The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Issue No. 63 – May 31, 2022
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• The True Face of Joe Biden’s Policies at Home and Abroad: Interview with Alan Benjamin
• THE WAR AT HOME Against Women’s Rights: Remarks by Lita Blanc at May 21 POID rally of 1,000 activists in Paris
THE U.S. WAR ABROAD
• What Is the U.S. Administration Hoping to Achieve?
• “China Is Flirting with Danger”: Joe Biden Speaking at Quad Summit in Tokyo
• Excerpts from speech delivered by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 26 at Georgetown University graduation
• “The Americans Are Playing a Dangerous Game” (Marianne, French weekly news magazine)
• Russia: A Letter from Prison from Kirill Ukratsev
• Russia: More and More Voices Demand the Release of Kirill Ukratsev
• PALESTINE / FRANCE: “A Victory for Freedom of Expression and Association”: Interview with Cécile Brandely
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The True Face of Joe Biden’s Policies at Home and Abroad
[Note: The following interview with Alan Benjamin, member of the Editorial Board of The Organizer Newspaper, was published in the May 27, 2022, issue of Tribune des Travailleurs, the weekly newspaper of the Democratic Independent Workers Party of France (POID). The French version was abridged for space.]
Question: How did Joe Biden and the Democrats react to the leaked announcement that the Supreme Court was on the verge of overturning a woman’s right to an abortion?
Benjamin: It’s been business as usual. Beyond empty rhetoric, Biden and the Democratic Party are doing little to stop this attack on a woman’s right to an abortion. They are not friends of the women’s movement.
The onslaught against a woman’s right to abortion began before the ink was even dry on the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. Since then, Democrats such as Biden have supported or stood by passively as state after state – as well as the federal government – passed laws that undermined a woman’s right to an abortion, making access more and more difficult.
Where was the concerted effort to prevent the whittling away of abortion rights via parental-consent laws, mandatory waiting periods, religious propaganda, restrictions on abortion providers, and funding prohibitions such as the Hyde Amendment?
In early May, just a few days after the information leaked that Roe v. Wade would be overturned by the Supreme Court, thousands of women gathered in front of courthouses across the United States, where they shouted out loudly: “Where is Biden?” – “Where is the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA)”?
The WHPA is an option of federal legislation aimed at supplanting anti-abortion state laws. Since the 1960s the Women’s Health Movement has been advocating for a WHPA. With a real fight, it could have been adopted, particularly when the Democrats had a majority in both houses of Congress.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer brought the WHPA before the Senate for a vote, but by then it was a foregone conclusion that it was going down in defeat. Now as always, Biden and the Democrats only paid lip service to the demands of women and all working people. They have not protected and expanded this fundamental right even though they have had every opportunity during this past 50 years. Bringing the WHPA for a vote in the Senate was merely for show.
As with other legislation that Biden promised to implement (Pro-Act, Build Back Better, Immigration reform, etc.), enactment of the WHPA required a fight to overturn the filibuster, an arcane rule adopted by the Senate that is a holdover from the days of the slavocracy and Jim Crow. With the filibuster, 41 senators representing less than 12% of the population can block legislation.
Biden refused to challenge the filibuster; from the beginning of his presidency; in fact, he supported the filibuster openly, arguing that the filibuster was a necessary means to guarantee the stability of the institutions in the United States.
Biden and the Democrats are not about to challenge the undemocratic institutions of the bourgeois State. It was never a question for them of building an independent mass movement such as existed in the early 1960s that compelled the politicians to adopt the 1965 Civil Rights Act
Question: What about the racist crimes in Buffalo, N.Y., where an 18-year-old white supremacist shot dead 13 people, 11 of them Black? The white supremacist had driven several hours intentionally to target a predominantly Black neighborhood where people were simply out doing their grocery shopping for the week. What was Biden’s response?
Benjamin: Just as Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are not friends of the women’s movement, they are not fighters against the rising tide of racism and white supremacy in the United States.
Regarding Biden and the fight against white supremacy, the same sleight of hand is at play. Biden spoke out strongly against the killings by 18-year-old white supremacist Payton Gendron. Biden called these killings “domestic terrorism” and denounced the “Great Replacement Theory” contained in Gendron’s political manifesto (which lambasted “the replacement of European people by minorities”).
But can anyone take Biden seriously on this issue when he is implementing his own version of the “Great Replacement Theory” as he carries out virtually the same anti-immigrant policies (massive deportations, separation of families, etc.) that Trump had instituted — all policies premised on the same racist, anti-immigrant notions?
Jofel, an undocumented activist of the Movement for Citizenship for All (Papeles Para Todos), denounced Biden’s double-speak. Speaking to a crowd of immigrant rights activists on May Day in San Jose, California, Jofel insisted that, “we must organize independently of the Democrats, who have betrayed us with empty promises and want to divide our communities with exclusions and deportations. We must put a halt to Biden’s mass deportations. We must call for the release of children at the border and the closing of the ICE detention centers.”
As the Southern Workers Assembly stated in a recent declaration: “Our movement must confront this rising white supremacist threat and put forward our own program for a just society that workers can take up and use as a basis to fight on.”
Question: Biden is being portrayed internationally as a “friend of labor.” Is this the case? And what is the U.S. labor movement’s attitude toward Biden?
Benjamin: Biden is no friend of labor. The very day that he received in the White House the main rank-and-file leaders of the successful Amazon union organizing drive in an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, N.Y., news leaked out that Biden had just awarded Amazon a $10 billion federal contract. Talk about hypocrisy!
Biden and the Democrats could have responded to labor’s foremost priority, which is to overturn the anti-labor provisions of the Taft-Hartley by enacting the Pro-Act. But that would have required changing the rules of the filibuster, or even bypassing it, something the Democrats had done before. But that did not happen. Biden is, and always has been, in the pockets of the corporate elite that runs the country and funds the Democratic and Republican parties.
Regarding the labor movement: Bernie Sanders and Alejandra Ocasio Cortez earned great accolades from the progressive wing of the U.S. labor movement for hosting webinars and otherwise supporting the new union organizing drives at Amazon, Starbucks, and REI, among other places. Giving voice to the workers in these factories was greatly appreciated, but the message of these “progressives” to this new generation of union organizers is ultimately a dead end: Come and join our effort to take back the Democratic Party and return it to its “New Deal roots,” they implore.
Fueling illusions in the Democratic Party and urging workers to support Democrats – a party funded and run by the corporate elite – is both futile and terribly misleading, especially at a moment when more and more working people are coming to realize that the Democrats are a party of war and exploitation.
Biden just pushed through an additional $40 billion in military and other aid to Ukraine with the support of all wings of the Democratic Party, fanning a devastating war that was provoked largely by Biden’s administration, together with the United States’ NATO allies. The military-industrial complex is having a heyday, as this war continues into its third month. They would like nothing better than to see this war go on and on.
That is why the question of labor breaking its ties of subordination to the Democratic Party is posed with more urgency than at any time in the past.
The AFL-CIO and SEIU top leaderships continue to portray Biden as “one of the best friends of labor we’ve ever had.” They have urged affiliated unions and labor councils to reject any language in resolutions that is critical of U.S. policy in Ukraine. There is to be no reference to the U.S. role in provoking the war, or, today, fueling this war. There is to be no discussion of the U.S. role supporting the Zionist State of Israel.
But, here too, there are growing challenges from the ranks of labor to this pro-capitalist orientation. One of the expressions of this upsurge from below is the growing support by leaders in the labor movement, women’s movement, and Black liberation movement for the Open World Conference Against War and Exploitation that will take place at the end of October in Paris.
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THE WAR AT HOME Against Women’s Rights:
“Over 1 million women and their allies marched under the ‘BANS off OUR BODIES’ banners.” — Lita Blanc’s remarks to May 21 POID rally of 1,000 activists in Paris
[Note: Lita Blanc is a past president of United Educators of San Francisco (AFL-CIO).]
Thank you for inviting me to address this rally. It is a big honor.
Both here and in the U.S. we are living a moment of both hope and of ferocious attacks on women and on the working class. As soon as the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the 1973 decision which legalized abortion, the already limited access to abortion will be drastically reduced. In 26 states, abortion will be virtually outlawed, almost overnight. This will disproportionally affect poor women, women of color and women living in rural communities.
Faced with such a blatant attack, one week ago, over 1 million women and their allies marched on May 14 under the “BANS off OUR BODIES” banner. They marched in over 400 cities. At rally after rally, women, not Democratic Party politicians, took the mic to explain the disastrous implications of the upcoming Supreme Court decision.
The urgency of the situation has led new sectors into action and self-mobilization: young women and Black women who previously felt marginalized. As important, new alliances have formed, including united front coalition calling itself Abortion Liberation. This grouping brings together over 150 reproductive and civil rights organizations, including National Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and NOW. These organizations have pledged to defend not just the legal right to abortion but also to fight for abortion that is affordable, available and stigma-free.
That will be possible, not by voting in more Democrats to Congress, as Joe Biden has suggested but by women and their allies building an independent movement, one that depends on their collective power.
A key component of this effort must be the organized participation of the U.S. labor movement. Unions must go beyond producing well-worded declarations and actually mobilize their members in this fight. As one labor activist said at a rally in San Francisco: Economic freedom and reproductive freedom are intimately linked.
Here in France, every step you take to defend the hard-earned gains of women and the working class affects our current struggle to defend the same rights in the United States.
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THE U.S. WAR ABROAD
What Is the U.S. Administration Hoping to Achieve?
The U.S. administration has given “aid” to the Ukrainian army to the tune of US$40 billion. What is it hoping to achieve?
The U.S. magazine Foreign Policy (April 29) notes that “the new aggressive U.S. approach has been applauded in many quarters, including by current and former NATO officials.”
Among the “enthusiasts” is British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is quoted by Foreign Policy stating her belief that “NATO must have a global perspective, ready to deal with global threats. We need to anticipate threats in the Indo-Pacific region, working with our allies like Japan and Australia to ensure the protection of the Pacific.”
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, meanwhile, sees the war in Ukraine as a “protracted conflict” that will last “at least many years.”
Foreign Policy reports that at the summit of U.S. institutions, a number of people are concerned about this development. Among them is George Beebe, a former CIA official specializing in Russia, who stated that Biden is forgetting that “the most important U.S. national interest is to avoid a nuclear conflict with Russia.” Beebe added, “The Russians have the ability to make everyone else lose if they lose too. And that may be where we are headed. It’s a dangerous turn to take.”
Foreign Policy comments, “With his strategy to weaken Russia, the U.S. president risks turning the war in Ukraine into a world war.”
That such words are spoken at the highest levels of U.S. institutions such as the CIA or Foreign Policy speaks volumes about the policy of U.S. imperialism, which, for the needs of Wall Street, is prepared to maintain and spread war throughout the world.
In response to those on the “left” who see virtues in NATO, we affirm that the only position that is in the interests of the workers and peoples of the world is: “No Putin, no Biden, no NATO and its allies, no support for war-mongering governments!
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“China Is Flirting with Danger”: Joe Biden Speaking at Quad Summit in Tokyo
May 23. At a press conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that the United States would become directly involved militarily in the event of a conflict between China and Taiwan. Biden said “yes” to a reporter who asked if he would be “willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan.” Biden added, “That is the commitment we have made.”
Given that there is no formal mutual defense treaty such as those the United States has with South Korea and Japan, Biden’s statement was widely interpreted — especially by the Chinese leadership — as a provocation against China.
May 24. The leaders of the Quad (United States, Japan, India, Australia) met in Tokyo. Biden declared: “China is flirting with danger.” Within hours, Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Australia’s new leader Anthony Albanese worked to transform what was an informal alliance into a united bloc against China.
Biden emphasized the growing importance of the Quad, saying, “In a short period of time, we have shown that this is not just a passing fad. We are not here to joke.” Representatives of the four countries agreed to launch a new maritime initiative to strengthen surveillance of Chinese activities in the region.
To counter China, they plan to invest at least $50 billion over five years in infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region.
May 26. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined the U.S. plan to encircle China diplomatically and militarily. We are publishing below some excerpts from this programmatic statement. Essentially, China is being accused of standing in the way of “American leadership.” Or, as Blinken says in another passage of his speech, China is standing in the way of “the free movement of capital.” In reality, it is China’s economic foundations based on state ownership that must be overturned … by any and all means. — Olivier Doriane
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Excerpts from speech delivered by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 26 at Georgetown University graduation
Even as President Putin’s war continues, we will remain focused on the most serious long-term challenge to the international order – and that’s the one posed by the People’s Republic of China. …
[We] cannot rely on Beijing to change its trajectory. So, we will shape the strategic environment around Beijing to advance our vision for an open, inclusive international system. … We will align our efforts with our network of allies and partners, acting with common purpose and in common cause.
Last year, President Biden signed into law the largest infrastructure investment in our history. … As President Biden has said, the Chinese Communist Party is lobbying against this legislation – because there’s no better way to enhance our global standing and influence than to deliver on our domestic renewal. These investments will not only make America stronger; they’ll make us a stronger partner and ally as well. …
President Biden has launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity, a first-of-its-kind initiative for the region. … IPEF, as we call it, renews American economic leadership. …
The President also took part in the leaders’ summit of the Quad countries – Australia, Japan, India, the United States. The Quad never met at the leader level before President Biden took office. …
To that end [renewing American economic leadership], President Biden has instructed the Department of Defense to hold China as its pacing challenge, to ensure that our military stays ahead. We’ll seek to preserve peace through a new approach that we call “integrated deterrence” – bringing in allies and partners; working across the conventional, the nuclear, space, and informational domains; drawing on our reinforcing strengths in economics, in technology, and in diplomacy.
The administration is shifting our military investments away from platforms that were designed for the conflicts of the 20th century toward asymmetric systems that are longer-range, harder to find, easier to move. We’re developing new concepts to guide how we conduct military operations. And we’re diversifying our force posture and global footprint, fortifying our networks, critical civilian infrastructure, and space-based capabilities. We’ll help our allies and partners in the region with their own asymmetric capabilities, too.
We’ll continue to oppose Beijing’s aggressive and unlawful activities in the South and East China Seas.
The scale and the scope of the challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China will test American diplomacy like nothing we’ve seen before. I’m determined to give the State Department and our diplomats the tools that they need to meet this challenge head on.
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Georgetown University Students Protest Blinkin’s Graduation Address
On Saturday, May 21, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken attended a graduation ceremony at Washington’s prestigious Georgetown University. What Blinken did not expect was that he was greeted by dozens of students wearing keffiyehs (traditional black and white checkerboard Palestinian peasant scarves) and portraits of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot in the head on May 11 by the Israeli army, with the message: “Resistance until liberation and return (of Palestinian refugees – ed. note). Honor the martyred journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.” Many students refused to shake Blinken’s hand, expressing their disapproval of the Biden administration’s policy of unconditional support for Israel.
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“The Americans Are Playing a Dangerous Game” (Marianne, French weekly news magazine)
This is not only Putin’s war — a reactionary war. It is also the war of U.S. imperialism and its armed wing, NATO, involving all its allies, including the French, British, German and Japanese governments.
Leon Panetta has just openly acknowledged this. Now retired, this honorable member of the Democratic Party, former White House Chief of Staff, former CIA Director and former Secretary of Defense, stated out loud what Biden thinks. He said that the Biden administration’s policy in Ukraine “is the equivalent of a proxy war” (BBC Mundo, May 5). According to Panetta, the United States is “facing a number of threats in the 21st century.” Russia is now at the top of the list.
But the confrontation will not be limited to Russia to ensure the unshared dominance of Wall Street interests in the world, adds Panetta: It is “the same message that the United States and its allies must send to China, North Korea and Iran.”
A “proxy war”? According to the New York Times (May 4), citing anonymous U.S. intelligence sources, of the dozen Russian generals killed by Ukrainian forces, “many” were targeted with the help of U.S. intelligence. The Associated Press (May 6) also quotes a “U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity” as saying that it was “the United States that provided ‘a range of intelligence’ that included the locations of the ship,” the cruiser Moskva, which the Ukrainian army sank in the Black Sea on April 13. As for U.S. military aid to Ukraine, it is now in the tens of billions of dollars.
Where is this “proxy war” taking us, if not to a new global conflict with incalculable consequences for humanity? More and more media outlets are worried about a march towards a third world war. Even the editorialist of Marianne, a publication devoted to imperialist diplomacy, writes: “It is beginning to be whispered far from the microphones, when confidence is there and one has understood that one can deliver the substance of one’s thoughts without risking being immediately struck off the list of people who can be talked to: the Americans are playing a dangerous game, which could tip us into a generalized conflict” (May 4).
Workers and oppressed people around the world would have everything to lose in such a generalized conflict. Thousands of workers, labor activists and youth from more than 50 countries have affirmed this sentiment by signing the Appeal, issued April 3, of the emergency international anti-war meeting: “No Putin, no Biden, no support for war-mongering governments!” — Dominique Ferré
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Russia: A Letter from Prison from Kirill Ukratsev
Russian activists involved in the campaign for the release of the trade union activist Kirill Ukratsev (see below) have sent us the letter that Kirill was able to give to a relative, from his pre-trial detention center. It is addressed to all the activists and organizations that have taken a stand for his release.
“Hello comrades. This is my first public letter written in prison. It was a joy for me to see such support! This is the true strength of solidarity!
“I lived this May Day in an unusual situation, but today I feel that people outside are waiting for me, believe in my release, and are doing everything to make it happen as soon as possible. This is a powerful show of workers’ solidarity! Let’s preserve our unity! I am in good health. I am in good spirits. Thanks to KTR* for participating. It means a lot to me.”
*KTR: Confederation of Labor of Russia, which brings together part of the independent unions.
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Russia: More and More Voices Demand the Release of Kirill Ukratsev
The war against Ukraine being waged by Putin’s regime is accompanied by an unprecedented wave of repression at home. After arresting and convicting thousands of opponents of the war, the regime has turned its attention to the trade union movement, throwing Kirill Ukraintsev, the head of the “Kurier” (Delivery Workers) trade union, into prison on April 25.
“The union’s activities, aimed at protecting the rights of delivery platform workers are part of a completely legitimate and peaceful approach,” reacted Boris Kravchenko, president of the Confederation of Labor of Russia (KTR), which brings together independent trade unions. He added, “We hope that Kirill Ukraïntsev will be released soon.”
Across Russia, initiatives are beginning to be taken. The trade union coordinating committee ” Solidarity Platform” has launched a petition, while Delivery service workers in Moscow continue their strike. In Voronezh and the Siberian city of Tomsk, calls were made on May 1. From Tomsk, Vyacheslav Tretyakov, head of the Komsomol (Communist Youth) sends us, for publication, the resolution that he read and had voted during the May Day rally.
“Appeal of Tomsk residents about the frame-up of Kirill Ukratsev, the chairperson of the trade union “Kurier” (The Delivery Worker)
“Since the beginning of the ‘special military operation’ on the territory of Ukraine, the pressure of the security forces on communists, socialists, antifascists and trade union activists has intensified. …
“Hundreds of activists of the Communist Party, Komsomol and other left-wing organizations have been arrested and detained under false pretenses. Taking part in environmental or social demonstrations, helping citizens to try to defend their rights: all this becomes a pretext for persecuting activists.
“April 25 marked the beginning of an offensive against independent trade unions. On his birthday, the chairperson of the independent trade union Kurier (Delivery Worker), Kirill Ukratsev, was searched and arrested. He is charged under the so-called Dadin article of the Criminal Code, which punishes “repeated violations of the established order by holding a meeting, rally, etc.” He is currently being held in a temporary detention center.
“The successes achieved by the union, its independence and its principled stance against the bosses are the real cause of his arrest, and he is now facing up to five years in prison. …
We demand an end to these fabricated trials against Kirill Ukratsev. We demand that all officers and heads of security bodies directly or indirectly involved in these illegal actions be brought to justice.
“We call on delivery workers and all workers: unite in the struggle for your rights! Tell your colleagues about the illegal actions of the State against the independent trade union activist Kirill Ukratsev. We appeal to journalists, civil society activists and political activists: Give the widest possible media publicity to this fabricated criminal case against Kirill Ukratsev, demonstrate the falsity of the charges against him.
“This resolution will be sent to the chairman of the Investigative Committee, Bystrykin, Prosecutor General Krasnov and the media.”
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PALESTINE / FRANCE
“A Victory for Freedom of Expression and Association”: Interview with Cécile Brandely
[Note: The French Council of State [France’s Highest Court – Tr. Note] has just suspended the government’s decision to dissolve an association in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Together with Lionel Crusoe, Cécile Brandely is the lawyer of the Collectif Palestine Vaincra (the Palestine Will Win Collective). Following is an interview with Brandely.]
Question: Can you tell us about the French government’s attempt to ban and dissolve this pro-Palestinian collective?
Cécile Brandely: The Collectif Palestine Vaincra [Palestine Will Win Collective] is a group that campaigns, as its charter states, for “a free, multicultural and democratic Palestine from the sea to the Jordan River.” Free, that is, free from imperialism and Zionism. Multicultural, that is, where traditions, languages and religions are a matter of personal choice and coexist in total freedom. Democratic, that is, a country run by and for the people.
On February 24, 2022, the Minister of the Interior announced his intention to ban this collective. On March 9, the Council of Ministers adopted a decree dissolving the collective in application of the Internal Security Code.
The French government sought to ban the association on account of the group’s unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and its uncompromising criticism of the Israeli government’s policies.
Justifying the government’s decision, the Council of Ministers argued that calls for boycott and denunciation of the Israeli Apartheid regime, as well as participation in campaigns for the release of political prisoners, were an expression of the collective’s “anti-Semitism,” which promoted “hatred, discrimination and acts of terrorism.” On March 19, President Macron publicly welcomed the ban and dissolution of the association.
Question: Tell us about the decision of the Council of State, France’s Highest Court?
Cécile Brandely: We filed an appeal for suspension of this ban. On Friday April 29, the Council of State ruled in our favor by suspending the anti-democratic decree of March 9.
The high court considered, in a principled decision, that “the call for a boycott, insofar as it expresses a protesting opinion, constitutes a way of exercising freedom of expression and cannot by itself, except in particular circumstances establishing the contrary, be considered as “a provocation and a contribution to discrimination, hatred or violence towards a group of people.”
For the past six months, the government has decreed the dissolution of political organizations at a rate never before seen under the Fifth Republic [since the 1950s]. The executive branch should not have the right to label as crimes of opinion, and therefore gag, protest movements.
In finding against Minister Darmanin, President Macron and the Council of Ministers, the Council of State reminded us that we are still in a state of law and that the government does not have as free a hand as it would like.
This is a victory for freedom of expression and association, a victory for the solidarity movement with the Palestinian people!
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