T.O. Weekly 62: From Amazon Corp. to Ukraine, Biden’s Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds • And More…
(photo above: May 5 meeting in White House between Biden and new union organizers)
The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 62 — May 10, 2022
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• From Amazon Corp. to Ukraine, Biden’s Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds – by Alan Benjamin
• Short Takes: • U.S. Direct Involvement in Ukraine • The Poor People’s Campaign Pushes War Propaganda
• Three Chronicles of Russia at War — Reports from our Russian correspondents:
- Resistance Despite the War Hysteria
- “Society’s Support for the War Is Cracking”
- Free Kirill Ukratsev!
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From Amazon Corp. to Ukraine, Biden’s Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds
By Alan Benjamin
LeverNews reported on May 7 that, “as Amazon execs were busting a union [the second Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y.], the Biden administration quietly gave Amazon a $10 billion federal contract. The contract was ratified even as Biden is facing pressure to halt such contracts to union busters.” The article was accompanied by a photo of Joe Biden shaking hands at the White House with Amazon union organizer Chris Smalls.
The May 5 meet-and-greet at the White House, according to the Huffington Post, was a “symbolically significant meeting that reinforces the president’s bona fides as a union man.”
Hypocrisy in Domestic Policy
Biden a union man … when he pushes the corporate agenda full throttle while staging largely symbolic photo-ops aimed at bringing all potentially independent working-class movements into the “broad tent” of the Democratic Party, with the help of the Dems’ “left wing”?
Biden a union man … when he increases the war budget to astronomic heights, while cutting funding for education and social programs? 
Biden a union man … when he promises a PRO-Act, which, if passed would rescind the most reactionary components of the Taft-Hartley Act and level the union-organizing playing field — but is unwilling to go to the mat to secure the PRO-Act, preferring to shelter comfortably behind the filibuster and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema?
Biden a union man … when as a senator representing Delaware, which is the state most protective of corporate secrets, he cast key votes that deregulated the banking industry, made it harder for individuals to escape their credit-card debts and student loans, and protected his state’s status as a corporate bankruptcy hub; Biden’s career in the Senate, in fact, placed him on the wrong side of some of the biggest financial fights of his generation?
No! Biden is a corporate man through and through. To win their demands, the union organizers at Amazon, REI, Starbucks and the Maryland Public Library who met with Biden on May 5 will need to see through all photo-ops and posturings. They will need to fend off any and all attempts to co-opt them into the corporate Democratic Party. They will need to mobilize independently in their own name and rely on their own strength, both at the workplace and in the political arena.
Veteran Southern Workers Assembly organizer Saladin Muhammad hit the nail on the head when he stated, in response to activists taken in by the Biden show: “What’s happening here! Biden did not explicitly support the Bessemer and Staten Island Amazon Workers campaigns. This is why a Workers’ Program and Workers’ Movement are very much needed.” [In our next issue, we will report on the powerful activity of the Southern Workers Assembly.]
Hypocrisy in Foreign Policy
But it’s not just Biden’s hypocrisy in relation to the U.S. working class — and the trade unions in particular – that needs to be denounced. On April 28, Biden said that the statements by Russian leaders “on the use of nuclear weapons or the possibility of using them … is irresponsible?” Since the development of nuclear weapons, the only power to ever have used them in a conflict is the United States – on August 6 and 9, 1945 in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Japan). According to the estimates of U.S. labor historian Howard Zinn, the U.S. bombings killed 250,000 people, mostly civilians. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of burned and irradiated people.
Biden’s hypocrisy regarding U.S. imperialist policies worldwide knows no bounds.
“Putin will be tried for his crimes; he is a war criminal,” stated Joe Biden soon after. Putin’s regime is committing crimes against the Ukrainian people, that is indisputable. Just as it has committed crimes against its own people in Chechnya, Beslan, and elsewhere.
But when these accusations come from a president of the United States who is justifying his direct involvement and war buildup in Ukraine in the name of “morality” and “democracy,” Biden’s protestations have to be exposed as the height of hypocrisy.
U.S. antiwar activist Barry Sheppard highlighted some of the U.S. war crimes since World War II as follows:
“The U.S. bombed North and South Vietnam indiscriminately in its fight against the National Liberation Front. The U.S. used napalm bombs and sprayed the forests with Agent Orange to deprive combatants and civilians of all shelter, killing and contaminating millions of Vietnamese in the long term. Agent Orange also contaminated the U.S. troops who were, for Washington, only cannon fodder, until the soldiers revolted and put an end to the war. … In Iraq and Afghanistan, more than a million civilians were killed.”
In addition to the U.S. invasions of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the U.S. has backed Israel’s wars against Palestine and other Arab nations. It supports Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen and has intervened covertly or by proxy many other times around the world. These are war crimes and violations of those countries’ sovereignty.
We concur with a statement issued by the Black Liberation Movement on May 5 (reprinted in Black Agenda Report on May 6) when they write:
“We further condemn the blatant hypocrisy of the U.S. government as a capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal predator power that has invaded and undermined numerous countries for regime change and other schemes, in order to control the politics, wealth, and natural resources of those nations.
“The United States is the strongest and largest imperialist power in the world and has repeatedly invaded other nations such as Grenada (1983); Afghanistan (2001); Iraq (2003); Libya (2011); and at least 21 others since 1945. The U.S. military arm on the African continent is known as AFRICOM, a force that breeds violence and instability in maintaining U.S. corporate interests across Africa. 
“In these imperialist wars, it is the Black, Brown, Indigenous, working and poor families who suffer the losses of dislocation, the deaths of loved ones, and other forms of agony. Black people in this country have fought in every U.S. war while our families and communities continue to suffer the ravages of hatred, discrimination, poverty, disease, and death.”
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. put it best, when, in his famous Riverside Church speech, he said that the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own country.”
 President Biden announced that he will send a new plan to Congress along with a broader request for $33 billion to help the Ukrainians fight Russia’s invasion. Biden’s funding request includes $20 billion in military assistance for Ukraine, $8.5 billion in economic assistance and $3 billion in humanitarian aid, among other pots of money, such as $500 million to support production of U.S. crops to address the global food shock caused by the war. … There is no money for childcare and education here at home, but plenty for weapons and war.
 In addition to the U.S. invasions of Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan since World War II, the U.S. has backed Israel’s wars against Palestine and other Arab nations. It supports Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen and has intervened covertly or by proxy many other times around the world. These are war crimes and violations of those countries’ sovereignty.
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U.S. Direct Involvement
“Pentagon will buy Ukraine laser-guided rockets, surveillance drones,” reads a headline of the Washington Post on May 6. The lead sentence reads: “The Biden administration turns to defense companies [with purchases totaling more than US$300 million] to complement the weaponry and other hardware it’s providing from U.S. stockpiles.”
Also … U.S. intelligence provided location information that enabled Ukrainian forces to target the Russian warship Moskva in the Black Sea (CNN, May 5). Also … U.S. troops in Ukraine are training soldiers how to use new weaponry. Haven’t we seen this before? How much longer will the U.S. government deny being directly involved with this war?
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The Poor People’s Campaign Pushes War Propaganda
(Following are brief excerpts from an article posted May 1 by David Swanson to his “Let’s Try Democracy” website.)
The Poor People’s Campaign sent around an email on Saturday [April 30] with language that could have been churned out by anyone anywhere on the U.S. political spectrum, from the most extreme rightwing warmongers to the warmongers of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. It was signed by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and stated, in part:
“Over the past couple of months, Russia’s assault on Ukraine has produced scenes that demand action from people who want to hold onto our humanity. To see the butchery at Bucha or the massacre at Mariupol and do nothing would be to forfeit any claim to moral authority. We know this instinctively. It is why, despite the political gridlock on Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats have acted swiftly to approve historic military aid to Ukraine. In the face of such a moral imperative, it would be anathema for either party to ask, ‘How are we going to pay for it?’”
Weapons are not aid. [But] the worst bit is the support (by an advocate for alleviating poverty) for spending money on military weaponry without asking what it costs — in fact making it a moral duty not to ask — and certainly not allowing the U.S. public to have any say in the matter.
About $70 billion per year would help eliminate poverty in the United States. Christian Sorensen writes in Understanding the War Industry, “The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that 5.7 million very poor families with children would need, on average, $11,400 more to live above the poverty line (as of 2016). The total money needed . . . would be roughly $69.4 billion/year.” With U.S. military spending (across numerous agencies) well over $1 trillion, $70 billion is well under 7%.
[There is a] great desire to support people who want to organize nonviolent direct action by poor people against economic and environmental injustice and racism. But I have to believe that we can go on strongly supporting those efforts without going silent in the face of support for war-making. Sometimes silence is betrayal.
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Three Chronicles of Russia at War: Resistance Despite the War Hysteria
(from our Russian correspondents)
Opposition to the war, forbidden by truncheons and censorship, is expressed in a thousand and one ways.
In mid-April, at the Russian Theatre in Ulan-Ude (Buryatia), the actors expressed their solidarity with the former director Sergei Levitsky to the applause of a standing audience. He had just been fired for having dared to ask how many young people from the region had died fighting in Ukraine. After his dismissal, Levitsky said: “How many more human lives must be sacrificed to this evil plan? How many more Russian and Buryat mothers will have to bury their sons? Those who ask us to support the president and his so-called ‘special military operation’ are responsible for these deaths, widows and broken families!”
Four thousand kilometers away, in Yekaterinburg, 570 students of the Ural Academy of Arts (a third of the students) signed a petition asking the rector to remove from the university building a giant banner marked with the letter “Z”, a chauvinistic symbol of the war against Ukraine. Olga Yakimova, initiator of the petition, was immediately summoned by the police. The youth are in the vanguard of the struggle against the war: now 41% of the 18 to29 year olds surveyed say they are “against the war in Ukraine” according to an anonymous poll commissioned by the “patriot-nationalist” politician Roman Youneman.
In the working class, the effects of the war are being felt more and more brutally. In Moscow alone – with a population of 12 million – more than 200,000 workers have lost their jobs since the withdrawal of major Western companies from the Russian market. Sergei Sobyanin, Putin’s front man in the Moscow mayor’s office, announced with great fanfare a 3.36 billion ruble aid package for the unemployed. One worker commented: “On the unlikely assumption that no corrupt officials would help themselves, that would make a total of 16,000 rubles (200 euros) per unemployed person, i.e., crumbs! Sobyanin, for his part, has planned a budget 100 times higher for the landscaping of residential areas.
But as May 9, the anniversary of the 1945 victory, approaches, what the regime fears most of all is the eruption of traditional popular demonstrations by relatives of conscripts who died in combat in Ukraine. More and more of them have defied the threats and spoken out. After the sinking of the cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea, the mother of the young sailor Nikita Syromyasov, addressed the military authorities: “Explain to me why, since you were going on a military operation, the conscripts were not disembarked from the ship, and why you took them away? “Missing” like hundreds of others, his son was scheduled to finish his military service in two months.
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Report from Russia: “Society’s Support for the War Is Cracking”
Mothers of Russian soldiers killed in the war. “Bring Our Boys Home,” they demand.
It has been more than two months since the “special military operation” in Ukraine began, but there is still no “great victory” on the horizon for the Russian army. On the surface, the whole society is united behind the regime and its dirty war. But “up” and “down” in society, this support is cracking and crumbling.
“At the top,” among the oligarchs, the billionaires who have been plundering the country for 30 years, a phenomenon that has gone unnoticed is developing: the “suicides”, in conditions so mysterious that one cannot help but see the mark of the FSB (the federal security service). In the last three months, no less than six oligarchs have been found, all having “committed suicide,” sometimes with their entire families.
These are not just any oligarchs; they include former vice-president of the Gazprombank, the director general of Gazprom, and the deputy director. It would not be the first time that, using methods inherited from Stalinism, the security services have made sure that the social base of the regime – the oligarchs – is united around the head of the Kremlin.
“At the bottom,” the flood of “patriotic” propaganda in the media, schools, and businesses has not prevented the horrors of war from becoming part of everyday life. Statistics show that the young soldiers who died in Ukraine (conscripts or enlisted) are mostly from the poorest regions. First place: Dagestan, a Muslim republic in the Caucasus, then Buryatia (southeast of Lake Baikal). In this region, which ranks 81st out of 85 in terms of standard of living, the authorities “discreetly” organize the funerals of dead soldiers in gymnasiums, prohibiting filming or photography.
“Why do you think so many soldiers from Buryatia died? Here there is no work, no future. So the guys join the army,” said the sister of one of the soldiers, quoted by the local media Lioudi Baïkala. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the mortality rate of young men under 30 years old has increased by 2.7 times in Buryatia. — From our Russian correspondents
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Urgent Appeal from Russia: Free Kirill Ukratsev!
The “patriotic” hysteria that the regime pours out every day in its media has not succeeded in preventing workers’ protests. In the last few days, there have been strikes: cab drivers in Tver, garbage collectors in Novosibirsk since April 16, and delivery workers of the Delivery Service company in Moscow.
As in many countries in the last few years, the delivery drivers, overexploited by the platforms, have formed an independent trade union “Kuryer” (the delivery driver). This union has started to organize the delivery drivers, most of them young people, many of them Central Asian immigrants. In recent weeks, the delivery workers of the Delivery Service company, together with the union, decided on April 22 to go on strike in protest against the sharp 20% cut in their wages imposed by their employer, who also refused to respect a whole series of provisions of the labor legislation.
As usual, the authorities took the side of the employers, attacking the union and one of its main leaders Kirill Ukratsev. On the 25th of April, 12 of the 30 strikers who had gathered in front of the Delivery Service headquarters were arrested and then released. That evening, the police raided Ukratsev’s house. On the 26th he was arrested, accused of having launched on social networks calls to the delivery workers to protest against the violations of labor law. On the 27th he was remanded in custody until June 26, and threatened with a sentence of up to five years in prison under Article 212.1 of the Criminal Code, which punishes any alleged “repeated violation of the legal procedure for organizing a meeting, rally, demonstration, march or picket.”
In Russia, too, the authorities are waging a war against the working class parallel with their war abroad. — D. F., with our Russian correspondents