explain his death.

A routine procedure

Actually, Budzyn and Nevers, known in the neighborhood as "Starsky and Hutch," had a reputation for savage behavior. They could have argued that they were simply acting as they always did in the inner-city. They could have pointed to a list of savage beatings and shootings by police that is taking a constant toll on the community. Even from the time of the Malice Green murder to the trial, the list of dead continued to grow.

But of course they would not say that. Nor would it acquit them of being part of this savagery.


[Back to Top]

Judge OKs racist beating of Rodney King


Two and a half years ago, the videotape of the beating of Rodney King shocked the country. About two dozen Los Angeles cops stood around King, an unemployed black construction worker, and leisurely beat him to a pulp. They broke bones in his legs, skull and face, burned him with a Taser stun gun, and worked him over. All for having fled a traffic violation. Meanwhile tapes of patrol car broadcasts show police officers joking and boasting over this and other beatings, calling black people "gorillas in the mist," and talking of administering "attitude adjustments."

It took two years, an uprising in Los Angeles, and two trials for the courts to convict any of the cops for this savage beating. Only two cops were ever convicted. On April 17, a jury finally held Sgt. Stacey Koon and Officer Laurence Powell guilty of using excessive force and refusing to protect King's civil rights. According to the federal guidelines for sentencing, they should have received, at the minimum, almost six years in jail (five years, 10 months). Indeed, they could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in jail, and fined $250,000 each.

Cops are above the law

But on August 4 Judge John Davies of the U.S. District Court put aside the sentencing guidelines and gave the cops the lightest sentence he dared: only two and a half years in prison and no fine. (The federal prosecutors are now appealing the sentence.) They will be eligible for parole in two years. And the judge went further, praising the cops, fawning over them, vilifying Rodney King, and criticizing the federal prosecutors for having brought charges.

The cops and their lawyers grinned. "It couldn't be better" said Officer Powell's lawyer, Michael P. Stone (New York Times, Aug. 5) But the workers of this country, and the minorities, were betrayed once again by the legal system.

We are told over and over that the jury will decide the question of fact, and the judge will simply apply the law. But in sentencing the cops, the judge simply set aside the findings of the jury, cursed King, and justified most of the beatings, blow by blow.

Judge OKs breaking bones, fracturing skulls

According to Judge Davies, the light sentence was justified because Rodney King had supposedly provoked the incident. He said: "The victim's wrongful conduct contributed significantly to provoking the offensive behavior." So the judge blamed the victim for his beating.


But what about the videotape, where everyone could see a mob of police standing around, calmly torturing a defenseless man? Davies stated that the whole country had, in his view, "to some degree misunderstood" the videotape. Why, "an understanding of these tapes is not possible without the explanation of expert testimony." This racist judge then went on to interpret the videotape for the public and justify one blow after another.

Davies ruled that the initial baseball-style swing by Officer Powell was justified because King was allegedly trying to flee.

And he ruled that the subsequent slamming back and forth of King's arms and legs by Powell were also justified because the victim was still moving. Why, he may have tried to get up off the street.

He said it was also correct for Powell to try to smash King's chest with a flashlight because King was moving one arm across his chest and trying to turn onto his back.

And finally, he said that it was only at the point when Mr. King lay completely still that the officer's blows were "improper."

So Davies thought the police had the right to beat a suspect senseless, at least if he was poor, or black, or not too respectable. It's OK to beat a black man, smash his face in with flashlights, break his bones, and kick him with their jackboots -- for a traffic offense.

Of course, the police had continued beating even then. So Judge Davies reluctantly concluded that a few blows at the end of the beating were illegal. But, the judge stated, these blows had only caused some contusions and abrasions. So the judge ruled it was perfectly legal to break King's bones, fracture his skull, and beat him into a daze. The beating went only a few bruises too far.

A history of abuse makes you a good cop

Moreover, the judge went on to praise Powell and Koon as good family men and good police officers. Yet these men had a history of abusing people. Even Powell's defense lawyer had to admit that "People came out of the woodwork to complain about Larry Powell" after the videotape of the King beating was shown on TV.

Federal prosecutors wanted to present evidence to Judge Davies about Powell and Koon's record. It seems that five months prior to beating King, in October 1990, Powell had beaten another man, Danny Ramos, continuing the beating while the man was handcuffed on the ground in his own backyard. And while he was beating Ramos, his supervisor was Sgt. Koon, just as Koon supervised during the beating of King. Eventually, in July 1992, even the notorious Los Angeles Police Department, trying to improve its image, had reprimanded Powell for "serious misconduct" in beating Ramos.

But the judge wouldn't hear it. He hadn't come to judge Powell and Koon, but to praise them. He ruled that evidence of their prior brutality couldn't be submitted, that it was irrelevant, and he instead put Powell and Koon on a pedestal as model human beings.

Two types of people

For Judge Davies, there were two types of people. Bad people like King, for whom broken bones are no big deal. And good people like the police. Why, according to Judge Davies, the publicity alone was sufficient punishment for good people like Powell and Koon. Oh, how Powell and Koon had suffered as they grinned their way through talk shows, picked up big checks, and boasted of having "stomped" King (Koon's term).

No justice from the courts

Look at the record. King was brutally beaten on March 3, 1991. It was only because of the videotape that the case wasn't swept under the rug. But even with the videotape, the courts wouldn't give justice.

Only four of the many police involved were even charged. The first trial was moved out of Los Angeles in order to avoid a conviction, and the jury was packed with people friendly to the police. Sure enough, all four cops were acquitted on state charges.


But inner-city Los Angeles exploded in anger at the verdict. So the federal government decided to bring its own charges in order to keep things calm. The four cops were tried on federal charges. Two were convicted, but now the judge has lauded them as heroes.


So the courts aren't going to stop police brutality. Not even if everything is videotaped. It's necessary for the workers, the minorities and the poor to get organized. It's necessary to develop an organized struggle against racism and police oppression and the capitalist system that stands behind them. It has to go beyond explosions of outrage to organizing a movement that can be present at every work place, school, and community. It's necessary to develop a movement that can unite all the oppressed, and give them a consistent voice against the capitalist rulers of this country and their racist and exploiting system.


[Back to Top]

75,000 march in Washington


Tens of thousands of people rallied in Washington, D.C., on Saturday August 28. They joined a demonstration marking the 30th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington called by Martin Luther King, Jr. Under the banner of "Jobs, Justice, and Peace," this year's march was called by the NAACP and other organizations of the black elite.

Many working people and youth came to D.C. looking for answers about the worsening plight of black people and the poor, but the leaders of the march didn't have a fighting perspective to offer. They made vague declarations about economic justice. But how is this to come? Apparently from the Democratic Party and the Clinton administration. Democrats were prominently displayed on the rally platform. Never mind that Clinton has already cast aside the promises he made on jobs, gay rights, and help for the inner cities.


Trailing the Democrats is a tired old recipe. It was also one that Martin Luther King, Jr. championed. It has proven bankrupt many times over. The workers and black people need new answers; they need a new mass movement free from the coattails of all the capitalist politicians.


[Back to Top]

Protest against cutbacks in LA


SEIU Local 660 called for a noontime picket on September 1 at 20 clinics and four comprehensive health centers which L.A. County is planning to close in early September. Pickets showed at most of these locations with signs such as "Keep the clinics open!" "Protect our jobs!" and "These clinics give health-care!"

60 people were picketing, mostly nurses and a few patients, at a clinic in the Hollywood Wilshire area. Most of the patients going into the clinic were poor Latino working people, such a: garment, furniture or clothing workers About 20 picketers had whistles, with the chants and picketing being noisy and lively, and dozens of passing motorist: honked horns and raised fists in support. Supporters of the MLP were active and shouted "They say cutback, we say fight back!" and "Tax the rich, make the rich pay!" A number of leaflets and copies of The Workers' Advocate were passed out to picketers and patients.


[Back to Top]

Where is South Africa headed?


[Photo: June 25: White rightists used an armored truck to smash through the front of the Johannesburg World Trade Center where political talks are being held. These neo-Nazis want to return to the old South Africa.]

On April 27, 1994, South Africa expects to hold its first one-person, one-vote elections. That date was set this June with the agreement of 17 of the 26 groups participating in the multi-party conference for a new constitution. They included the country's two main political forces, President F.W. de Klerk's National Party and Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.

On that day, the country's 21 million citizens will elect 400 representatives to a parliamentary body, 200 on the basis of a national list and 200 on a regional list. Any party winning more than 5%of the vote will get seats based on proportional representation. Elections will also be held for regional assemblies.

The election date now set, the multiparty talks have gone on to finish the details of a draft constitution and the formation of a transitional executive to oversee next year's elections.

A change, yes, but what sort of victory is this?

The African National Congress is elated. It has been three years since Nelson Mandela was released and the party, along with other anti-apartheid organizations, was unbanned by the apartheid regime. Three years since F.W. de Klerk promised to negotiate political reform for "a new South Africa."

But behind the big words and slogans, what kind of victory is this really? Does it represent the victory of democracy and black majority rule?

Given the vote based on one-person, one-vote principle, it is assumed that black representatives will make up the majority in the new parliament. But will these representatives be able to draft a constitution as they see fit? Will they be able to form a government as they choose? Will they be able to decide on policies to improve the terrible economic conditions of the vast majority of the black people?

Unfortunately no. And therein lies the rub.

The fundamental details of the new constitution are being decided by the current multi-party talks. The elected parliament will not be able to adjust these basic principles.

For example, the negotiations are deciding how to divide up federal and regional powers, and what the country's regions are to be. Buthelezi's conservative Inkatha party and a section of the white right have demanded a weak federal government and enhanced powers for regional governments. (Other white rightists demand an independent Afrikaner state within a weak confederation.) In the multi-party talks, de Klerk's National Party has sought to make concessions towards these right-wing forces, and the ANC has gone along. It is expected that seven or eight regions will be created, and in three, the white right may dominate, either alone or by an alliance with conservative black parties. And in another, which will include Natal/Kwazulu, Inkatha is. expected to dominate.

Beyond the question of the constitution, there is another issue about the new elections which has already been decided. Those elections will not only elect a parliament, but also decide the composition of the new government. All parties which win 5%of the vote will not only get parliamentary deputies, but also seats in the cabinet of a government of national unity. In other words, the party or parties which win a majority won't be able to form their own government. South Africa is attempting to entrench the current multi-party conference into a governing body. In other words, the ANC, which is expected to win at least 50% of the seats, will have to go into a power-sharing arrangement with de Klerk's National Party and even the white right. Thus for some years into the future, black political power will be deliberately diluted by the white establishment.


And this is no minor matter. It may make even minor reforms subject to incessant haggling, delaying, and subversion.

This then is what the ANC is loudly championing as the victory of a negotiated path towards black majority rule. The ANC may well become part of a government, but it has already bargained away the ability to implement anything of much value.


Such an outcome is no real surprise for the process of negotiated compromise. In the mid-80's, the black masses of South Africa came near a revolution. Through their strikes and demonstrations, and by making tremendous sacrifices, they made the country ungovernable. The apartheid masters used leather, lead, and bars to put down the powerful upsurge. The movement was not able to build into an actual revolution which could have smashed the whole racist edifice. But the mass movement exacted a tremendous cost on the regime as well.

It successfully undermined the economy, and forced the apartheid regime into international isolation. The political instability and international sanctions, weak as they were, prevented new investment from coming in. The ruling National Party decided under de Klerk's leadership to make a deal with the mainstream of the anti-apartheid opposition, the ANC. Hence Mandela and other political prisoners were released, anti-apartheid groups were legalized, social apartheid laws removed, and promises made about talks towards majority rule.

The core of the white establishment had recognized that they could no longer rule in the old way. Thus they wanted a deal. But a deal which would preserve as much of white domination and privilege as possible. That has all along been de Klerk's strategy, and that is what he has succeeded in.

The ANC dominated the anti-apartheid fight. The ANC leadership has had a lot of militant and revolutionary rhetoric, and there are activists under its umbrella who have wanted radical change, but at heart the leaders were all along committed to a reformist compromise. They may not have wanted this weak a deal at the outset, but years of haggling have forced their own logic on the ANC. Sad to say, no left alternative emerged to the ANC which could have shown a revolutionary way out of apartheid's death agony.

Yet even today, it is still not certain that the weak deal will hold.

Thunder from the right

Though de Klerk and the mainstream of the white establishment have conceded to a deal with the ANC, the white right has not. And recent months have seen increased mobilization from these die-hards of the old order. They have frankly been out to scuttle the whole deal.

On April 10, rightists associated with the Conservative Party and the paramilitary Afrikaner Resistance Movement assassinated Chris Hani, the Secretary of the South African Communist Party. Hani was a popular black leader and, as leader of the reformist SACP, played a key role in keeping black militancy in check while justifying support for the ANC's increased compromises.


On May 25, rightist ministers within the de Klerk government organized a crackdown on the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). It was timed to do maximum damage to the negotiation process.

A few days later, hundreds of armed neo-Nazis from the Afrikaner Resistance Movement marched through the streets of Pretoria, demanding a suspension of the multi-party talks and calling for an independent white homeland.

Around the same time, a new right- wing umbrella movement was announced, the Afrikaner Volksfront (AVF). It was formed under the leadership of former army chief General Constand Viljoen, who is reported to have real weight among currently serving officers in the security forces. The AVF has called for the arming of whites in the rural areas, and in August the military was reported to have distributed arms to many rural whites.

On June 25, armed fanatics of the Afrikaner Resistance Movement invaded the World Trade Center in Johannesburg where multi-party talks were being held. They slapped women, punched men, pissed in the corridors and scrawled graffiti on the walls. Policemen stood by, doing nothing.

In the meantime, violence continues unabated in South Africa. July's toll was over 500. Most of this violence has taken place in the black townships. Some of it has begun to spill out into white areas. The violence is in part a continuation of factional warfare from Buthelezi's Inkatha party against the ANC; in part it is the result of conditions getting more and more desperate in the impoverished townships. Some of the violence is also the result of black youth despairing about the negotiated compromise and falling for simplistic slogans like the PAC's "one settler, one bullet."

But a good deal of the violence remains the work of the so-called "Third Force," rightists within the security forces who are doing their best to demoralize and disrupt black organization and unity. The violence is then used in turn by rightist politicians who campaign that blacks are unfit for majority rule and the country should be returned to a state of emergency and all the "terrorists" (anti-apartheid groups) be banned once again.

De Klerk and the mainstream of his National Party are, most likely, not directly connected to the Third Force, but he finds the white right mobilization useful to batter the ANC for greater and greater compromises. The white right (and Buthelezi) constantly threaten civil war, and de Klerk turns around and tells the ANC that if they want to avoid civil war, they had better ensure more and more demands for white privilege. And the ANC agrees. It has no answer to the threat of civil war other than reluctant compromise.


Civil war?

Why the extreme right is getting desperate is not hard to see. They represent the old South Africa of entrenched racism, and it is slipping away from them. That they have clout is also clear. With their demands, threats, and murderous acts, they have forced the multi-party talks to concede a series of measures satisfying their desires.

Some in the rightist camp may have gone along with the extreme rightist bluster simply to win such concessions from the multi-party talks. They may well join the newly established political process with the goal of putting brakes on reforms in favor of the black majority.

But will others in the rightist camp be satisfied, or are they determined to go for broke? The threat of civil war remains a possibility. How much is hard to ascertain. There remains considerable factionalism among them, and so far the white right has not been able to unify all their forces.

Should a serious racist rebellion break out, politics in that country would enter v a new, turbulent period. Which way would things go then -- left or right? There are too many unknowns to tell at this time. It is possible that a rebellion would fizzle or be easily subdued. Or else, it could create a situation where militant forces against racism could congeal into a force capable of a new, revolutionary assault on the racist system as a whole. But it is even possible that things could degenerate into a destructive, factional war where politics becomes even cloudier and progressive society ends up demoralized.

Whatever the case, all political forces in South Africa would be put to a severe test.


[Back to Top]

The World in Struggle




More workers' lives sacrificed to profit

Thai workers demand justice and safety


[Photo: Kader factory workers' delegation protesting outside Hong Kong legislature.]


Thailand is proving to be a haven for human-made disasters.

On August 13, more than 100 people died when the Royal Plaza Hotel collapsed in Nakhon Ratchasima, 150 miles from Bangkok. Four floors had been illegally added to a two-story structure. And two weeks earlier, management placed three large water tanks on the roof, because the local authorities cannot guarantee adequate water supplies.

Ten women workers were killed on July 6 when a fire broke out in a garment factory outside Bangkok. They were sleeping in their dormitory on the third floor of the factory building. They were unable to escape because the door of the dormitory was locked.

And on May 10, Thailand was the scene of the world's worst factory fire. That fire, at the Kader Toy factory, killed 188 workers and injured 379. Many workers died because they were blocked by locked doors.

None of these calamities should have occurred. They took place only because the Thai capitalists put profits above human life. Thailand, which has been going through an industrial boom, is notorious for not enforcing safety standards in construction or industry.

However, it appears that the Kader Toy factory fire did act as a spur to the struggle for safer working conditions.

Workers campaign to make Kader pay

Kader workers sent a delegation to Hong Kong to demand compensation from Kader Industrial (Hong Kong), the major owner of the Bangkok toy factory. The workers demanded over $9 million, which included compensation for the families of those killed and injured, medical fees, an education fund for the children of those killed, and compensation for the workers who lost their jobs due to the fire.

Kader Industrial (Hong Kong) rejected the workers' demands and has refused to accept responsibility for the disaster at the toy factory. The Thai workers' representatives organized protests outside the company's headquarters, with the support of Hong Kong labor groups. A sit-in was also organized at the ferry pier at the Central District to inform Hong Kong residents about the campaign.

The Kader workers have called for a boycott of Kader toy products, which include Bart Simpson, Cabbage Patch dolls, model trains, teddy bears and other stuffed toys. Apart from toys with the Kader trade mark, the company also makes toys for Fisher Price, Hasbro, Mattel, and Disney.

There have also been several mass protests in Bangkok itself.

After a protest on July 12, the factory owners agreed to pay additional compensation of $4,000 to the relatives of each worker who died. Also, their children are to receive education expenses from the company and the government. Injured workers are to receive extra compensation and a job when the factory is rebuilt.

The settlement was made between Kader Industrial (Thailand) and representatives of workers appointed by the government. But Kader workers are not all satisfied with this deal. Some claim they were not adequately represented. Meanwhile, labor and other activist groups in Thailand and Hong Kong have reiterated their call for an international boycott of Kader products. They are also demanding that the Thai government not allow the reopening of the toy factory until the company promises to guarantee the health and safety of the workers and implements a life insurance plan for them.

Textile workers strike

One reason the Thai government pushed the Kader toy capitalists into offering higher compensation is they were, at the same time, faced with another major labor "problem." On July 1 the 3,000 workers at Thai Durable Textile Company struck and occupied the plant. They were protesting the permanent layoff of hundreds of workers there.

After the strike began, workers from six other textile plants joined the strike. They were all protesting the massive layoffs decimating Thailand's textile industry. The strikers organized a rally outside the parliament building that went on continuously for almost a week and involved at some points up to 10,000 people. Finally the government ordered the strikers back to work but also ordered the companies involved to hire back the laid-off, and to increase compensation to workers laid off in the future.

There are bound to be more massive rounds of layoffs, as Thailand's textile industry is moving into a bust cycle. After booming for five years, the industry is being hit by runaway shops, as companies move to the new low-wage areas in China, Viet Nam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Thai workers are faced with a difficult situation, but they are learning to face up to it and get organized.

AFL-CIO boss on Thai workers' plight:

Throw them out of work!

In May, nearly 200 Thai women workers died in a factory fire at the Kader Toy factory outside Bangkok. Since then Thai workers have campaigned for compensation and safe working conditions.

How did "our" union leaders here in the U.S. respond to this tragedy? Did they offer to support the Thai workers in their fight?

Think again.

Lane Kirkland, president of the AFL-CIO, got in his two cents worth on ABC-TV's 20/20 show. Asked for his opinion on the Kader Toy factory fire, Kirkland said a few words against the Thai bosses for their indifference to the workers. But he immediately linked this to the demand that American companies should stop buying toys made in Thailand, and that American manufacturers should shut down their operations in Thailand. In other words, Thai workers should be thrown out of work.

This is the same kind of "concern" Kirkland expresses for the Mexican workers when discussing the North American Free Trade Act. Kirkland cries about the low wages, and the poor working and living conditions of Mexican workers. But he doesn't call for these conditions to be improved, or for solidarity actions in support of Mexican strikers or for international organizing drives. Far from it. His only "concern" for the Mexican workers is that they be thrown out of work as quickly as possible. Kirkland sheds a few crocodile tears over workers in other countries, but, above all else, he's just a bleeding chauvinist.

[Back to Top]


Hyundai workers strike

Workers at four Hyundai companies in Ulsan, South Korea continued their strike in early August. They demand improved wages, conditions, and reinstatement of all union members fired during the strike. The workers held a mass rally on July 28. Kim Yong-sam, South Korea's new civilian president, has dispatched 12,000 riot police to Ulsan to keep the workers under control.

[Photo: Hyundai workers clash with police.]

General strike in Uruguay

Workers in Uruguay staged a 36-hour general strike in early August against the anti-worker policies of President Luis Lacalle. The strike was especially effective in the capital, Montevideo. Schools were shut, transportation ground to a halt, and no newspapers were published. A mass rally was held in Montevideo. The strike was also called as a support action for Uruguayan construction workers, who have been on strike for months.

Timex workers go international to stop plant closing

Striking workers from the Dundee, Scotland plant expanded their campaign for solidarity. Thirty Dundee strikers arrived in Besancon, France on July 12 and picketed the Timex plant there for five days. While they were there, truck drivers and postal workers refused to cross the picket line. The workers from Dundee appealed for solidarity to their co-workers in Besancon, and the latter agreed not to work on the 400,000 watches transferred from Dundee to Besancon for final assembly and packaging.

Four Timex strikers also visited the U.S. in August. They walked a picket line in New Haven, Connecticut supporting hospital workers on strike there.

Non-union workers in India strike

Non-union workers in India carried out a successful nationwide strike in July. The strike was especially strong in West Bengal and Kerala states. They demanded full application of labor laws, minimum wage laws and social security measures at their work places.

Meanwhile, truck drivers throughout India held a one-day strike on August 8 against fees and taxes levied on truckers. The government ordered police to escort scab drivers through picket lines.

Asian oil workers strike in Kuwait

2,000 maintenance workers at the Mina Abdullah refinery in Kuwait staged a one-day strike August 6. The refinery workers are all Asians recruited out of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. They demanded better food and housing, and longer vacations to enable them to travel to and from their home countries. When their demands were not met, hundreds of the workers went on a rampage, smashing windows, cars and houses. Government officials later announced the strike was settled, but it's significant that Kuwait's foreign workers are beginning to organize.

Battle over forests in British Columbia

Native peoples living on Vancouver Island have set up barricades to try and block the logging of Clayoquot Sound, an area of ancient rain forest. The Native people are backed by environmental organizations from Europe and North America. Already two-thirds of the ancient rain forest on Vancouver Island has been cut down. A recent agreement between the provincial government and logging companies would allow the loggers to cut down most of what's left.

A rally on August 2 in Vancouver drew 1,500 people opposing the logging. And on August 9 hundreds of people blockaded the main logging road into Clayoquot Sound. Police arrested 300. Those arrested included at least four logging workers, some of whom support the protests despite the official position of the loggers' union, which supports the lumber capitalists. A cross-country car caravan is being organized in Canada to build support for the protests. The caravan will arrive in Clayoquot Sound for a protest planned for September 5.

[Back to Top]