The ORGANIZER WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Issue No. 34 — July 28, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE – TOW No. 34:
Lift the Cuban Embargo and Sanctions Immediately and Unconditionally! (Why the Call to “Return to the Obama Opening” Is Misguided) — Editorial
Growing Pressure to End the Filibuster — by Millie Phillips
What It Will Take to End the Filibuster — by the Editors
Restore Majority Rule, End the Filibuster! – by Bradley Wiedmaier
France: Editorial of Workers Tribune No. 299 – “One Could Have Imagined…”
New Book, a Must-Read: Mobilizing in Our Own Name, Million Worker March — An Anthology by Clarence Thomas
Lift the Cuban Embargo and Sanctions Immediately and Unconditionally!
(Why the Call to “Return to the Obama Opening” Is Misguided)
On July 23, The New York Times published a full-page ad sponsored by the People’s Forum that calls on President Biden to “reject the cruel policies put into place by the Trump White House that have created so much suffering among the Cuban people.”
The ad — signed by more than 400 prominent activists and celebrities — calls on Biden to (1) “sign an executive order that annuls Trump’s ‘coercive measures’,” and (2) “return to the Obama opening.”
Trump’s measures tightened the already crushing 60-year-old blockade imposed by U.S. imperialism after the Cuban Revolution confiscated all the companies owned by U.S. and Cuban capitalists. They were meant to starve the Cuban people into submission.
They include sanctions on shipping companies and vessels that transport oil from Venezuela to Cuba, cancellation of remittances to Cuban families, and directives aimed at crippling tourism, a major source of income for Cuba. All countries or corporations doing business with Cuba were threatened with sanctions, effectively blocking almost all trade with Cuba.
It should be noted — and underscored — that all these sanctions and other such measures have been maintained by Biden. In fact, Biden’s budget proposals now before Congress include $20 million for backing counter-revolutionary groups in Cuba and other efforts aimed at destabilizing the regime. Another $13 million have been authorized for broadcasting U.S. propaganda of the type that shifted blame for Cuba’s economic crisis from the U.S. blockade and sanctions.
Yes! All the Trump-Biden sanctions and coercive measures against Cuba must be annulled. The noose around Cuba’s neck must be loosened; Cuba must be allowed to live. But this demand should not be coupled with the demand to “return to the Obama opening.”
What was the “Obama opening”?
On December 17, 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the “normalization” of diplomatic relations with Cuba and the lifting of several restrictions on personal, economic and financial activities imposed by the U.S. government in January 1961, when the blockade was enacted.
Obama also agreed to free three of the remaining “Cuban Five” political prisoners held in U.S. jails — Luis Medina, Gerardo Hernández and Antonio Guerrero — in exchange for U.S. spy Alan Gross.
Obama’s decision was prompted by the failed attempts over 53 years by U.S. imperialism to overthrow the revolutionary process in Cuba. These efforts included the attempted military invasion at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) in April 1961, which was smashed by the armed resistance of the Cuban people; the economic and political blockade; the creation and support to armed anti-Castro groups on Cuban soil; the sustained sabotage of economic and civilian installations; the provocation of the October 1962 Missile Crisis; bio warfare ; many assassination attempts on Fidel Castro ; and more. All these attempts failed.
The official White House document on “Charting a New Course on Cuba” — issued in conjunction with Obama’s speech – admitted that “decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed,” noting that, “[a]t times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.”
The White House text explained the content of this “positive change”: “[W]e are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.”
The text made it clear that a key U.S. objective was the destruction of Cuba’s nationalized industries and state services. “The policy changes,” the statement noted, “will make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector. Additional options for promoting the growth of entrepreneurship and the private sector in Cuba will be explored.”
The White House document went on to report that Cuba under the leadership of Raúl Castro had initiated some “economic reforms” that had produced “positive results.” This was a reference to the 137,000 public-sector layoffs announced by the Cuban government in September 2010 (along with the easing of restrictions on private businesses) and the Law on Foreign Investment adopted by the Cuban National Assembly on March 29, 2014.
The Law on Foreign Investment allowed up to 100% foreign ownership — with no restrictions on the repatriation of profits — in most sectors of Cuba’s economy, as well as sizable tax exemptions for new investors.
Carlos Alonso Zaldívar, former Cuban Ambassador to Spain, warned that if unchecked these free-market “reforms” would have devastating consequences in a country where “six million out of 11.5 million Cubans depend on social protection in the form of pensions and subsidized services and products, while 68 percent of the national budget goes to social spending. Given this reality, millions of Cubans rightfully fear that the new market openings will reduce, if not totally end, this social spending. These millions will resist the proposed changes.” (El País, Spain, January 1, 2015)
What Zaldivar warned against soon became a reality; the reforms announced by Raúl Castro and approved by the Cuban government went largely unchecked. Numerous subsidies and free food for workers were eliminated, and tens of thousands of additional jobs were lost, creating what an article in Reuters (April 16, 2018) described as “increasing complaints of growing social inequality … and swelling anger.”
The “Obama opening” had imperialist strings attached. These were strings designed to accelerate the dismantling of the state ownership of the means of production — that is, the socialized economy of a workers’ state — by other, “kinder and gentler,” means.
Calling, as the New York Times ad does, “to resume the Obama opening and begin the process of ending the embargo,” points in the wrong direction. It points in the direction of accommodation to the Democratic Party, one of the twin parties of U.S. imperialism which, like the Republican Party, has sought to overthrow the Cuban Revolution from day one.
The demand that needs to be raised today by labor, antiwar, and community organizations in cities across the country must be: “Lift the Cuban Embargo and Sanctions Immediately and Unconditionally!”
Growing Pressure to End the Filibuster
By MILLIE PHILLIPS
President Biden reiterated this week that he has no intention whatsoever of trying to end the filibuster, and it is highly unlikely that Democratic senators will end it on their own without his active support. At least two of them have been adamantly opposed to ending it. Thus, it is safe to assume that, without further activism from huge numbers of us, none of the progressive bills proposed by the Democrats, even those that have already passed in the House, are likely to be enacted.
The filibuster offers the Democrats the perfect excuse to avoid delivering on campaign promises that would help their constituents, a necessary excuse so that they can claim to have the best interests of working class and marginalized people at heart without having to alienate their corporate funders by doing anything that would cost them money. This racket is becoming more and more obvious.
Voting rights? Of course, they are for voting rights, anything less would be a return to racist Jim Crow, but the Republicans will filibuster. A Green New Deal? Of course, climate change is the major world crisis of our time, but the Republicans will filibuster. The PRO Act? Raising the minimum wage? Of course, we support labor, but the Republicans will filibuster. A thorough, far-reaching infrastructure bill? Of course, we need it, but the Republicans will filibuster any bill not focused on publicly funding corporate infrastructure projects.
From a purely electoral perspective, such a failure to produce core change is suicidal, virtually ensuring that the Republicans will win important seats in the midterm 2022 elections. Without a mass movement forcing their hand, we predict they will do nothing except to continue making empty promises. They would rather lose than bite the hands that feed them.
So, what needs to be done?
The labor movement has the power to take effective direct action, if it so chooses — but it has not taken up the demand to end the filibuster as a central organizing campaign. The AFL-CIO has issued statements about how the filibuster is preventing needed legislation from being passed, but it has not called for any mass actions by affiliated unions.
The SEIU, a non-AFL-CIO union, has made some militant statements, but it, too, has not called for massive demonstrations or direct actions that might compel the Democrats to act.
Despite numerous petitions and other lobbying efforts from many liberal and left-leaning organizations demanding an end to the filibuster, the Poor Peoples Campaign (PPC), a multiracial, anti-poverty effort intended to re-create Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign, is the only large organization calling for major demonstrations and civil disobedience actions with “End the Filibuster” as a central demand.
This last Monday, July 26, the PPC held such actions in at least 30 states at local senatorial offices, demanding, in addition to ending the filibuster, the passage of the full For the People Act (voting rights), full restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the enactment of a federal minimum wage of $15/hour. The most significant action was in Arizona directed at Senator Krysten Sinema, who has spoken out in favor of keeping the filibuster. At this action, Rev. William Barber, national co-chair of the PPC, was arrested, along with Rev. Jesse Jackson and almost 30 local activists, for sitting in at her office, though they were not jailed.
Most of the other actions, however, were quite small (fewer than 100 people) and received very little news coverage. (This author attended one in San Francisco at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s office.) With adequate support from labor and other large movements, they could have been much bigger. It remains to be seen how effective the PPC will be – or how far it will ago — in challenging the Democratic Party’s blatant hypocrisy, but it has taken a necessary first step in this direction.
What It Will Take to End the Filibuster
(excerpts from the Editorial in Issue No. 32 of The Organizer Weekly Newsletter)
President Joe Biden and top Democratic Party elected officials are refusing to end the filibuster. It’s not just the recalcitrant “moderate” Democratic senators who are the problem; the Democratic Party as a whole, beginning with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), is refusing to end the filibuster. All are content to shield behind the filibuster as they refuse to heed the will of the people and enact majority rule.
Why this refusal?
Biden and the DNC could easily strong-arm senators Manchin and Sinema into ending the filibuster and adopting legislation in the interest of the working class and the poor. But their eternal quest for “bipartisanship” prevents them from doing so. Their role is to maintain the capitalist status-quo – and preserving the filibuster is central to this task, just as it has been throughout U.S. history. Nnamdi Lumumba, co-convener of the Ujima Peoples Progress Party, explained: “The filibuster has been a means of coercion, especially against the Black working class. If you look at the history of the Senate filibuster, you see that it was created to stop any attempts to establish social justice over the last 150 years – particularly in relation to slavery, lynching, or voting rights.”
Ending the filibuster would mean opening the floodgates to the millions of people fighting for genuine police reform, voting rights, Medicare for All, a $15 federal minimum wage, the PRO Act, Papers for All undocumented immigrants – and all other pressing demands.
What is to be done?
An independent mass-action and broad-based united front to defend voting rights needs to be launched immediately, with the labor movement’s full participation.
Some first steps have been taken in this direction, but they are only small steps in relation to what is needed. The Poor People’s Campaign, which is led by the Rev. William Barber, has called for a season of non-violent direct action from July 12 to August 8 to demand that Congress end the filibuster, pass all the provisions of the For the People Act, fully restore the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and enact a $15 federal minimum wage. [See article in this issue by Millie Philipps.]
The labor movement needs to declare its independence from the Democratic and Republican parties – the one big property party with two names – and mobilize its millions of members in independent mass actions in the streets to defend and expand democratic rights.
It took a mass movement, led by Black working-class organizations and their allies, to compel President Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats to pass the Civil Rights Act in 1965. Today, a similar movement needs to take shape in the ranks of the labor movement and among labor’s community allies, first and foremost the Poor People’s Campaign, aimed at putting an end to the filibuster – and an end to the assault on working-class rights and democratic rights.
Independent united-front mass action in the streets across the nation, organized by labor-community coalitions, is an essential component of a winning strategy. But it is not the only component. Working-class political action aimed at organizing an Independent Labor Party rooted in the unions and the oppressed communities is more urgent than ever. Such a party could be forged in the labor-community assemblies’ fight to restore and expand voting rights, along with other key demands that the Democrats are refusing to implement.
Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) is promoting three local campaigns for independent working-class politics: the Ujima People’s Party campaign in Maryland, Connie White’s Campaign for City Council in Long Beach (CA), and the South Carolina Labor Party.
We invite our readers to learn more about these three campaigns by visiting the LCIPs new website: www.lcipcommittee.org. Please join us in this fight for independent working-class action.
Restore Majority Rule, End the Filibuster
By BRADLEY WIEDMAIER
According to the last U.S. Census in 2010, the least-populated 21 states make up less than 12% of the national population. Yet 41 U.S. senators from those states can block all legislation in Congress from passing, with the exception of one budget bill and one debt-ceiling bill per year. The tyranny of this tiny minority over the 88% must end. Restoring majority rule in the Senate is critical to restoring Constitutional rules in the Senate. The Filibuster must end.
Purported “reforms” to the Filibuster have enshrined its unconstitutionality. The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation largely because the super-majority rule of the Articles was unworkable. This caused the adoption of legislative Majority Rule in the U.S. Constitution.
The filibuster was instituted as a minority veto to frustrate any Constitutional majority with slave-state interests. All pseudo reforms of the filibuster only made it worse up to the present. The stealth filibuster that now exists applies to all Senate legislation, except the two fiscal bills cited above. It has altered the basic functioning of the Senate and Congress. During the Civil Rights era, the filibuster exploded in usage as the forces of Jim Crow deployed the filibuster to prevent Civil Rights legislation.
La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue No. 299 – 21 July 2021 – Editorial
One Could Have Imagined …
By DANIEL GLUCKSTEIN
One could have imagined a real vaccination campaign. In working-class neighborhoods – where the vaccination rate is half the rate in well-off neighborhoods – teams of qualified personnel could have held daily information meetings at the entrances to tower blocks in the housing estates, then gone door-to-door, home by home, to discuss with people and convince them. In every workplace, time could have been made available (on a paid basis) to allow employees to go to information points and voluntary vaccination points at the workplace entrance. One could have imagined using interpreters for people who don’t speak or understand French well.
In short, there could have been an appeal to the intelligence of working people, a campaign to convince people that would have built awareness. At the end of such a campaign, with the vast majority having chosen freely to be vaccinated, the proposal for compulsory vaccination could have appeared as the simple formalization of a state of affairs accepted by all, in particular by workers and their families.
One could have… This is undoubtedly what would have been done by a government of the people, by the people and for the people, a government of the workers and democracy.
But Macron has done the opposite. By announcing in the same speech an extension of the retirement age, the questioning of the rights of the unemployed and a bill making failure to comply with the vaccination obligation a reason for dismissal, he has transformed an instrument for progress, one that creates protection against disease, into a weapon of repression that deprives people of rights.
This reactionary policy opens up a space for the most obscurantist of forces that are hiding their dark designs behind the misleading slogan of “freedom”. It also aims to divide the workers among themselves.
In these times of confusion, only the labor movement can establish clarity.
Firstly, by refusing to give any support to the government, unlike those who – as leaders of the “left” – are cultivating equivocation and supporting all or part of Macron’s decisions.
Then, by taking in hand the organization of the fight, not against one isolated aspect of the government’s policy (the health pass, for example), but against its policy as a whole, a reactionary, anti-working-class and anti-democratic whole. Therefore, by formulating the whole set of working-class demands which are the only way to set aside division and build unity.
Finally, by not hesitating to engage in a showdown to block the law adopted in the Council of Ministers on 19 July and all the counter-reforms that have been announced, and to block this new deadly offensive against workers and democracy. For it is on the terrain of the class struggle that things will be resolved.
This is the meaning of the statement by the National Bureau of the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID), which is submitted for discussion by all.
New Book, a Must-Read:
Mobilizing in Our Own Name
Million Worker March
An Anthology by Clarence Thomas
(Amazon.com – Paperback, $49)
Today’s workers can no longer continue to depend on bourgeois politicians to address issues of systemic racism, income inequality, corporate greed, workers’ rights, universal health care, slashing the military budget, and ending the murder of African Americans, and people of color by police. The initiators of the Million Worker March (MWM) understood this, which is why they challenged the Democratic Party, the officialdom of labor, and others to organize the MWM.
This anthology is about radical African American trade unionists from one of the most renowned radical labor organizations in the world, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, that defied the Democratic Party and the AFL-CIO and mobilized the MWM on October 17, 2004, at the Lincoln Memorial.
The writer understands that now more than ever, workers around the world must act in unity in our own interests. Workers must build an international rank-and-file fight-back movement to defend the rights of workers internationally to achieve economic security and a peaceful world.
The MWM called for an independent mobilization of working people, with a workers’ agenda to address the unrestrained class warfare by the captains of capital. This historic event, which was viewed on C-Span, attracted thousands of workers (organized and unorganized), immigrant rights groups, anti-war activists, community organizations, social movements, youth, and trade unionists from around the world.
This anthology captures radical workers’ actions and struggles written by activists as those events were happening through news articles, interviews, photos, posters, leaflets, and video transcripts.
Through these documents, the story is told of the MWM Movement, its roots, and the branches that have grown from it mobilizing in our own name. It is intended to create a historic account and give impetus to the struggle ahead.