T.O. Weekly 35 – Afghanistan: Imperialism Main Culprit /Open the Doors / Haiti Disaster /Black Politics
The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 35 – August 18, 2021
Please distribute widely
IN THIS ISSUE:
• Editorial: Imperialism, the Main Culprit in the Tragedy of the Afghan People
• Open the Doors to the Afghan Refugees! – by Dominique Ferré
• Presentation: “Haiti Is Not Destined to Be a Country of Disasters” – by The Editors
• Haiti: The Land of Disasters – by Berthony Dupont
• Refugee Advocates Demand that U.S. Stop Deportations to Haiti Following Earthquake – from Common Dreams
• Biden to Migrants from Mexico and Central America: DON’T COME! – from Transición, Mexico
• “Border Remains as Closed to Migrants as During the Trump Administration” – from La Jornada, Mexico
• From Black August to Black Liberation: Commemorating the Struggle of Political Prisoners – from Black Alliance for Peace
• Glen Ford’s Journalism Fought for Black Liberation and Against Imperialism – by Margaret Kimberly, reprinted from BAR
• The French “Health Pass” – A Working-Class Perspective: A Four-Part Dossier from the POID, France
Imperialism, the Main Culprit in the Tragedy of the Afghan People
The capture of Kabul by the Taliban on August 16 opens a new chapter in the tragedy of the Afghan people. The Taliban controlled 80% of the country, but President Joe Biden’s announcement of the total withdrawal of NATO troops on August 31 precipitated the collapse of the puppet regime in Kabul.
The population is gripped by anguish. For 20 years, the Afghan people have been subjected to assaults on their basic rights and livelihoods by NATO troops, the Taliban, and other groups armed by a whole host of “warlords.” The return of the Taliban and their medieval “Islamic Emirate” means an increase in violence, especially against women, as well as a threat to the lives of the members of workers’ and democratic organizations. With the approach of the Taliban, attacks have multiplied, such as the one that seriously injured comrade Jawad Tayeb, editor of the progressive newspaper Eteraz , on August 7.
The comparison of the fall of Kabul with that of Saigon on April 30, 1975 stops at the scenes of the evacuation of the Western embassies. The fall of Saigon was the victory of the Vietnamese people against imperialism. The fall of Kabul, on the other hand, was offered to the Taliban on a platter by U.S. imperialism after months of negotiations with the Trump and then Biden administrations.
After 20 years of NATO occupation of Afghanistan, U.S. imperialism has other priorities: notably its confrontation with China. It had to withdraw its troops and redeploy them elsewhere. On February 29, 2020 in Qatar, the U.S. government signed an agreement with the Taliban paving the way for their return to power.
The phony “war on terror”
In October 2001, in the name of the so-called “war on terror,” the United States and an international coalition bombed Afghanistan, drove out the Taliban and installed a puppet regime that survived only thanks to NATO occupation troops. And what was the result? The longest foreign military intervention by the United States left the Afghan people open to abuse and bombing by NATO, the Taliban, and other “warlords.” More than 165,000 Afghans have died , and millions have been injured and displaced. “The financial cost to the U.S. taxpayers is estimated at $2.3 trillion” (San Francisco Chronicle, August 17, 2021), while Afghanistan has become the world’s largest producer of heroin.
But where did the Taliban (literally, “students”) come from? As early as July 1979, the U.S. administration financed and armed the fundamentalist armed groups that opposed the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. The objective was to lure the Soviet Union and its army at the end of 1979 into a trap in which it would become stuck for 10 years. The Soviet Union withdrew its troops in 1989 and collapsed in 1991, followed in 1992 by the collapse of the pro-Soviet Afghan regime. Afghanistan was then plunged into a civil war between different armed movements.
In 1996, one of them imposed itself against all the others: the Taliban. Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under U.S. President Bill Clinton, hailed it as “a positive step.” And for good reason: the Taliban are a creation of the Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), the secret service of the Pakistani military regime (themselves created and trained by Washington). After September 11, 2001, however, yesterday’s allies became “terrorists.”
“Freedom fighters” one day, “terrorists” the next, they have now “morphed,” according to Washington, into respectable interlocutors. The same people who in 2001 justified their military intervention in the name of protecting Afghan women  are today opening the doors of power to their executioners. Biden, Macron, Merkel, Johnson and others (including the UN), bear responsibility in advance for the crimes that will be committed.
The duty of the workers of the world is to organize active solidarity with the Afghan people. All the countries responsible for this heinous war, beginning with the United States, must open their doors – unconditionally – to all Afghan refugees. [See accompanying article.]
• Open the Doors to All Afghan Refugees!
• End U.S. Intervention and Wars in the Middle East and the World Over!
1- Eteraz (The Protest) is a progressive, secular, socialist fighting monthly newspaper published in Kabul until August 2021. The International Workers Committee Against war and Exploitation, For a Workers’ International (IWC) has reprinted many articles and statements by Eteraz.
2- For more details on the agreement, see the February 29, 2020 “Joint Declaration between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan.”
3 – To this figure one must add 4,450 deaths of allied occupation troops, including 2,443 U.S. troops and 457 British troops.
4 – One of the main justifications by the imperialist governments for occupying Afghanistan was that the U.S. puppet government supported women’s rights. This is a total lie. According to Afghan activist Malalai Joya, speaking on Democracy Now in July, “the catastrophic situation of the women of Afghanistan was a very good excuse for the U.S. and NATO to occupy our country. Unfortunately, they pushed us from the frying pan into the fire as they replaced the barbaric regime of the Taliban with the misogynist warlords. … That’s why today millions of Afghans are suffering from insecurity, corruption, joblessness, and poverty. And still, most Afghan women are the victims.”
Biden and Macron, Shame on You! – Open the Doors to the Afghan Refugees!
By Dominique Ferré
The images of the panic in Kabul after the entry of the Taliban have been shown around the world. Tens of thousands of Afghans — men, women and children — have massed at the gates of the city and on the tarmac of Kabul airport, hoping to escape. “I don’t eat, I don’t sleep. All those who have the financial means and contacts have already left Afghanistan, but we have nothing, we are waiting for a miracle,” said one of them to the correspondent of Le Monde (August 17).
As these scenes were broadcast around the world, U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke on the evening of August 16.
Biden, from the White House, shed crocodile tears, stating that he was “deeply saddened by the situation.” He even had the nerve to mention the fate of “women and girls” in Afghanistan. “But I don’t regret it,” he said, “I assume it.” And Biden went on to blame the Taliban’s entry into the Afghan capital on the puppet regime: “The Afghan political leadership abdicated and fled the country. The Afghan army has abdicated, sometimes without even trying to fight … American soldiers should not fight and die in a war that the Afghan forces themselves refuse to fight.”
Biden spoke as if the puppet regime in Kabul were not a pure and simple creation of the U.S. Army and NATO! – as if for 20 years, Bush and then Obama, followed by Trump and Biden, had not sent thousands of young U.S. soldiers to die in a war that was not theirs. It has been a war for the profits of Wall Street and arms manufacturers, a war against the Afghan people, as the anti-war coalitions in the U.S., primarily US Labor Against the War (USLAW), have denounced for the past 20 years!
But in the field of ignominy, Biden was beaten by Macron. According to the latter: “Europe alone cannot assume the consequences of the current situation”, calling for “protecting ourselves against major irregular migratory flows.” This was almost word for word the statement made by rightwing political figure Marine Le Pen, warning about “the prospect of new waves of immigration.” Shame on Macron, who, having delivered the Afghan people to the Taliban, is responsible for the effort by thousands of Afghans to flee their country, as he announces in advance that he will close the borders to refugees fleeing barbarism!
Workers, youth, and all supporters of democracy and peace, in France as in the United States, can only condemn these shameful declarations. It is the duty of the labor movement to demand that these warmongers open the doors, unconditionally, to these Afghan refugees.
Governments of France, the United States, and NATO countries: The workers demand that you open immediately the borders to the refugees who are fleeing the barbarism into which you have plunged Afghanistan!
Presentation: “Haiti Is Not Destined to Be a Country of Disasters”
On August 14, an earthquake of magnitude 7.2 struck Haiti, particularly affecting the southern regions of the country. At this writing, an estimated 2,000 died, 11,000 were injured seriously, 37,000 houses were destroyed … and many people are still missing. Many buildings collapsed during the powerful tremor, trapping hundreds of residents under concrete slabs.
This terrible tragedy has revived the terrible memories of the devastating earthquake of 2010. Residents fear an even greater toll as the south of the island suffers from shortages of water, electricity, food and medical supplies. And all this while mafia gangs are flourishing, fomenting terror and insecurity everywhere.
We are reprinting below the editorial published in the August 18 issue of Haiti-Liberté, which we believe is a must-read for workers and activists across the country. The editorial board of The Organizer expresses our solidarity with the Haitian people and our comrades of Haiti-Liberté. — The Editors
* * *
Haiti: The Land of Disasters
By Berthony Dupont
(editorial published in the August 18 issue of Haiti-Liberté. The translation is by The Organizer.)
It is not a curse that has fallen upon Haiti when the country is faced repeatedly with terrible events and scandals. One is not even forgotten when another one occurs, leaving the population in despair.
It is wrong and contrary to all logic to say that nothing foreshadowed what happened in Haiti’s southern region (the Grand Sud), that the earthquake was unexpected, unforeseeable. What fell upon us is not at all a surprise. It is the chronicle of a tragedy amply announced.
The alarm had been sounded in 2018 by the Seismic Monitoring Unit of the Bureau of Mines and Energy, headed by engineer Claude Prepetit. He reported that about 30 earthquakes were recorded in 2017, and he alerted the public to new dangers as follows:
“Seismic activity should remind us that we live in an environment where faults are active and there can be a big tremor at any time. Unfortunately, we have not yet decided to make drastic decisions in building and education to really reduce vulnerability.
“At a time when we are seeking to have a better knowledge of seismicity, we need mitigation measures to reduce people’s vulnerability. The objective is to reduce the loss of human life and property.
“To reduce the number of deaths, it is necessary that measures are taken at the level of the building for a better control of constructions. We must tell people what behavior to adopt in the face of this phenomenon. This is not yet done.” (Le Nouvelliste 2018-01-09)
What was done in response to this warning? Nothing! Nothing was done to prevent this announced disaster, and if we judge by the way the country is managed, we give the impression of being a disorganized country without a valid leader and therefore unmanageable, with the victims suffering even more.
Every time a disaster occurs, it is a total shock; but because it is repeated so often, the thread of continuous disasters seems commonplace. Today, we are left counting all the dead, injured, irreparable damage and homeless people. This gives some people the opportunity to take advantage of these disasters to attract the pity and charity of international aid.
The responsibility does not lie with the victims, many of whom are destitute people living in relatively isolated and precarious regions. It’s the negligence and disregard for the lives of these poor workers by the governing bodies that can only be described as criminal.
Obviously, the past and present leaders are aware of their sinking regime, which brings shame to the country. In reality, they do not care about the victims. They are trying to pass the buck, but their policies are preparing new catastrophes of this kind. It must be said clearly: They are all responsible, all the successive governments, those zealous servants of capitalism and the imperialist powers. They are all traitors to the nation, murderers of the people.
Criminal is also the system of corruption that kills and envelops the exploitation of the peasant and working masses by the bourgeoisie and the national petty bourgeoisie, on the one hand, and the neo-colonialist control of imperialism, on the other.
Haiti is not destined to be a country of disasters; there were ample warnings. What is lacking is will of the ruling class to take action. Everything seems to indicate, in fact, that it could have been possible to avoid such heavy consequences for the people.
On this account, we must organize ourselves. We, the masses, must reclaim our political and economic destiny so that we can be assured of more security as we seek greater mastery and control over the effects of nature; only this way can we prepare ourselves and take the necessary precautions.
The criminal aspect, however, is not limited to the lack of precaution and preparation to prevent what could be avoided. The same carelessness and callousness is also evident in the way the rescue is organized.
The purpose of imperialism is always to undermine the national independence of oppressed peoples and nations, denying them the freedom of action and conditions for their historical progress. Let there be no mistake about the false statements, issued for national and international consumption, of Joe Biden. His statements are meant to hide the true face of the enemy of the working masses. Our enemy is always the same, everything that can weaken us is positive for Biden and his lot.
Haiti is not a country of disasters; the main task is for us to take our destiny into our own hands – for once.
Refugee Advocates Demand that U.S. Stop Deportations to Haiti Following Earthquake
(excerpts from August 17 column by Brett Wilkins in Common Dreams)
As Haitians reel amid the aftershocks of a major earthquake, a tropical storm, political upheaval, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, refugee advocates this week are calling on the Biden administration to stop deporting people back to the ravaged nation and to extend its Temporary Protected Status designation.
According to the California-based Haitian Bridge Alliance and the Florida Immigration Coalition, two deportation flights left Texas for Haiti last week. Melissa Taveras, director of government relations at the Florida Immigrant Coalition, told the Miami Herald that around “100 Haitians, all noncriminal Haitians including women and children” were deported on August 10 and August 12 — just two days before the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that has so far killed at least 1,419 people and injured more than 6,900 others.
“How can the U.S. government deport anyone to Haiti right now? How do they think so little of Haitian lives, deporting children and babies in the middle of the chaos?” asked Haitian Bridge Alliance co-founder and executive director Guerline Jozef.
The Biden administration has faced intense criticism, and legal action, for its use of a public health provision known as Title 42 to fast-track deportations during the Covid-19 pandemic. The administration deported more than 300,000 people in its first 100 days, largely under Title 42.
Leah Chavla, senior adviser at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), said in a statement that “sending people back in the midst of a natural disaster … on top of political turmoil and violence following the recent assassination of the president — will only exacerbate human suffering.”
Blaine Bookey, legal director of Center for Refugee and Gender Studies (CRGS) at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, said that “it is unconscionable for the U.S. government to forcibly remove anyone to Haiti right now.”
“Instead of continuing to forcibly and unlawfully push individuals, including infants and pregnant people, into harm’s way,” added Bookey, “we should focus U.S. resources on supporting relief organizations that center Haitian, community-led solutions.”
Biden to Migrants from Mexico and Central America: DON’T COME!
(reprinted/translated from the August 2021 issue of Transición, the monthly publication of the supporters of the OCRFI in Mexico)
In early June, the Biden administration sent Vice President Kamala Harris on an official visit to Mexico. With a supposedly “more humane” face and the pledge of “good intentions,” the purpose of the visit was to ensure imperialist control over Mexico’s border policy and to tighten strategic control over the Central American region.
In the Memorandum of Understanding adopted June 8 at the conclusion of the meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico is called upon to increase its repressive forces along a Northern border “Containment Wall” with the United States and a Southern border “Containment Wall” with Guatemala. Apparently, Biden did not consider that the deployment last April of 10,000 Mexican troops on the Southern border with Guatemala, itself an outrage, was sufficient.
The Memo of Understanding also calls on Mexico to provide financial resources to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras as part of a “strategic economic development partnership” aimed at addressing the “root causes” of the immigration in the region.
Let’s be clear: This agreement is not about eradicating the root causes of the immigration crisis; rather, it’s about continuing with the imposition of the “free trade” agreements – CAFTA with Central America and the USMCA (aka NAFTA 2.0) with Mexico – that have devastated Mexico and Central America, plundering our natural resources and further overexploiting Mexican and Central American labor. It is these “free trade” pacts that have forced millions of workers, peasants and youth, in particular, to risk untold hardships in the quest for a better life for themselves and their families.
That is why working people and all the oppressed must redouble our efforts and unite on both sides of the borders to demand with greater force the repeal of CAFTA and NAFTA 2.0, a stop to the militarization of the borders, and free transit for migrants fleeing from conditions imposed by U.S. imperialist domination.
• Down with CAFTA and NAFTA 2.0!
• No to U.S. intervention in Mexico, Central America and Latin America!
• No to the militarization of the northern and southern borders of Mexico!
• Unity of the working class across Mexico, the United States and Central America in defense of the sovereignty of the peoples!
“Border Remains as Closed to Migrants as During the Trump Administration”
(reprinted/translated from the August 16 issue of La Jornada, Mexico)
With the advent of the Biden presidency, the border remains as closed or more closed to migrants as during the four-year Trump administration, known worldwide for its blatant xenophobia.
An example of the Democratic administration’s conduct in this matter is that it maintains a Trumpian provision that allows the United States to expel migrants who enter its territory without documents, under the pretext of combating the spread of Covid-19.
In an even more regrettable action, at the beginning of this month it came to light that Washington is deporting Central American citizens by plane to different points in Mexico instead of to their countries of origin, a practice that had never been registered before, and about which the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has already expressed its concern.
It is estimated that in July, U.S. federal authorities picked up more than 19,000 unaccompanied children, which marks a new all-time high; in addition to 80,000 people traveling as families, representing a 30 percent increase compared to the previous month.
Central American families, children and adolescents, women – even pregnant women – and men migrants and asylum seekers, who have been expelled from the United States and sent to Mexican territory by air, are crossing into Guatemala on foot, forced by agents of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM). They are crossing from Chiapas and Tabasco at night, without food, transportation or resources, according to immigrant rights’ organizations working in these states.
The massive expulsions, under U.S. public health order Title 42, are unprecedented, as is Mexico’s collaboration in abandoning them at the border once they are in the United States, without any administrative procedure.
In a letter addressed to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, more than 50 human rights organizations stated that Mexico is being complicit in human rights violations by supporting U.S. actions.
From Black August to Black Liberation: Commemorating the Struggle of Political Prisoners
“From Black August to Black Liberation: Commemorating the Struggle of Political Prisoners” is a Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) webinar illuminating the indispensable role of political prisoners in our struggle for Black Liberation. The discussion will focus on the experiences and realities of current and former political prisoners, the efforts of these freedom fighters to convene the Spirit of Mandela International Tribunal, the organizing and grassroots work being done to free political prisoners, the ongoing significance of Black August, and Assata Shakur’s exile as a form of political imprisonment. The panelists also will consider what all of this means in the struggle against imperialism, colonialism, racism and war.
Join us for a Zoom webinar at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, August 19, 2021.
This webinar will be livestreamed on BAP’s Facebook page, too: http://facebook.com/blackallianceforpeace
Glen Ford’s Journalism Fought for Black Liberation and Against Imperialism
by Margaret Kimberley, published on Black Agenda Report, August 4, 2021
Ford was among the few journalists who took a stance for Black liberation and against imperialism.
I had the honor of working with the late Glen Ford for nearly 20 years. His passing has created a huge void not just for Black Agenda Report (BAR), the site we co-founded with the late Bruce Dixon, but for all of Black politics and left media. Ford identified his political and journalistic stance with both, having created the tagline: “News, commentary and analysis from the black left” for BAR. He was the consummate journalist, a man who demanded rigorous analysis of himself and others, and he lived by the dictum of afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. Ford co-founded a publication in line with his core values: He did not suffer fools gladly, succumb to corporate media and government narratives, or feel obligated to change his politics in order to elevate the Black face in a high place.
Ford spoke of learning this lesson the hard way. He told a story of regret, his ethical dilemma , when he gave one such Black person, Barack Obama, a pass in 2003. At that time, Ford, Dixon and I were all working at Black Commentator . Obama had announced his candidacy for the United States Senate and he was listed as a member of the Democratic Leadership Council (DCL), the right-leaning, corporate wing of the Democratic Party. Obama had also removed an antiwar statement from his website.
Ford and Dixon posed what they called “bright line questions” to Obama on issues such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, single-payer health care and Iraq. His fuzzy answers should have flunked him, but Ford chose not to be seen as “a crab in a barrel,” one who pulled another of the group down. Obama was given an opportunity to comment in Black Commentator and Ford wrote, “[Black Commentator] is relieved, pleased, and looking forward to Obama’s success in the Democratic senatorial primary and Illinois general election.”
As he witnessed Obama’s actions on the campaign trail and eventually in office, Ford never again felt obligated to depart from his political stances or to defend a member of the group whose politics were not in keeping with the views of the Black left.
From that moment on, Glen Ford did not let up on Obama, just as he did not waver from his staunch opposition to neoliberalism and U.S. imperialism. Black Agenda Report became the go-to site for all leftists. BAR’s critique of Obama when he led the destruction of Libya was no less stinging than critiques of George W. Bush when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Ford declared that Obama and the Democrats were not the “lesser evil” that millions of people hoped for. Instead, they were just the more effective evil, and they were always in BAR’s journalistic sights.
Ford was always an uncompromising defender of Black people and never shrank from explaining the mechanisms which place that group at or near the bottom of all positive metrics and at or near the top of all the negative. He was one of the first to amplify the term “mass incarceration” in his unsparing analysis of the United States and its dubious distinction as the nation with more people behind bars than any other: more than 2 million, with half of those being Black, a cohort which makes up one-quarter of all the incarcerated in the world. Black Agenda Report can be counted on to give this information consistently and with no punches pulled.
Glen Ford was a committed socialist, a Vietnam-era military veteran and a member of the Black Panther Party. He spent part of his childhood and youth in Columbus, Georgia, in the days of apartheid in the United States. Those life experiences shaped his work and left a legacy that anyone who considers themselves a leftist ought to follow.
He worked in the media throughout his adult life and served as a Capitol Hill, White House and State Department correspondent for the Mutual Black Network. In 1977, he co-founded “America’s Black Forum,” which was the first nationally syndicated Black-oriented program on commercial television.
Now the number of media outlets is very small, thanks in large part to Bill Clinton’s 1996 Telecommunications Act. Just six corporations control 90 percent of all media we read, watch and hear, and that means that there are very few working journalists, and an even smaller number with Ford’s experience and worldview. The most “successful” of those who fall into the category of journalists are mostly scribes, repeating the narratives which are favored by politicians and the corporate media.
We desperately need left media and journalists like Glen Ford. Any reader of Black Agenda Reportwon’t expect The New York Times or The Washington Post to tell them what is happening in Haiti or Cuba. Thanks to Ford’s consistent analysis, they understand that even those who want to be well informed seldom are unless they also read Black Agenda Report.
Glen Ford will be missed by all who knew him and by all BAR readers. He and journalists of his ilk are small in number and irreplaceable.
This article first appeared in Truthout .
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Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. Her new book, “Prejudential“, looks at the history of US Presidents treatment of people of color. She maintains a frequently updated blog as well at patreon.com/margaretkimberley and she regularly posts on Twitter @freedomrideblog. She is a member of the Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Movement. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com
The French “Health Pass”: A Working-Class Perspective
In this Special Dossier:
2 – One Could Have Imagined …
3 – A “Health Crisis Management Law”, Really?
4 – Questions and Answers on the French “Health Pass”
5 – Reactions from the French Trade Union Federations (excerpts)
A new “Pass Sanitaire” – or Health Pass – has just been adopted by the French government in the name of the fight against the COVID pandemic. In fact, as you will read in the four-article dossier below published by the Independent Democratic Workers Party of France (POID), this new law will not address the dire healthcare needs of the French people. It will not address the critical vaccine shortage or otherwise protect the people against the re-emerging pandemic. Rather, it will provide the French capitalists with the pretext to do what they have been striving to do for many years: furlough and even fire workers at will (meaning workers who do not present the “Health Pass” in all sectors where it is required), ban the right to strike, and break the trade unions outright.
The U.S. public has been treated almost solely to images and footage of far-rightwing “anti-vaxxers” who have taken to the streets across France with their reactionary slogans to oppose this new law. Tribune des Travailleurs, the weekly newspaper of the POID, presents the working-class viewpoint on this “Health Pass.” You will also read excerpts from the statements opposing the law by France’s three main trade union federations. — The editors
One Could Have Imagined …
La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue No. 299 – 21 July 2021 – Editorial
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 undermining 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 right-wing obscurantist 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.
First, 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 July 19 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
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.
A “Health Crisis Management Law”, Really?
La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) Issue No. 300 – 28 July 2021 – Editorial
By Daniel Gluckstein
“With the suspension of salaries and the termination of fixed-term contracts for the non-vaccinated, the government is putting pressure on employees.” So says Patrick Martin, Deputy President of [employers’ association] MEDEF in weekly financial newspaper La Tribune (not the Workers Tribune!). For an employers’ representative to make such an accusation, the facts must be clear. They are.
Does the Macron-Veran law deserve its name of “health crisis management law”? If it were about the health of the country’s population, it should reopen the 1,800 hospital beds that have been closed in recent months, and at least some of the 100,000 closed over the past 15 years. It should recruit massively healthcare personnel and set up vaccination centers everywhere for all those who wish to be vaccinated.
But it is nothing of the sort! It is an anti-worker law, with the effect of triggering thousands of “health layoffs” and throwing thousands of workers on fixed-term or insecure contracts onto the street. This anti-worker law goes hand-in-hand with the other measures announced by Macron: the counter-reforms of the public pension and unemployment insurance systems.
In its July 19 statement, the National Bureau of the Democratic Independent Workers Party (POID) underlined “the responsibility of organizations that claim to stand for the working class and democracy” in the face of such an attack. It is true that the leaders of the trade union organizations are critical of the law. Certainly, the leaders of the “left” parties voted against its adoption in Parliament. But are declarations enough? Can the struggle for the withdrawal of the “layoff pass” and the anti-worker Law of July 25 be waged solely with the cry of “freedom”, which – as we have seen for the past two weeks – can cover up many equivocations and right-wing manipulations, including sometimes the darkest of them?
The slogan of freedom does not have the same meaning for the worker and the boss. For the workers, freedom is the freedom to keep their job and their pay, and to be able to take action with their union to stand up for their demands. For the young person, it is the freedom to be able to study and to be physically present to take exams with all the health guarantees, and to obtain a real job and a real wage. These freedoms are those of a class: the working class.
In Chartres, on Saturday July 24, more than 1,000 demonstrators responded to the call of the CGT and CGT-FO département-level unions (1) with the workers’ slogan, “Withdraw the layoff pass and the counter-reforms.” Why shouldn’t what happened in Chartres happen elsewhere? Why shouldn’t the united workers’ organizations call for demonstrations in every town and every département on these workers’ slogans? And why not on a national level?
Workers’ unity at all levels to put an end to Macron and his reactionary policy, for the withdrawal of the Law of July 25 and the counter-reforms: it is on this ground that the POID is taking action and will continue to take action in the coming weeks.
(1) Translator’s note: A département is an administrative political unit roughly equivalent to a province or county, located between the local commune level and the regional level.
“Clearly and Audibly”
La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) Issue No. 301 – 11 August 2021 – Editorial
By Daniel Gluckstein
Under the capitalist system, the only right that workers have, even when they have no other right, is the right to a job. And when they win initial freedoms through their class struggle, these generally include the right to strike and the right to organize.
These are two foundations of political democracy which government ministers Borne and Veran have just called into question: the first by confirming the suspension of the work contract and remuneration of employees who do not meet the obligations of the “health pass”; the second by threatening hospital workers (and others) with banning their right to strike.
Rejection of this anti-democratic government was expressed in the massive abstention rate in the June elections, and again in the protests of recent weeks. We cannot detach this growing totalitarianism from its class-based objective: to ramp up the super-exploitation of workers while the CAC 40 stock-market index and the profits of the big companies break all previous records.
As the target of the “health crisis management law,” the working class has no choice but to respond on its own ground, for its own demands. It is beginning to do so through an increasing number of mass meetings in workplaces and strike action, where workers are organizing the mobilization against the implementation of the health pass together with the trade unions.
This also applies to the protests and marches. In a letter from the département-level Moselle CGT union (1), we read: “The CGT is in favor of mass vaccinations of the population, but we cannot approve of discriminatory measures that infringe on labor law (…). The measures taken under the guise of a state of emergency could ultimately set a dangerous precedent. For several weeks, demonstrations have been taking place on Saturday afternoons in Metz. These demonstrations bring together a heterogeneous population with equally heterogeneous slogans. We think that the trade union movement should express itself clearly and audibly. This is why we are calling on all our unions to mobilize in our company and local government workplaces to prepare for the demonstration on Thursday, August 19.”Among the slogans concluding the call to demonstrate are the following: “Withdrawal of this law and the state of health emergency, more financial and human resources in public hospitals, EHPAD facilities (2), occupational health services (…), cessation of the laws and bills on unemployment insurance and public pensions.”
Following the joint demonstration organized by the département-level FO and CGT unions in Chartres, the call from Moselle continues to plough the furrow of workers’ unity. For a genuine health policy in defense of working people, against sanctions and dismissals, for respecting the right to strike, for mass hiring in hospitals, schools and public services, for the withdrawal of the “health law” and “health pass” as well as the counter-reforms of public pensions and unemployment insurance: united on this common foundation expressed “clearly and audibly”, the class struggle will make the government back down.
(1) Translator’s note: A département is an administrative political unit roughly equivalent to a province or county, located between the local commune level and the regional level.
(2) EHPAD: Public-sector retirement homes for elderly people in need of daily care.
Questions and Answers on the French “Health Pass”
(reprinted from Issue No. 301 – August 11, 2021 – of Workers’ Tribune, France)
Is This a Healthcare Law? No, It Is Anti-healthcare!
Is there any “healthcare” justification for this “Health Pass”? Does it provide better protection? Every worker can see that this pass is an absurdity! It is required in high-speed trains … but not in public transportation, where workers are crowded during rush hours! It is required for firefighters … but not for police officers or gendarmes! Behind these absurdities, however, there is the continuity of a government policy since the beginning of the pandemic — that is, the refusal by the government to provide the necessary means to protect the population from the pandemic.
But it goes further. As stated by doctors, associations and institutions, this pass will drive thousands of already insufficient staff out of hospitals, and it will restrict access to care for thousands of “non-urgent” patients.
Thus, the spokesperson for the Association of Emergency Physicians of France, Christophe Prudhomme, warns:
“The Minister of Health is waving the red rag, threatening to suspend salaries, even though contaminated caregivers were asked to continue working during the first wave. … Even if there is not a massive flight of caregivers, we need every one of them. The slightest departure can jeopardize an entire team. … The crisis has exhausted the caregivers. Of course, there have been some salary increases, but nothing about the lack of staff. There are even fewer of us in the hospital than in January 2020. In June, at the Public Assistance Hospital of Paris, 1,500 beds out of 20,000 were closed for lack of staff.”
The Order of Physicians stated on August 2 that it was “deeply concerned about the conditions of implementation of such a provision, which should not deprive patients of care” and “recalls that the public service mission assumed by all caregivers is to guarantee access to care for all.”
The College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians, on July 21, considered “it essential that the management of pregnancies be able to continue under the conditions usually required. The health pass does not apply to patients. All patients can therefore consult, whether in an emergency or not, without the health pass being checked. This pass has nothing to do with “healthcare.” On the contrary, it aggravates the health risks for the population.
— Nicole Florence
“Priority to the Vaccination of Employees”? A Lie!
Elisabeth Borne (quoted in Le Journal du dimanche, August 8) is holding out the prospect of measures that will make it easier and faster for employees to get vaccinated. “We have written to the regional prefects and regional health agencies to … look in each territory and see how employees who need it can quickly access the vaccination.” Yet, how can we forget that it is this same government in which Borne serves that has, for a year and a half, organized the shortage of masks, then tests, then vaccines. … How can we forget that her government continues to close beds and entire departments in hospitals?
The reality in the vaccination centers (for example, in Morbihan), is the following: The departmental delegation of the ARS has warned us that beginning Monday, August 9, the vaccination centers will no longer be supplied with Pfizer vaccine for the entire department due to a national supply shortage. The available vaccines will be reserved exclusively for the second dose. For primary vaccinations, the stock of Moderna vaccines that was reserved for the city a month ago and little used will be reallocated to vaccination centers. The ARS told us that for the whole month of August there was “no visibility” on the deliveries of Pfizer vaccines at the national level.
— Paul Robel, physician
Reactions from the French Trade Union Federations (excerpts)
CGT (August 5)
“The CGT takes note of the opinion of the Constitutional Council on the law relating to the management of the health crisis and denounces the lack of courage of the latter, which grants new disciplinary powers to employers and henceforth authorizes discrimination on the basis of the state of health of the employees.
“For the CGT, there is no doubt that vaccination of the greatest number of people is essential to defeat this pandemic. It believes, however, that it is essential to convince the caregivers rather than to force them at the risk of stigmatizing a profession that is already severely strained.”
FO (August 5)
“The suspension of the employment contract, resulting in the suspension of remuneration, validated by the Constitutional Council, remains a heavy sanction for employees who could be affected, knowing that, depending on the sectors of activity and the size of the companies, the possibilities of reclassification of employees will not be equal.”
CGT Health and Social Action Sector (August 6)
It “calls on all employees in the sector to organize, to mobilize now to demand the withdrawal of this law and demand the lifting of patents on vaccines. It also calls for the reinforcement of human and material resources in order to meet the needs of the population.
FO Public Sector Federation (July 28)
“We reject all sanctions against civil servants, public agents and employees and demand the repeal of this bill. If this law were to be promulgated as it stands, it would call into question the general status of civil servants, the right to remuneration for services rendered, but also disciplinary sanctions.”
SUD Healthcare Federation (July 29)
“This law is a new attack on labor law. The new derogations that are made open a dangerous precedent. They allow the employer the possibility of sanctions (suspension of the work contract and of remuneration by the employer), for a reason that should be covered by medical secrecy and by the competence of occupational medicine.”
The FO, CGT and SUD unions have also denounced the comments of the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, on August 5, calling into question the right to strike (“There will come a time when these people will no longer have the option of striking, since by definition this healthcare pass obligation will have precedence.“)