The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 60 (April 13, 2022)
Formatted at socialistorganizer.org
Please distribute widely
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• EDITORIAL: Amazon Workers Score Huge Victory at Staten Island Warehouse, Big Hurdles Ahead
• Ujima People’s Progress Party 3rd State Conference – April 23, 2022
• The Biden Administration’s Hypocritical Stance on Refugees – by E.J. Esperanza
• Presentation by Jofel (Papeles Para Todos)
• Liliana Plumeda (Mexico) Speaks Out Against War and Exploitation
• Forced to Flee – from the Middle East, to Ukraine, to Africa and Latin America & the Caribbean – by Mya Shone
• OPEN FORUM: Western Massachusetts AFL-CIO Resolution on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine (April 11, 2022)
• INTERNATIONAL NEWS & ANALYSIS
• Dossier on the French Presidential Election
• Statement by the Democratic Independent Workers Party of France (POID) – April 10, 2022: “On the evening of the first round of the Presidential election”
• What Do the Presidential Election Results Tell us? – by Grégory Fernandes
• What Is the Role of the Far-Right in the French Presidential Election?
• Part 3: Tribute to Marc Rich from a Childhood Friend – by Mike Lafferty
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Amazon Workers Score Huge Victory at Staten Island Warehouse, Big Hurdles Ahead
Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, N.Y., won a historic ballot on April 1 to form a union.
The newly formed Amazon Labor Union (ALU) won by more than 500 votes, with 2,654 workers voting in favor of a union and 2,131 voting against, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) count. About 7,000 people are employed at the site.
Amazon is the second-largest employer in the U.S., after Walmart, with more than 1.1 million employees and an annual revenue of $368 billion. The company spent millions of dollars to fight the unionization drive at the Staten Island warehouse — just as it did in Bessemer, Alabama. It held compulsory “captive audience” meetings with the workers in order to defeat the organizing drive. It used every dirty trick in the book. In contrast, the ALU had a total budget of just over $100,000.
On April 11, the Delegate Assembly of the San Francisco Labor Council, echoing the sentiments of union members across the country, voted to send a message of congratulations to the ALU warehouse workers “for their bold campaign to organize the unorganized in a key industry.”
The resolution stated, in part:
“Amazon workers at a mammoth warehouse on Staten Island (N.Y.) voted on April 1, by a decisive margin, to be represented by the independent Amazon Labor Union (ALU). This is the first time a union has been voted in at any U.S. facility of this giant, anti-union corporation.
“The union victory comes at a time of an upsurge in many sectors of the U.S. working class, including a wave of breakthrough union wins in NLRB-supervised elections at Starbucks coffee shops.
“This is an inspiring victory of which the entire labor movement can be proud.”
Success breeds new organizing. Workers at nearly 200 of Starbuck’s 9,000 corporate stores petitioned for union elections since the organizing drives last year. The NLRB has certified unions at eight of them so far.
Power of the rank-and-file
Two rank-and-file leaders of the ALU sat down with Jacobin magazine (April 2 and April 4) to explain their role in the union-organizing drive. They are Angelika Maldonado, chair of ALU’s Workers Committee; and Brima Sylla, a Liberian immigrant who led the efforts of Amazon immigrant workers’ organizing. Their testimonies reveal the power of rank-and-file workers.
For Angelika, what motivated her to join the union movement was job security, or more accurately, the lack of it, as well as healthcare, which is not covered by Amazon. The fight to unionize has been difficult, she said. Amazon hired union-busters to instill fear in the workers. She was constantly threatened. They couldn’t talk about the union during work hours. They were forced to attend meetings where union-busters just lied to the workers. But they continued to mobilize and inform workers. They talked about the union in their free time, on breaks, at every opportunity they had — and the efforts paid off.
Brima reported that working conditions in Amazon are horrible: 12-hour shifts standing up the entire time, getting threatened if they take bathroom breaks. His involvement with the union began at a “captive audience” meeting, where a union organizer rebuked the lies that the union-buster was spewing. He was impressed and started going to meetings and joining phonebanks.
Brima had never been part of a union, but he is the secretary general of the African Community Alliance of Staten Island, which gave him some organizing experience. One of the strategies that Brima used was to create WhatsApp groups for immigrant workers, sharing information and flyers in different languages, such as Arabic and French. Another strategy was talking to as many workers as possible in the break room and in the buildings.
Similar stories have been told in interviews and webinars by ALU co-founders Christian Smalls, who was fired by Amazon in 2020 for organizing a walkout protest over COVID conditions, and Derrick Palmer.
“I believe we’ll be successful,” Smalls said in June last year. “New York is a union town. The bus drivers, the sanitation workers, the police, the firefighters, they’re all unionized. Everybody is related or knows somebody in a union.”
Smalls reported in an April 11 webinar that following the ALU’s victory in Staten Island, workers at more than 50 Amazon warehouses have contacted the ALU, asking for help and advice in organizing their worksites. Also, after the ALU victory, the newly elected reform president of the Teamsters, which represents most unionized drivers and warehouse workers in the country, announced plans to significantly increase organizing efforts at Amazon facilities.
More than ever, workers need the PRO-Act.
Stepped-up organizing by the Teamsters will be very important, so long as a key lesson is learned from ALU in Staten Island: rely on local organizers with ties to the community. Having said that, after the victory at Staten Island, the CEOs at Amazon (along with Starbucks and all the other mega-corporations) are sure to step up their attacks on each and every union-organizing drive.
They will spend whatever it takes to defeat the organizing efforts, bringing in even more heavy-hitting union-busting firms at all worksites, telling workers that they will lose their jobs if they vote to join the union (and actually firing them), setting up cameras to record workers’ movements, as they did in Bessemer, and more. They will make use of every single anti-union provision in Taft-Hartley — and they are numerous – to bolster their effort.
“Current labor law,” an April 9, 2021, New York Times article reported, “gives employers sizable advantages. The law typically forces workers to win elections at individual work sites of a company like Amazon, which would mean hundreds of separate campaigns. It allows employers to campaign aggressively against unions and does little to punish employers that threaten or retaliate against workers who try to organize.”
What will it take to fix this anti-union system?
The answer is not difficult: Congress must pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. Under the PRO Act, all the anti-union attacks carried out by Amazon in Bessemer would be illegal. The playing field would be leveled in favor of the workers. To be specific, the PRO Act would:
• Introduce meaningful, enforceable penalties for companies and executives that violate workers’ rights.
• Prevent employers from interfering in union elections. The bill would prohibit employers from requiring workers to attend meetings designed to persuade them against voting in favor of a union. If a violation were to take place or the employer otherwise were to interfere with a union representation election, the NLRB would be empowered to issue an order that requires the employer to bargain with the union.
• Streamline access to justice for workers who suffer retaliation for exercising their rights. Rather than enduring a long period of unemployment waiting for their case to be heard, the bill requires the NLRB to immediately seek an injunction to reinstate the employee while their case is pending.
With the PRO Act and a serious nationwide deep-organizing drive, the Amazon workers across the country would have had a much better chance to organize a union to protect their interests — and to win a first contract.
What will it take to ensure passage of the PRO Act?
The PRO Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in decades. Passing it will require ending the Senate filibuster once and for all. This can be done in 2022. The “talking filibuster” proposed by President Biden (a cruel joke) is no substitute for ending the filibuster, a holdover from the slave-owning era.
All it takes is 51 Senate votes to overturn the filibuster. The Democrats should have those 51 votes. But the Democrats – with Biden in the lead – refuse to buck the system to ensure majority rule. Instead, they are sheltering behind Democrats like West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin and Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema, with the argument that we don’t have the 51 votes anyhow. (Biden in 2010, as vice president, promised that a similar labor law-reform bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, would be enacted under the Obama administration. At that time, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress – and yet EFCA never was adopted.)
In the early 1960s, the Democrats sheltered behind the Dixiecrats to explain why they could not win passage of the Civil Rights Act. 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. Ending the filibuster is within our reach. Securing the PRO Act is within our reach. There is a new wave of strikes, fightbacks, and union-organizing drives. Last month, educators in Minneapolis, Minn., won the majority of their demands after their two-week strike. Starbucks is beginning to get organized. “Striketober” has not ended.
The victorious organizing effort at Amazon in Staten Island is historic. It shows the willingness to fight by the rank-and-file – something that the AFL-CIO leadership, because of its subordination to the Democratic Party, has refused to tap into.
But unless the organized labor movement gets fully behind independent organizing efforts such as those of the ALU – while fully respecting their autonomy – and unless it mobilizes its members and allies in the fight of the century to win the PRO Act, even the most valiant efforts, like those at Starbucks and Amazon, are likely to be stifled, if not defeated.
The Amazon workers have shown that when we fight, we can win. As we build solidarity with these independent union-organizing drives, we must also win the battle for labor-law reform – for the PRO-Act.
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Ujima People’s Progress Party 3rd State Conference – April 23, 2022
The current crisis in international capitalism, at home and abroad, highlights the desperate attempt by the ruling class forces of imperialism and colonialism to hold on to power over the human and natural resources of Black, Brown, Indigenous and other working-class peoples. From NATO inspired conflicts in Africa and Eastern Europe to the use of police and state agencies in oppressed working-class communities, the capitalist class is waging a relentless fight to maintain economic and political control.
The state of Maryland is in an election year in which the liberal capitalist Democratic Party will attempt to convince working-class people to elect a centrist candidate to gain the governor’s seat and provide cover for economic policies of austerity and reaction to protect the interests of regional capitalist forces.
The choices working people are given for governor do not serve our needs. Having to choose between a liberal or conservative representative of the capitalist class to oversee the more efficient exploitation of our labor and takeback of hard fought for democratic rights is no choice.
It is in this environment that the Ujima People’s Progress Party organizing committee is planning to hold its 3rd state conference on Saturday April 23, 2022.
We call all local, regional and national/international anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and pro-workers-rights activists to participate in our hybrid meeting format to join with local organizers as we continue to build a statewide campaign to gaining ballot access as Maryland’s first Black workers-led electoral party for social and economic justice, as well as to forge statewide working-class coalitions to battle police brutality and corruption, build revolutionary mutual aid institutions, fighting for community control of housing/fighting gentrification and building unity between labor unions and community organizations.
Register to participate in the conference in-person or online at with the link below:
“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…” -Amilcar Cabral
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The Biden Administration’s Hypocritical Stance on Refugees
By E.J. Esperanza
The statement below was presented by Jofel on February 6, 2022 during a forum organized by the Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP). Jofel, who uses a pseudonym for protection from deportation, is an undocumented leader of the Movement for Papeles Para Todos (Citizenship for All).
Since Jofel’s speech, the Biden administration has only intensified its attacks against immigrants. Not only has the Biden administration denied a path to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country, it also has extended Trump-era policies that deny refugees the right to seek asylum at the southern border under Title 42. This has resulted in the unlawful expulsion of more than 18,000 refugees on a daily basis since the month of October 2021.
More than 2 million people have been expelled to date under the Biden administration, leaving many families, predominantly women and children, exposed to torture, kidnapping, and rape. And while the Biden administration has finally conceded that the use of Title 42 at the southern border will end on May 23, 2022, that’s nearly two months away. This unnecessary delay is unacceptable and hypocritical at a time when the Biden administration has announced that it will admit 100,000 Ukrainian refugees into the country.
With no path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and the continued deportation of immigrants of color, Jofel’s call to undocumented workers to organize labor strikes independently of the Democratic Party remains more relevant than ever.
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E.J. Esperanza is an undocumented activist and immigration attorney.
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Presentation by Jofel (Papeles Para Todos)
Good afternoon. My name is Jofel, and I am one of the organizers of the Papeles Para Todos [Citizenship for All] movement. We are a movement created by and for the immigrant and undocumented communities. Our goal is to awaken our migrant communities, whether Latinos or of different nationalities.
We invite you to join us in the struggle for a day without immigrants — a day of work stoppage just like the one that took place in 2006. But this time we need to organize an independent movement that continues to mobilize in unity with other organizations that fight for our rights. What we seek is to create a movement that says enough with the lies of the Democrats, who deceived us, when they told us, “Today we march, tomorrow we vote!”
Never again must we accept being used to promote the partisan aims of the ruling parties. We at Papeles Para Todos support the formation of an independent working-class party – a party that works for us, that advances our interests.
We all know that the Republicans have oppressed us. But the Democrats have also oppressed us. And not only that: They have let us down time and again with their campaign promises for immigration reform. The Democrats have had at different moments the majority of votes in Congress to make immigration reform a reality, but nothing ever came of it. Nothing! What we suffered was a stab in the back.
During the Trump presidency there were many deportations. Under the Obama administration there were more than three million deportations. With Biden’s presidency there has been an increase in deportations in his short time in office. Our movement considers all these deportations to be inhumane.
We cannot accept more separations of undocumented families, many of which are our own families. Our vision to stop the detentions and deportations, and to build an independent working-class party. Our vision is the right to health care and housing for all. It is the right to affordable education for our youth and a fair retirement for our seniors.
Here in Santa Clara County there are more than 200,000 undocumented immigrants. We are fighting to be allowed to vote locally, regardless of our legal status. The question that arises, of course, is who to vote for. That is why we need our own independent political party.
Thank you very much for your attention. I invite you to support our Papeles Para Todos movement.
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Liliana Plumeda (Mexico) Speaks Out Against War and Exploitation
(excerpts from presentation to April 3 International Emergency Meeting; Liliana Plumeda is a leader of the Internationalist Communist League, LCI, in Mexicali, Baja California)
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced recently a policy of humanitarian aid for refugees where Ukrainians are welcomed with open arms while shelters for displaced people from Haiti are closed and while repressive actions are taken against Central American migrants. What this means is that there are first-class refugees and second-class refugees.
Why such a mass exodus? What is happening throughout the region is an economic war caused by the U.S. government. Millions of people from Mexico, Central America, and Haiti have been forced to flee their homes and their countries because of the devastation brought on by “free trade” agreements and imperialist occupations.
Workers and young people are forced to flee, having lost their homes and their jobs. This situation is even more horrific for women and girls. They are at the center of conflicts. They are the victims of rape, forced prostitution, over-exploitation, slavery, and abuses of all kinds. …
In a conflict where there is a devastating scenario for the majority and mega-profits for the few, to be “neutral” – as AMLO proclaims in relation to the Russian-Ukrainian War – is to allow things to remain the same.
For example, it is no secret that the United States’ major “defense” corporations – all of which are part of the supply chain of the U.S. Department of Defense and provide arms to NATO countries – have assembly companies in Mexico. These include Lockheed Martin, Textron, General Dynamics, General Electric, Honeywell, Rockwell, Raytheon Technologies among others. These corporations manufacture components for planes that bomb and kill the people in Ukraine, Afghanistan, and other countries.
The Mexican government is under constant pressure from the United States, which today is threatening economic sanctions against Mexico within the framework of the USMCA “free trade” agreement (USMCA) if the energy reform bill proposed by AMLO is approved. The bill, if passed, would re-nationalize 54% of the energy sector and open the door to the full recovery of the energy sector down the road.
Letters have been addressed by the U.S. Secretary of State and the head of the U.S. energy commission demanding that the Mexican government put an immediate halt to this partial renationalization of the oil, gas, electricity grid, and waterways of Mexico. The U.S. oligarchy, in cahoots with the Mexican oligarchy, want to ensure access to cheap energy for U.S. imperialism and its war efforts.
Giving in to these pressures today would be to relinquish Mexico’s sovereignty.
That is why the International Workers Committee (IWC) and the discussions and actions that we generate are of great importance. We have to help workers clarify the political situations that they face. We have position ourselves on the side of the working class on an independent line: Neither Putin nor Biden nor NATO. And we have to unmask how the war is carried out in each country in different ways – but always with one objective: to increase the profits of big capital without regard for the sufferings of millions.
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Forced to Flee – from the Middle East, to Ukraine, to Africa and Latin America & the Caribbean
By Mya Shone
(excerpted from the leaflet announcing the April 24 forum preparing the International Conference of Working Women Against War and Exploitation; see separate posting)
Let us take a brief look at the situation today:
Ukraine: 4.7 million people have fled to other countries since the February 24th Russian invasion. According to the United Nations, more than one-half of all Ukrainian children have been displaced from their homes – either as refugees to other countries or internally displaced to other parts of Ukraine.
Middle East: In Syria alone, more than half the population has been forcibly displaced – with 6.8 million fleeing to other countries. Over 6 million Palestinians live as refugees (West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria) or in the diaspora throughout the world, denied the right to their homeland and to self-determination since the United Nations partition of Palestine in November 1947 and the subsequent Zionist incursions.
Mexico and Central America: Eleven million undocumented workers and their families in the U.S. work, attend school, pay taxes, and contribute to society, with the possibility of deportation ever present while they struggle to become U.S. citizens. Refusal of entry and deportation are common U.S. policy no matter which of the two major capitalist parties holds power. About 2 million people were deported by the George W. Bush administration, and 3.2 million were deported between 2009 and 2016 during the presidency of Barack Obama. As for the Biden administration, one million people were turned away from the southern U.S. border with Mexico just last year. (October 2020 and October 2021 as reported recently in The New York Times).
Haiti: As discussed by Berthony Dupont, editor of Haiti Liberté, in the last issue of The Organizer, 4 million Haitians (more than one in four) now live outside of Haiti with only 11 million remaining in Haiti, a nation plundered and devastated by U.S. imperialism.
Africa has been described by the United Nations as “a continent on the move.” Throughout large swaths of Africa, people have been displaced by war and famine. Sub Saharan Africa contains more than 25 percent (over 18 million) of the world’s refugees and 34 million people throughout Africa are either internally displaced or have fled their countries. There is no better example than Africa to illustrate that “The map of wars most often overlaps with the map of the wealth of the subsoil of the countries concerned.” [quote from the international appeal against war]
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OPEN FORUM: Western Massachusetts AFL-CIO Resolution on the Russian Invasion of Ukraine (April 11, 2022)
Whereas the Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation AFL-CIO is committed to labor’s antiwar voice being heard in the current national debate; and
Whereas the Russian invasion of Ukraine constitutes a gross violation of the UN Charter; and
Whereas, this act of aggression is inflicting horrific pain, suffering, and death on the civilian population of Ukraine, while forcing more than 4 million people to flee the country as refugees, and creating the risk of a wider conflict that could spiral into a nuclear war from which there will be no winners; and
Whereas, the US and NATO have played a provocative role in precipitating this crisis by expanding NATO’s ranks and deploying strategic military forces to Russia’s borders; and
Whereas, the US has a destructive history of a militarized foreign policy that is driven by the interests of corporations, including but not limited to the oil and arms sectors, a policy that siphons resources away from programs that serve public needs; and
Whereas true national security is based on the broad welfare of the people – healthcare, education, jobs at decent wages, environmental sustainability, voting rights and democratic civic engagement, and social justice – not on larger military budgets and ever more deadly weapons; and
Whereas the current atrocities underline the need to pursue a diplomatic solution to this crisis, to achieve the full withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukraine and the construction of a new architecture of European security and nuclear disarmament; and
Whereas, working people in the US, as well as those in Russia and Ukraine, have a common interest in reining in the power of their militaries and redirecting the vast resources going to war into programs that improve their lives and address the climate emergency;
Therefore be it resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation recommends that the AFL-CIO express our solidarity with the working people of both Ukraine and Russia, including those who have bravely demonstrated their opposition to Russia’s aggression; and condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, just as the AFL-CIO previously condemned the US invasion and occupation of Iraq; and
Be it further resolved that we recommend that the AFL-CIO demand an immediate diplomatic solution that ensures the withdrawal of all Russian and other foreign military and paramilitary forces from Ukraine and respects Ukrainian sovereignty; and
Be it further resolved that we recommend that the AFL-CIO denounce the discriminatory treatment of refugees based on race, religion, national origin, or whether their governments are allied with the United States, which leads the United States and its European allies to welcome white Ukrainians while rejecting refugees of color and refugees who have been harmed by US-supported military operations; and
Be it further resolved that we recommend that the AFL-CIO denounce the selective moral outrage that is evident in the near universal silence we are witnessing in the West regarding war crimes perpetrated by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Iran, Venezuela, and elsewhere, and we hereby demand that Western governments welcome all refugees and pursue policies of peace and justice that enable them to stay in their home countries; and
Be it further resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation is deeply concerned with the ways in which the Russian war highlights the dangers of fossil fuel dependency. We reject the economic policies that are deepening the climate crisis and demand that our government reject calls for drilling more oil and gas here in the United States. Rather, this moment requires that we break our dependence on fossil fuels altogether by investing in renewable energy; and
Be it further resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation recommends that the AFL-CIO call upon the US government to support Ukraine’s status as a neutral state that is part of no military alliance, and to lend its support to negotiations for a new architecture of European common security for all states that leads to the drawdown and elimination of all nuclear weapons; and
Be it further resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation, calls on the Massachusetts State and National offices of the AFL-CIO, all affiliate unions, and all other labor organizations in the United States to reaffirm that diplomacy, not war and military power, is the only way to promote security and prosperity for working people in Ukraine, in Russia, in the US, and around the world; and
Be it finally resolved that the Western Mass Area Labor Federation, stands with working people worldwide on behalf of peace and justice.
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INTERNATIONAL NEWS & ANALYSIS
Dossier on the French Presidential Election
Statement by the Democratic Independent Workers Party of France (POID)
Montreuil, April 10, 2022, 10 p.m.
On the evening of the first round of the Presidential election
The three key facts of the first round of the presidential election are: the rejection of Macron and his policies. The extent of abstention, particularly among the working class, popular and young electorate and the rise of the far right. What the media called the “useful vote” is nothing more than the result of the increasingly Bonapartist institutions of the Fifth Republic, selecting three candidates and crushing the others.
Nevertheless, once again Macron is in the minority: four out of five registered voters refused to give him their vote. By abstaining for some, by voting for other candidates , workers and young people expressed their demand for a break with the policies of Macron and the governments that preceded him.
This demand could have resulted on a vote qualifying for the second round a unity candidate nominated by the parties historically coming from the labour movement. This was not the case. This is the consequence of the division. This division was aggravated by the confusion that was created by these parties when, in the French Parliament, on 19 March 2020, they voted 343 billion euros to be offered to the capitalists, who used that offering to speculate and lay workers off, while hospitals, schools and public services were strangled. The confusion was further aggravated when, on two occasions in the last few weeks, these same parties voted in the European Parliament for the staggering increase in war spending, and to accept the sacrifices imposed on the workers.
In elections as in strikes, division prohibits the class of the exploited and oppressed from winning. It is the leaders responsible for this division who must take responsibility for a situation which has put Macron and Le Pen in the running for the second round.
In the evening of this first round, things are clear: not a single working class and youth vote can go to Marine Le Pen. Le Pen represents infamous reaction, dividing workers among themselves, be they immigrants or not. A government bearing the sinister shadow of the far right cannot be established in our country!
On the evening of the first round, some leaders of the “left” were quick to call for a -vote in favour of Macron, which they said would be a “bulwark protecting democracy”. That what they had already said in 2017. As a result , for five years, Macron has been able to inflict the most brutal blows against workers, their rights and freedoms!
Workers, your own class struggle, your organisations, your fight for your demands are the only bulwark in defence of democracy. United with your organisations, you are the only ones able not only to preserve democracy but also to pave the way for policies that meet the needs of the vast majority, those who live from their work, – and not for policies in the service of a handful of exploiters and speculators. Only you can pave the way for the government of the majority, a government of the working people.
Workers, activists, young people, the greatest battles are ahead of us. To defend democracy, for jobs, for peace, freedom, for the social security system, for our retirement pensions and all the social gains, for education , health and all public services, for the freezing of prices, get organised with the Independent Democratic Workers’ Party.
Come take part in the meetings convened by the POID committees throughout the country between the two rounds, to discuss together on this communiqué.
The POID national bureau
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FRANCE: What Do the Presidential Election Results Tell Us?
By Grégory Fernandes
At a time when the economic situation of millions of workers is worsening, when strikes for working-class demands are multiplying, what do the electoral results tell us? This April 10, by its abstention as well as by its votes, the working class has tried to express its aspiration for a change of policy.
In the lead: the popular abstention
Nearly 13 million people abstained. That’s more than one in four voters who refused to support one of the twelve candidates (26.31%). This figure does not take into account foreign nationals who are not allowed to vote, nor those who are not registered to vote.
The phenomenon is more important than in 2017, when the abstention was, in the first round, 22.23%, the blank vote was 1.78% and the null vote [spoiled ballot] was 0.78%. However, it is lower than in 2002 (28.4%), when Chirac and Le Pen reached the second round.
The abstention was essentially concentrated in the working-class districts. One out of three workers did not vote. One in three voters did not go to vote in Tremblay (Seine-Saint-Denis), Calais (Pas-de-Calais) or the working-class neighborhood of Clos Dion in Montereau (Seine-et-Marne). In Forbach, a mining town in Moselle, where the combined abstention, blank and invalid votes exceeded 40%. The non-participation climbs to 40% in Pierrefitte (Seine-Saint-Denis). In a polling station in the working-class district of Villejean, in Rennes (Illeet-Vilaine), the non-participation is 43.7%.
Abstention is massive among the youngest, reaching 42% among 18-24 year-olds and 46% among 25-34 year-olds.
In comparison, in the bourgeois neighborhoods, such as in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, the abstention was much lower (18.41%) or in Neuilly (16.31%).
Macron is rejected by four out of five voters
Macron came out on top in the polls and received 27.84% of the votes cast. In relation to the number of registered voters, he only got 20.07%. Despite the media hype and the means provided by the State apparatus, despite the immense financial support he received and the call to rally behind “the leader of the Armed Forces,” the outgoing president barely got one vote out of five.
Who voted for Macron? CEOs supported him (35%), according to France Culture. For people earning more than 3,000 euros per month, Macron was clearly in the lead, also with 35%. The president of the rich came out on top in most of the wealthy neighborhoods of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants.
Who did not vote Macron? In Anzin (Nord), which has nearly 30% of unemployed people, Macron gathered 884 votes out of 5,410 voters, or 16.34% of the votes cast. In La Courneuve (Seine-Saint-Denis), considered one of the poorest cities in France, he gathered 1,514 votes cast (14.66%).
Once the results were known, Macron thanked in a speech “Anne Hidalgo, Yannick Jadot, Valerie Pécresse and Fabien Roussel” [Socialist Party and Les Républicains] who had just called to vote for him in the upcoming second round to block the far right. He said he was “ready to invent something new to bring together the various convictions and sensitivities to build with them a common action, in the service of our nation, for the years to come.”
Radicalization on the right
On the far right, the racist candidates Le Pen (23.15%) and Zemmour (7.07%) together account for more than one in five registered voters. Their intimidating, anti-immigrant and threatening rhetoric towards the labor movement has been gaining ground and becoming commonplace. Where? Particularly among the traditional supporters of the Gaullist party (LR, Les Républicains), whose electorate has turned to a more brutal discourse and methods. In the 16th arrondissement of Paris, Zemmour came in second (17%) behind Macron (46%). In Lourdes, Le Pen and Zemmour received more than a third of the votes cast. A sector of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie has chosen the far right to settle its affairs. [See accompanying article in this issue.]
“On the evening of the election, Le Pen called on all “French people, from the right, the left and elsewhere, of all origins” to “join this great national and popular gathering” for “a great changeover that France needs to lead our country with honor into the third millennium.” On April 7, she said she was ready to lead a “government of national unity.” “I call on my voters to vote for Marine le Pen,” said Zemmour.
What about the Mélenchon vote?
For working-class voters who chose to go to the polls, the vote was concentrated in support of Mélenchon. With 21.95%, Mélenchon benefited from a momentum towards “the left-wing candidate most likely to win”; he gathered 19.58% of the votes cast in 2017. He came in third, less than 500,000 votes behind Le Pen, the second-place candidate.
In Seine-Saint-Denis, Mélenchon came out on top by a wide margin, with 49.09% of votes cast. This is more than double that of Macron who came in second place (20.27%). In Toulouse, he won by ten points (36.95%) over Macron. In Montreuil, which is governed by the French Communist Party (PCF), he got 55.22%, while the PCF only received 3.05%. A part of the traditional electorate of the left-wing parties has therefore turned to him, expressing a desire for unity to defeat Macron and his policies. In total, 7,714,949 voters voted for his candidacy.
In the evening after the election, Mélenchon said in his speech, “In the battle that is coming, we have formed the popular pole. Because our campaign was there, all kinds of people were able to support it and bring us to this point. Big battles are ahead of us. … We know who we will never vote for … . We must not give a single vote to Mrs. Le Pen … . The 310 000 people who were part of our campaign team will express their point of view … . We have before us other elections.
The Socialist Party (PS) and La République (LR) are trounced
With 1.75% of the vote, Hidalgo (SP) obtained one of the worst electoral scores in the history of French social democracy. She even came in behind parties that have governed with the PS (Roussel with 2.28%, Jadot with 4.63%). In the aftermath of the Hollande presidency, the PS candidate Benoît Hamon had painfully gathered 2.3 million voters. Anne Hidalgo now has 610,000, four times fewer votes. Olivier Faure, its leader, recognized “a historic defeat.” Stéphane Troussel, one of its leaders, believes that “this political family must change, must even rename itself, regroup differently from its current organization.”
On the right, Pécresse secured 4.78% of registered voters. “Stunned, the Republicans (LR) are faced with the question of their political survival,” writes Le Figaro. Torn at both ends, by Macron on one side and by Le Pen and Zemmour on the other, LR could implode in the next period.
The Republicans, heirs to the Gaullist party, and the Socialist Party, heir to the SFIO, were once the two founding pillars of the Fifth Republic, guaranteeing the “stability” of these undemocratic institutions. They are paying the price of decades of alternating at the helm of State. On April 10, with the electoral collapse of these two structures, the entire edifice of the Fifth Republic was permanently cracked.
On the “left,” Hidalgo and Roussel called for a vote for Macron in the forthcoming second round, as soon as the results were announced. The president of the PCF group in the National Assembly, André Chassaigne, said: “We say clearly that we must vote Emmanuel Macron” because “even if it is an outgoing president who is fracturing society with measures of social breakage”, in the second round “our hand must not tremble”. And then? “Working together, including in the short term, for the next legislative elections.” The leader of the PS, Olivier Faure, called to vote Macron “to defend the Republic.”
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FRANCE: What Is the Role of the Far-Right in the Presidential Election?
One of the major issues of the 2022 presidential campaign has been the place that xenophobic theories have occupied publicly. Should they be trivialized?
In the space of just a few weeks, we have seen how a major transport and communications boss, Vincent Bolloré, has been able to launch into orbit a grotesque reactionary columnist and transform him into a “restorer” of the authority of the bourgeois state.
How a sector of the capitalist class manufactured Zemmour
To create this space, Éric Zemmour, an openly racist candidate, multiplied the provocations, relayed morning, noon and night. He, president of the Republic, will make sure that …
“a Frenchman does not have the right to call his son Mohamed” (September 2021, France 2).
Isolated minors “like the rest of the immigrants… don’t belong here: they are thieves, they are murderers, they are rapists, that’s all they are” (October 2020, CNews).
Employers “have the right to refuse jobs to Arabs or Blacks” (March 2010, France Ô).
“Why are you checked 17 times for papers (when you are Black or Arab)? Because most traffickers are black and Arab, that’s the way it is, it’s a fact” (March 2010, Canal+).
“When General Bugeaud arrived in Algeria [during the Algerian war of independence from France], he began to massacre Muslims, and even some Jews. Well, today I am on the side of General Bugeaud. That’s what being French is all about!” (October 2019, CNews).
There you have it: A French candidate, on the side of the French mass murderers.
What’s Zemmour’s campaign program? It’s an employer’s program that seek to “totally exempt the bosses from taxes and social charges” and that “engages in a great process of rationalization and reduction of public spending.” And like all reactionary candidates, this reduction would not affect the army. On the contrary, he wants to “increase the defense budget annually to 70 billion euros,” an increase of 70%. He also wants to introduce a principle of “excusable defense” to avoid penalties for law enforcement officers guilty of crimes and offenses.
He incites divisions among the exploited and pushes them to confrontation. Thus, his program seeks to “increase the salary” or “revalorize” the pensions by … “the suppression of non-contributory social assistance for non-European foreigners (family allowances, RSA, housing assistance, minimum old-age pension…)”.
Joining words to deeds, his supporters have carried out physical attacks against workers’ activists, offices and political broadcasts [see below], preparing the ground for attacks against the organized labor movement. Éric Zemmour has not hidden his intention of creating a “union of the right” on the rubble of the two traditional right-wing parties: Les Républicains and Rassemblement National [RN, Marine Le Pen’s party]. He wants to move the dial even further to the right.
Marine Le Pen softened?
And what about the RN candidate, who uses Zemmour’s radicalism to pass herself off as more “moderate”? She advocates an “alternative social policy” reserved only for “French families” and legal discrimination in access to public and private employment, social housing, social benefits, hospitals. …
While it has been established that immigrant workers and their families have a standard of living that is 26% lower than that of non-immigrants, she promises 80 billion euros in budget cuts, “at a minimum”: restriction of access to the RSA for foreigners, elimination of family benefits for foreigners who do not live with a French citizen or of state medical aid, and the end of the open borders of foreign minors. The candidate’s chief of staff, Renaud Labaye, stated that, “those taxpayers who can meet their needs without this aid can stay”, the others “will go back to their country”!
Calling for the exemption from charges for bosses and abolition of taxes on real-estate wealth, Le Pen’s program is also openly pro French capitalists. The RN, too, wants to stop any “repentance” on the Algerian war, to increase repression, because “there is no problem of police violence.” On the other hand, “we have every reason to hate the CGT [trade union federation] and Mr. Martinez.”
Who is responsible for paving the way for these far-right candidates?
Why are these speeches meeting with a growing echo? On the right, millions of voters are moving to support candidates with brutal speeches whose common point is the hatred of “foreigners” and of the class struggle. They will have relied on the trivialization of Macron’s anti-immigrant and anti-worker authoritarianism for five years. On the “left”, 40 years of alternating in the presidency, betrayals and refusal to break with the capitalists have diverted millions of workers from voting in favor of parties that claimed to be on their side, and that did something totally different once in power. The workers are not responsible for this, rather they are the victims.
The time has come to rebuild a genuine workers’ political representation.
The workers must reject any attempt to divide them. Whoever is exploited in France belongs to the French working class, whatever his or her nationality. They must have the same rights and guarantees. — Grégory Fernandes
Incidents were provoked in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis) by individuals claiming to be extreme right-wingers against the offices of the NPA, against participants in a feminist gathering, and against a religious ceremony of fraternization between Christians and Muslims at the Saint-André church. In a March 31 statement, the candidates of the Independent Democratic Workers Party (POID) in the district “strongly condemned these attacks on free expression, freedom of organization and the traditions of democracy and fraternization that have always been those of the people of Montreuil.”
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Part 3: Tribute to Marc Rich from a Childhood Friend
By Mike Lafferty
Marc Rich and I did some serious growing up together and had tremendous fun doing so. We accomplished early and mid-adolescence and early adulthood in the East Bay, Oakland and Berkeley. We maintained our bond over all of the past sixty years. I’ve consistently been pleasantly aware of his influence on me; less so of my influence on him. Talking with his brother Brian has provided perspective on that and has made me realize the extent of both Marc’s humility and his strength.
Marc’s deep, passionate caring for people began spilling out while he was at Bret Harte Junior High in Oakland in 1962 and ‘63. I was an early recipient, before it coalesced into his lifelong dedication to the betterment of us all through his activism and commitment to education. He was the new kid, having moved to Delaware St. in Oakland from wherever was the last place he’d lived. The friendship just sort of happened and developed rapidly. Early on we made a pact: “everything we say to each other will be the truth, including how we feel.”
I think Marc and I met in gym class. The third member of our triumvirate, Jim Samuels, also had Mr. Fernandez for PE that year. The three of us tackled our teenagerness as buddies. Jim and I looked up to Marc for so many reasons. His sincerity, adventurousness, superb blending of earnest seriousness and silly humor, leadership, emotional availability…This was long before the term “bromance” was coined. When we learned that Marc would be moving to Falls Church, VA, in the fall of 1963 we were all devastated. We realized that we weren’t in control of our own lives yet. That summer we lived by the tenet “time is of the essence.”
Jim was really funny. He complained that people didn’t take him seriously. He must have resolved that issue; Jim Samuels went on to become a successful stand-up.
Marc taught me the rudiments of folk guitar and was able to convince me I could sing. The Beatles and Dylan hadn’t quite hit yet but The Kingston Trio was churning out hits and Marc loved them. Marc wrote “my favorite song as sung by The Kingston Trio” on the lyric sheet to “When I Was Young.” It was one of their more sentimental (syrupy?) songs. From 1969 to 1973 I brought the folkie skills Marc had nurtured to my day job as a member of the activity therapy staff at Gladman Hospital, playing guitar and singing for psychiatric inpatients. That was the first chapter in my career in mental health; my last stint was as an LCSW with Alameda County Behavioral Health.
Once Marc organized an ambitious bike trip to Fremont (30+miles) for the two of us and two girls, Kris and Kris. We got as far as San Leandro and spent the rest of the afternoon riding in circles in a parking lot, talking, talking, talking. Marc was almost always the initiator. He pursued one Kris but later developed a deeper friendship with the other Kris.
Marc and I had another chapter in 1968. He became equipment manager for the Berkeley counterculture band I was in, Sky Blue. He was expert at working with musical gear; he was always expert at everything he took on. Shortly after that Marc formed a band in LA with our friends from Bret Harte, drummer Andy Kennedy and bassist Steve Wilson. Strawberry Window got closer to “making it” than Sky Blue;I believe they opened for Buffalo Springfield and The Doors. Their album holds up; it’s a good listen.
Marc was the closest of any of my friends to my parents, Travis and Nori Ikeda Lafferty. He embraced the progressive values and activism of those of that generation who were dedicated to The Movement. He carried it on with us baby boomers, including “red diaper babies” like me.
Reading what Marc’s comrades have written has provided myriad specifics about the life he dedicated to social and economic justice with such drive and purpose. I had the privilege of also sharing formative youth with Marc: playing and singing, dipping toes into romance, doing stuff, long conversations about everything.
Through the decades my admiration and love for Marc have been constant and large. I sure miss him…
… “I dreamed a dream that made me sad
Concerning myself and the first best friend I had.”
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