The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Special Supplement to Issue No. 62
May 10, 2022
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• Report on the April 24 “Forced to Flee: Capitalism and the Refugee Crisis” Forum (Part 1)
• Introduction – by Mya Shone
• Statement by Camille Adoue-Carmouze (Young Revolutionaries Federation, France)
• Statement by Rubina Jamil (General Secretary, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, APTUF, Co-Convener, IWWC)
• Statement by Marie Dupont, Haiti Liberté (Brooklyn)
• Statement by Pamella Mubeza (feminist and human rights activist, founder of Association of Single Mothers for Peace and Development, Burundi)
[Note: Part 2 will focus on immigrants from Mexico and Central America and include Lidia Suarez, a professor at the National Education University whose research concerns immigration and gender; Jofel, an undocumented immigrant; and Jehan Laner Romero, an immigrant rights attorney.
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Report on the April 24 “Forced to Flee: Capitalism and the Refugee Crisis” Forum (Part 1)
On April 24 an online forum – “Forced to Flee: Capitalism and the Refugee Crisis” – was heldin preparation of the October 29, 2022, International Working Women’s Conference(IWWC), convened by the International Workers Committee Against War and Exploitation, For a Workers’ International (IWC).
The forum, with more than 50 people in attendance, focused on the worldwide refugee crisis, a crisis that is primarily the result of war and capitalist dislocation – NAFTA and the updated USMCA “free trade” treaties are two examples. The number of refugees worldwide is astounding, and the refugee numbers increase each day. At least 82.4 million people – one in 95 worldwide – have been forced to flee from their homes, either internally displaced or as refugees (U.N. Refugee Agency).
Most of the refugees and displaced persons, as in Ukraine currently, are women, children, and the elderly. Amnesty International reported recently that half of all refugees (those fleeing from their countries) are children.
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Introduction to “Forced to Flee”
By Mya Shone (Editorial Board, The Organizer)
Sisters, brothers, siblings, comrades and friends. Welcome to our forum: “Forced to Flee: Capitalism and the Refugee Crisis” in preparation for the International Working Women’s Conference. The IWWC was endorsed last year by women activists and leaders in more than 31 countries. The conference itself will be held October 29 in Paris, France, the day before the World Conference Against War and Exploitation, for a Workers International. Connie White, our co-chair and I, along with others here, will participate in these meetings as part of the U.S. and other country delegations.
Today, we brought together women, many of whom themselves were forced to flee their homelands. All our speakers are actively engaged in issues of immigrant rights in Europe, Africa, Mexico, Haiti, and the United States.
Our meeting today is taking place in the midst of yet another barbaric and genocidal war of expansion and domination for which there is no excuse or benefit for the working class in any part of the world. Already a quarter of Ukraine’s population — mostly women, children, and the elderly — have been forced to flee their homes, over 5 million of whom –— have sought refuge in other countries.
While the war in Ukraine was unleashed by the Putin regime on February 24, it also was provoked by the United States and its European allies in NATO with the further expansion of NATO and its bases.
As we witness the devastation unfolding, we assembled here are enraged but not surprised.
In 1847, Marx and Engels noted in the “Communist Manifesto” that “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products — and I would add here for the resources to create those products — chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. The bourgeoisie must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.”
In 1916, in the midst of the first imperialist war, Lenin stated succinctly in “Imperialism, the highest stage of Capitalism” that inherent to imperialism are annexation, predation, and plunder. Lenin explained that wars are not a matter of diplomatic relations but flow from the objective positions of the marauders — finance capital — as they seek to gain control and “spheres of influence,” that war is for the division of the world and includes the partition and repartition of colonies and nations.
In 1931, United States Marine Corps Major General Smedley D. Butler declaimed: “War is a racket. It always has been.” Butler knew of what he spoke. At his retirement, Butler was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history with over 34-years involvement in military actions in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean including Haiti where he organized the repressive gendarmes, as well as serving in France during World War I. Butler, no Marxist, was explicit. “War,” he said, “is conducted for the benefit of the few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. …”
It was only a little more than five months after the last U.S. soldier left Afghanistan on August 21, 2021 that President Joe Biden deployed combat units from the United States to NATO’s eastern flank (Germany, Poland and Romania) to reinforce U.S. troops stationed already in Germany. This week Biden asked for and will receive another $800 million in military aid to Ukraine including 155-millimeter howitzers, custom drones, and enough weaponry to outfit five new Ukrainian artillery battalions. This brought new weapons appropriations for Ukraine to $3 billion so far this year, with Biden warning us that this was just the beginning of another protracted war. We, workers, know the cost of protracted war. In monetary terms alone, here in the United States the federal appropriation for direct military actions is estimated at $8 trillion since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
On April 3, more than 200 activists from all tendencies of the workers’ movement from 47 countries gathered by video conference for an international emergency meeting against war called by the International Workers Committee The appeal that was issued afterwards has been signed already by hundreds in 51 countries. That appeal states in part:
“These ongoing wars, and the destruction and barbarism that they unleash against workers and peoples, are the very fruit of the capitalist system based upon the private ownership of the means of production and its decay. It is a system which, in order to reap ever greater profits, shrinks from no aggression.”
Those who sign the appeal agree: “Nothing can justify the Russian intervention. This is why we are for stopping this intervention, for an immediate ceasefire, and for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.”
Furthermore, understanding that the United States, NATO, and the European Union are co-belligerents, “we combine the demand for the “withdrawal of Russian troops” with the demand for the “withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Europe,” the “withdrawal of all foreign occupation troops from all countries of the world,” the “lifting of sanctions,” the “end to all imperialist and neo-colonialist interventions” and the “dismantling of NATO.”
I hope that all here today who have not yet signed this appeal, do so following this meeting. Also … as we approach May Day – May 1 – International Workers’ Day throughout the world that we include gathering signatories to the appeal as part of the activities, demonstrations and rallies in which we are participating.
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Statement by Camille Adoue-Carmouze (Young Revolutionaries Federation, France)
A few hours ago, the result of the French presidential election was made public. For two weeks, we were told we had to make a choice between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen, famous for her racist stances and xenophobic positions. For two weeks, French political parties that describe themselves as left-wing have been asking us to support Emmanuel Macron, as a rampart against racism. But they seem to have forgotten that throughout the past five years, Macron is the one who has implemented racist policies that have accelerated the impoverishment and exclusion of the immigrants living in our country and banned those trying to enter France.
With my comrades of the FJR, which is the French abbreviation for Young Revolutionaries Federation, we are fighting for our right to study. Macron and his government, as well as all the previous governments of the French Fifth Republic have destroyed our education system and the value of our degrees. In recent years, they have enacted reforms that prevent many of us from having access to university. Foreign students are particularly concerned with this exclusion, as in 2019 Macron’s government passed a law that increased the tuition fees of students outside of the European Union. Now, they also refuse to regularize [provide legal status to] foreign students.
Students from Ukraine who come to France as refugees have six months to register in a university or find a job; otherwise they will be deported. But those who arrive from other countries have only one month to register as a student or find a job before they face deportation. Not only is the government clearly refusing to welcome refugees, they also choose which students they accept. How can Macron represent a rampart against racism when his government discriminates against these refugees?
The FJR is calling for welcoming all foreign students, whatever their nationality. We also ask for the end of the tuition increases for foreign students. We also ask that all student refugees have access to our universities without tuition, and in the field of study of their choice. We believe, however, that these demands cannot be raised without pointing out the responsibility of Biden, Macron and NATO in the current war. Putin’s actions should of course be condemned, and we are firmly condemning them. But we can’t stop denouncing the military escalation led by Biden and NATO. We cannot denounce the way our refugees are treated without denouncing the responsibility of those who started the war.
That is why, last week, the FJR went to a student protest to demand the regularization of all foreign students, no matter their identity. We went to support this call, but we also came with an appeal stating: “Russian Army out of Ukraine, U.S. and NATO armies out of Europe, and French Army out of Africa.” The appeal also stated that, “The billions of euros invested in the war must be immediately redirected to our schools, our universities and our salaries.”
The refugee crisis is the direct consequence of the wars carried out by “our” capitalist governments. This appeal also served as an invitation to a Congress that the FJR is organizing on May 29th. This Congress, addressed to every young person, is to organize he fight against the current militarization of the youth. This question is extremely important right now. For decades, our governments have been destroying our universities.
When we asked for more money and means to open our universities, when we asked to hire enough teachers and to prevent the greater impoverishment of students, the government answered that they could not make money appear by magic. And yet, billions of euros have recently been allocated for the army. They refuse foreign students access to universities, and are now threatening to increase the fees of all students, and yet, the government plans to double the number of reservists in the French Army.
Their aim is to destroy our studies so that we can become soldiers, and the French Army is now tabling in front of high schools, encouraging high school students to register for the army. In addition, during the last five years, Macron and his government developed a new form of military service for young people ages 15 to 17. They must spend two weeks far from their homes, in a center where they are taught the “values of the republic,” and the importance of making a commitment to the military defense of the country. The budget for this program is increasing every year, in 2022 it represented 110 million euros (US$116.5 million). This military service will become mandatory in 2023 for all young people ages 15 to 17.
They want us to take part in the war they have started for their own capitalist and economic interests, but the only war the youth will participate in is the war against its own government. We find it necessary and essential to organize ourselves as students, because it is our unity that will make them back off. We have a very recent example to prove it.
After the result of the first round of the presidential election, students from La Sorbonne University in Paris mobilized, declaring that they will choose “Neither Emmanuel Macron nor Marine Le Pen.” These words imply that a new alternative must be built. For the FJR, the only option is the formation of a working-class government. Because it is the only form of government that would answer our demands, represent our interests, and maintain a true democracy.
Hundreds of students united around this call, and because our government is too afraid, all universities in Paris and near suburbs were closed until the end of the term to prevent us from gathering and organizing ourselves. Because they were frightened by our movement and the determination of students, they did not hesitate to prevent us from having access to our classes, just to make sure we won’t be able to gather. They know that an organized movement of young students would be a threat for them, and that is why we must keep uniting and organizing the movements.
Since then, many protest marches and assemblies have been organized despite those governmental measures, but the conditions imposed by our government make it harder to fight. But one thing is sure, the FJR continues to join these protests and events, to discuss with the students and to invite them to come to our congress.
Our Congress is essential for two reasons, first because the message it carries is essential regarding the current military escalation, second because we must continue to unite, speak, and organize our movement. History has shown that young people often have been on the front lines of the fight against militarism, whether it was in France against the Algerian war, or in the U.S. against the war in Vietnam, and I’m here quoting only a few examples.
We’ve been asked to choose between Le Pen and Macron, but we chose neither of them. We choose the fight for the emancipation of all students and all workers, whatever their nationality. This emancipation won’t happen under our current government, hence the necessity of building a workers’ party and a revolutionary youth organization.
Internationalism is a key concept when it comes to building these independent organizations, because our fight is the fight of every student and every worker around the world. We need to reinforce this message, and that is why we also feel important to sign the April 3rd appeal against war and exploitation, because our organization should be global, and our fight starts with inviting every young person to join us.
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Statement by Rubina Jamil (General Secretary, All Pakistan Trade Union Federation, APTUF, Co-Convener, IWWC)
Comrades, Brothers and Sisters:
We know that what you are discussing – capitalism and the displacement of people all over the world, including in the United States – is important.
In Pakistan, we received many refugees during and after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Then, with the U.S.-led war against Afghanistan, millions and millions of refugees, most of whom were women and children, fled to Pakistan for safety. I have been to the refugee camps and witnessed the many problems. A great humanitarian crisis was started.
The U.S. war caused other problems within Pakistan, too. Extremist groups, such as the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban), were very active in Afghanistan but they also were active in Pakistan, too. The Pakistani Army initiated campaigns against them in different parts of the country. These often did not succeed. But, during those days, after the U.S. war started in Afghanistan, we lost 18,000 people in Pakistan from the drone attacks.
Now I would like to discuss the participation of women in the labor force which still remains low in certain areas. But it has increased in the agricultural sector and rural areas. One feature of women’s participation in the labor force, post-liberalization, is that it is primarily informal and contract work. Women represent the majority of agricultural work in rural areas, without the benefit of labor laws. Roughly 72 percent of known agricultural work for women is in the informal sector where pay is low — often unpaid — and without the benefit of union representation. Most women working in urban areas are home-based workers where they often work in exploitative conditions and do not have the benefit of labor protections and social security.
Even in the formal sector, women face enormous problems. Only half a percent of the total number of women employed become managers, while close to three percent of men are promoted to managerial positions. Most women – almost 92 percent – who work in professional employment are teachers. A majority of them teach at the primary level and earn less than the minimum wage. Women work in the health sector in different roles – midwives, polio workers, aides, nurses — and as helpers in the industrial sector. Women’s wages are 20 percent to 50 percent less than those of male workers according to a labor force survey.
Despite the fact that the Pakistani government has ratified the International Labor Organization convention on non-discrimination, this has not led to any binding legislation which would guarantee equal pay and opportunities for women. So far, there are only two laws that protect women’s rights in employment: one concerns maternity leave and the second relates to sexual harassment in the workplace. These, too, are largely unenforced.
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Statement by Marie Dupont, Haiti Liberté (Brooklyn)
I am happy to be invited and be part of such an important event. I appreciate the opportunity, time, and service given by the organizers of this conference to collaborate on such lingering issues that have captured the attention of so many worldwide. The impact of the capitalist system on a global scale has created, as the title of this event suggests, the forced flight of many workers from underdeveloped countries/nations, forcing them to leave their home countries in search of a better life.
Following the U.S. military occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934, political and economic tensions built up in the country, culminating in the Haitian refugee crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Also, the three decades from 1957 to 1986 was the era of the Duvaliers, father and son, who headed a brutal dictatorship that produced many political refugees. The turbulent years of 1986 to 1990, reigned over by neo-Duvalierist military juntas, also forced Haitians to leave their country searching for political or economic sanctuary, as was the case during Washington-backed neo-Duvlierist coups d’état from 1991 to 1994 and 2004 to 2006.
Haiti’s penetration by foreign capital has destroyed peasant agriculture and forced peasants to flee to the cities where they sell their labor power for a pittance to the assembly factories subcontracted primarily by North American and Korean clothing manufacturers.
To secure better living conditions, peasants abandoned or sold their lands and migrated to the cities. However, they are sadly deceived because the salaries they receive from assembly industry owners do not cover the basic needs of their families. Instead of improving their social conditions, they have been reduced to more profound misery and poverty.
In the assembly industries, Haiti’s current minimum wage is 685 gourdes for an 8-hour workday, which translates to $6.27 per day, or 78 cents per hour in U.S. currency. In Canada, the minimum wage is $15.55. The official minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour, although some states have raised it to $15 an hour. Keep in mind that the cost of living for each state is not the same. As of January 1, 2022, the District of Columbia had the highest minimum wage in the U.S. at $15.20 per hour.
In Haiti, poverty and misery have increased. The rate of unemployment, the devaluation of the Haitian currency (the Gourde) against the United States dollar, the galloping rate of inflation, the increase in the cost of living, the reduction in household purchasing power, the cholera epidemic, and food insecurity have settled in the country have continued to hit hard even harder after the passage of those major disasters: namely, the tragic earthquake of 2010 which left 230,000 dead and 1.3 million homeless and the devastating passage of Hurricane Matthew on October 2016 which killed 547 people and affected 2.4 million others and most recently in 2021 the last earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people in the South.
Haitian migration to the Dominican Republic began with peasants. The economic crisis also forced many to flee to Chile, Brazil, and other Latin American countries. These refugees are primarily young professionals and students who unfortunately leave the country because they have no other alternatives.
Arriving in Latin America, many confronted great difficulties and started on long and expensive journeys north. Pregnant women, children, and young men and women faced tremendous hardship and peril in crossing Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico, often spending weeks and months on foot through forests or on flimsy boats to reach the United States via Texas. The people are often stripped of what little money they have acquired during their stay. More than 7,000 Haitian immigrants remain stranded in Mexico at the U.S. border.
Capitalism wages war against workers. Capitalist exploitation is a system that produces wealth for a tiny minority by starving and keeping the large majority of humanity in misery.
Just recently, thousands of Haitian garment workers, mostly women, took to the streets in February, demanding that the government raise their minimum wage to$15 per day. With low wages, the bourgeoisie, working for big corporations like the Gap, Old Navy, H&M, JCPenney, and Zara, was more than willing to exploit workers intensely. These multinationals hire Haitian factory owners in duty-free “assembly zones” to produce cheap clothes and electronics with high profits.
Haitian workers have launched a two-day May Day protest to resist and fight the exploiters.
Haitian refugees are the products of the dominant system imposed on them by North American capitalism. To resist, organizations like the newspaper Haiti Liberté are part of this struggle to organize the masses. The alternative is not to give up, to leave, but to fight to change the population’s living conditions.
We cannot end refugee and immigrant workers without ending the system that produces them. This struggle at all costs must go through a struggle against capitalism, the enemy of the working-class people.
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Statement by Pamella Mubeza (feminist and human rights activist, founder of Association of Single Mothers for Peace and Development, Burundi)
Located in the center of East Africa, with an area of 10,750 square miles and populated by approximately 10.5 million inhabitants, Burundi is a country that has just completed five decades of civil wars, inter-ethnic wars, armed conflicts, genocide, and the spread of rebel movements and groups.
As a result, there has been a continuous, growing movement of refugees between border countries and distant countries, in addition to thousands of internally displaced persons. Epidemic diseases, a decline in the global economy and a trivialization of human rights violations and crimes against humanity have added to the refugee problem in Burundi.
Socio-economically, Burundi is a predominantly rural country whose economy is based on agriculture and livestock. More than 90% of the population depends on agriculture and it is mostly women working in the fields.
Journalists and public media are ordered to broadcast information on the activities of the party in power, while the independent media, if there are any, suffer threats of various kinds in order to intimidate them and thus prevent them from broadcasting the abuses committed by the public authorities, or simply broadcasting a different discourse.
It is also worth noting that the promotion of women’s rights, particularly the treatment of gender issues, is relegated to a secondary position.
Burundian women and girls are still confronted with multiple socio-cultural constraints, such as “controlled” participation in decision-making bodies (30% of women in decision-making bodies according to the 2017 Burundian constitution), unequal distribution of roles and responsibilities in the division of labor, discrimination in accessing economic opportunities and education, and limited access to higher education and reproductive health and family planning methods,
In Burundi, the profile of victims, according to the national strategy to fight gender-based violence, is as follows: 97% of victims are women and girls, while 3% are boys and men. The majority of these victims are minors; a quarter of the victims are under 15 years old, while a third are under 12 years old.
In times of conflict, gender-based violence becomes a weapon of war. Despite the massive violence committed, rape of women was not even mentioned as a war crime in the Nuremberg Charter on October 8, 1945. The Tokyo Tribunal established rape as a war crime for the first time on January 19, 1946.
It is amazing then that rape was forgotten as a prosecutable offense even though it played a central role in the Tutsi genocide which caused between 300,000 and 500,000 rapes during three months in Rwanda.
Regarding the peace negotiations, between 1990 and 2000: out of 664 peace agreements only 17 included a reference to women! After the adoption of resolution 1325: Out of 504 agreements signed only 138 mentioned women.
According to the United Nations General Assembly women made up nearly half of the 244 million migrants and half of the 19.6 million refugees worldwide in 2016.
According to U.N. reports, 60% of preventable maternal deaths occur in humanitarian settings, and it is estimated that at least one in five refugee or displaced women have experienced sexual violence. (United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2014)