The ORGANIZER Newsletter
Issue No. 80 – December 28, 2022
Formatted at socialistorganizer.org
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• Palestine: A Methodical Plan of Expulsion in the West Bank
• The Content of the Strike Wave in China Has Nothing Strictly “Chinese” About it.
• A Personal Tribute to Bill Onasch (1942-2022) – by Alan Benjamin
• Fighting for Immigrant Rights in the United States — Document submitted by U.S. delegates to the Paris October 2022 World Conference Against War and Exploitation
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Dec 4: Palestinian children at al-Arafat school in Massfer Yatta (Hebron) after Israeli troops bombed their school
Palestine: A Methodical Plan of Expulsion in the West Bank
Journalist Amira Hass – who has lived in the West Bank for years – denounced in the Israeli daily Haaretz (December 12) the existence of a systematic plan to expel Palestinians from the West Bank. This plan was revealed in an “internal document of the civil administration in the form of a map and an Excel table, [which] illustrates and demonstrates the close cooperation between the State and the settlers in furthering the dispossession of land of Palestinians.”
Extremist settler groups, who are constantly grabbing land in the West Bank, can transmit in real time to a computerized call center information about the most mundane activities of Palestinian villagers. With this information, the military authorities can come immediately to punish the villagers for building a well, planting a tree, or erecting a prefabricated building. This constant harassment is aimed at driving them off of their own land.
Amira Hass describes this joint monitoring mechanism by the settlers and the Israeli authorities:
“In a separate column of the Excel table that Haaretz obtained, there are comments from the people who made the reports. They reflect the extent to which construction and other work undertaken by Palestinians in the West Bank, according to criteria established by the civil administration and the settlers, has become criminal. Here are some examples of such ‘crimes’: ‘Clearing land in a rocky area that has not been cultivated in the last 20 years is a crime’; ‘preparing a plot of land for construction near the road’; … ‘manual construction of a camp and installation of a water tank’; ‘digging a well’; ‘excavator working for the second consecutive day south of the village of Beitillu’; ‘Arabs working inside the Blue Line [area that Israel plans to declare state land]’; ‘Arabs planting trees’; ‘Arabs placing a prefabricated house near Kiryat Arba’ … .
“Some reports are handled very quickly. For example, on March 27 at 8:52 a.m., Shai Luhi reported the presence of workers and a generator in the area of AlTawani village, and apparently someone saw his message at 9:45 a.m. At 11:15 a.m., a force from the district coordination and liaison office and the regional army brigade showed up at the site. They did not find any tools to confiscate, but – as the Excel spreadsheet indicates – they immediately issued stop-work orders. The nature of the stopped work was not described, but Haaretz learned that workers were installing electric poles in the village.
“On October 9, the order was actually the opposite: first the case was “processed,” then came the report. In the morning, about 15 Israelis, who had been seen coming from the settlement of Susya in the southern Hebron hills, invaded an agricultural plot south of the Palestinian village of Sussia, owned by a resident of the town of Yatta. In the presence of soldiers, the Israelis demolished three tents of the farmer’s family. At 3:42 pm, Shai Luhi reported to Operations Room C an agricultural tractor and the “construction of a new tent camp” at that location. The family rebuilt the tents, but the next day Border Patrol agents arrived and demolished them. They also confiscated the tent poles and a sleeping mat.
“The owner of the land wanted to file a complaint about the break-in and demolition, but a policeman at the Kiryat Arba police station refused to take note of the complaint, saying that it had to be accompanied by a surveyor’s document that attested to his ownership of the land.”
(Translated from Hebrew by the A L’encontre website
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Striking workers at Foxconn
The Content of the Strike Wave in China Has Nothing Strictly “Chinese” About it.
The Internationalist Communist Tendency (TCI) organized its first “Marxist Friday” forum on December 2. A current issue was discussed: the mobilizations that had just taken place in China. In his introduction, Daniel Gluckstein drew some lessons:
“The political authorities that are authoritarian with a powerful apparatus of repression and a grid of control of the population have been forced to back down on a policy that it presented as intangible for three years.” The so-called Zero COVID policy forced everyone to be locked up. It ended up driving the population crazy.
How can we analyze what happened by taking inspiration from Marx’s method? Marx helped build an organization called the International Workers Association. “It is important to reflect on why The Internationale, the working-class hymn, was sung by the Foxconn workers and by the students in Beijing,” Gluckstein continued, “especially since this hymn, which is the song of workers all over the world, was taken up at the same time in Taiwan.
The meaning of its words is international, because this hymn calls on the workers to revolt against the capitalist system. It summons the need to build another society that is not based on exploitation. “I think that Marx’s The Internationale and Capital have been translated as many times, perhaps even more times, as the Bible. This is because the words of The Internationale correspond to a common objective of the labor movement on an international scale.
The strike wave that has just taken place in China is not a Chinese strike; it is the strike of a segment of the world working class. The class struggle is international. Of course, the forms of social life are different from one country to another. There are many differences between the Chinese and us in the conditions of life, in the traditions.
That is true. But if the workers produce all the wealth, they also have a contract with the boss which, in this case, includes a bonus. Daniel Gluckstein notes:
“If the bonus is not paid, they are justified in standing up to get their due. And there is nothing ‘Chinese’ about that. It is the universal content of the class struggle: workers all over the world are fighting to have their work contracts respected, so that the work they provide is paid for. All over the world, the bosses are fighting so that part of the work is not paid. This is the principle of exploitation. Capitalism is a system, a social relationship in which the bosses, because they own the means of production, are able to impose on the workers to work part of the day to reproduce their labor power and then part of the day for free.”
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A Personal Tribute to Bill Onasch (1942-2022)
[The following message was sent by Alan Benjamin to the December 11 memorial meeting for Bill Onasch, who died earlier in the year. Onasch was a longtime rank-and-file union leader and a member of the Steering Committee of the Labor Party founded by Tony Mazzocchi.]
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
First, my best wishes to all for the new year. May we continue to make headway organizing the unorganized and promoting independent working-class politics.
I am sorry to have missed the zoom tribute to Bill Onasch. I have had some serious health issues of my own, and I was simply not up to joining the meeting. But I would like to share one brief thought about Bill.
A few years ago, I had a long talk with Bill at his Kansas City Labor Party table at Labor Notes. He was distributing a leaflet, among other things, with one powerful message, which I will paraphrase (as I cannot find his leaflet in my files).
Bill warned unionists and activists not to give up fighting for a Labor Party rooted in the trade union movement. It’s not because we did not succeed in getting the LP off the ground this first go-round that we should give up trying; Building a Labor Party is our most important political task.
I told Bill that I concurred 100%. I reminded him of what a common friend and co-thinker, Jean Tussey, told us both back in the early 1980s: Don’t accept anything less than a working-class party; all sorts of alternatives without a clear working-class base and perspective will surface in the years ahead — Green parties, people’s parties, and the like. “Work with them, build united fronts with them around specific issues, but don’t let them derail your efforts for a Labor Party,” Jean told us.
While I did not always agree with Bill’s approach on how to get a Labor Party back up and running, I had great admiration and respect for his point of view, which was steeled during more than 50 years fighting the good fight on behalf of the working class. Bill was a true working-class hero. We will miss him.
Bill Onasch, Presente!
Yours in struggle,
San Francisco, CA
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Fighting for Immigrant Rights in the United States
(document submitted to the World Conference Against War and Exploitation – Paris, October 30 – by U.S. delegates Lisa Knox and Nilou Khonsari on behalf of Socialist Organizer)
Today, war, exploitation, and poverty impact much of the world’s population. 82.4 million people – 1 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 are women, children, and the elderly.
Just a few years ago, Trump and the Republican Party rode the issue of immigration to power in the United States. They stoked paranoia of an immigrant “invasion,” and used xenophobic and racist theories to divide and conquer American workers. Immigrants continue to be demonized on the Right and will continue to be targeted by future right-wing governments.
Yet Trump did not create the most authoritarian aspects of the U.S. immigration system. Rather, both major U.S. political parties established this abhorrent system, beginning as early as the 1880s with the United States’ first exclusionary, anti-immigrant laws. The current Democratic administration perpetuates this legacy. In 1996, two years after the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, the Democratic Party passed a series of far reaching counter reforms aimed at criminalizing immigrants. As a result of these anti-immigrant laws, today the United States operates the largest immigration detention system in the world, along with an inhumane deportation machine that deports hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year. By design, the system is controlled by rogue and unaccountable government agencies that hunt down immigrants; its detention centers are mostly run by private companies that profit off of caging human bodies and exploiting their labor; and its juridical processes are a legal farce that strip immigrants of their basic human and legal rights. Today, Biden and his Democratic Congress continue to support and fund this odious system, and currently, there is no prospect for immigration reform for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country without basic civil and democratic rights.
In response to this political landscape, immigrants in the United States have consistently resisted and mobilized against racist policies and rhetoric that have attempted to exclude and remove immigrant communities for over a century. This report highlights recent mass movements within the immigrant struggle in the United States, along with the setbacks and gains that came with them. It begins with a broad summary of some of the forces leading to displacement and forced migration to the United States in the last few decades. It proceeds to outline several key resistance movements in immigrant communities and shows how both demonization by the Republicans and consistent betrayals by the Democrats have ultimately left immigrant communities in a state of political independence, free to organize outside the confines of the two-party system with a power-from-below movement strategy that fights for social change in the streets, workplaces, schools, and detention centers. In detailing this history, we hope that the lessons of the immigrant rights movement in the United States can serve as a critical model for mass movement organizing everywhere in the world where immigrants are exploited and oppressed.
I. Displacement of migrants to the U.S. through capitalism and imperialism
U.S. imperialism and global capitalism have displaced millions of migrants to the United States. For centuries, the United States has plundered and exploited countries all over the world, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean as a result of the Monroe Doctrine. In the early 1980s, Haiti was self-sufficient with respect to rice production, a staple of the Haitian diet. In 1983, the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) required Haiti to re-allocate one-third of domestic food production toward export. Meanwhile U.S. companies flooded the market with rice, the production of which had been subsidized by the U.S. government. The rural economy was shattered, further undermining the viability of life in Haiti. Today, one in four Haitians have been forced to flee this pauperized Caribbean nation, first by French colonialism and then U.S. imperialism.
In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) unleashed economic forces that enriched the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican ruling classes, displaced millions of peasants from the Mexican countryside, and drove millions more into poverty. It is estimated that NAFTA displaced 6.9 million Mexicans to the United States, forming a super-exploited class of U.S. workers.
After NAFTA came the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2003, which destroyed the economies of Central America. Overnight, countries were transformed from exporters of agricultural goods into importers of cheap U.S. agricultural products, destroying the livelihoods of over a million small farmers. Further economic instability, violence, and organized crime resulted from the U.S.’s deportation system, and migration to the United States skyrocketed.
In 2009, the United States continued its long history of political intervention in Central America by helping to oust the democratically elected president of Honduras. The State proceeded to unleash unfettered violence against protesters, peasants, and indigenous Hondurans, transforming Honduras into the (then) murder capital of the world and causing thousands of Hondurans to migrate to the United States. Over the years, similar coups took place in Haiti, Brazil, and Bolivia, including several failed attempts in Venezuela.
Overlaying all these “push” factors, capital’s ceaseless exploitation and destruction of nature has resulted in global climate change, forcing millions to flee drought, floods, food shortages, and destruction of their land.
The same patterns of U.S. imperialism in Latin America and the Caribbean have played out globally. U.S. military interventions in oil-rich regions in the Middle East and West Asia have displaced and killed millions. Through institutions like the IMF and World Bank, global capitalism has pillaged Africa and the world over. In its incessant quest for profit, capitalism has offered nothing but barbarism — war, poverty, and displacement — to the masses that inhabit the Earth.
II. Organized resistance by the migrant working class
Displaced migrants in the United States have organized and resisted on a massive scale – struggling against the bourgeois rule of both major political parties who have attempted to suppress, crush, or co-opt the movement. As a result of their demonization by the Republican Party and consistent abandonment by the Democratic Party, immigrant organizers and communities have fought for rights and reforms independently, by creating and espousing demands from within, mobilizing on a large scale in the streets, and not relying on the two-party system to champion their causes.
A. 2006 General Strike
In 2006 — in a historic show of working-class power that culminated on international workers’ day — over 10 million undocumented workers participated in a de facto general strike, shutting down major economies and cities. Workers across the country walked out of their workplaces, and students walked out of their schools. This massive mobilization was in reaction to a right-wing Republican bill, known as H.R. 4437, that criminalized immigrants to new depths; yet it was also a product of decades of exploitation, scapegoating, and failed reforms. It ultimately stopped the Republican-controlled government from implementing its anti-immigrant agenda, and was an historic demonstration of the power of the working class.
Democratic politicians first tried to obstruct the general strike, then attempted to co-opt it. They used slogans like “today we march, tomorrow we vote,” hoping to get Democrats elected in the next election cycle. Their strategy worked temporarily, as millions placed their trust in the Democratic Party to deliver immigration reform.
Instead of reforms, however, the economic crisis of 2008 brought to power the Democratic Obama administration that presided over a record number of deportations and that vastly expanded facilities for the detention of immigrants. Nearly three million immigrants were deported under Obama, bringing the mass movement of 2006 to its knees with millions of families separated. Those who had placed their trust in the Democrats felt disillusioned, betrayed, and demobilized.
B. Undocumented Youth Movement
This betrayal by the Democrats taught undocumented youth an important lesson: that the movement needed to confront and not rely upon [delete overcome] the Democratic Party. This became abundantly clear in 2010, when Democrats–who held super majorities in both chambers of Congress–failed to pass legislation favoring DREAMers (undocumented youth brought to the United States as children). Instead, Democrats turned their backs on DREAMers. But this time, undocumented youth fought back.
Undocumented youth had become highly mobilized in the years prior, organizing several civil disobedience actions aimed at forcing the super-majorities in Congress to act. Building on these actions, and aligned in their disillusionment with the Democratic Party, undocumented youth began a series of public campaigns exposing the brutality of deportations under Obama. One such campaign was known as “Not One More,” which demanded that the Obama administration use its executive powers to stop all deportations. It exposed the Obama administration’s astronomical deportation rates, shining a light on practices that had previously been in the shadows, and made it impossible for the country to ignore the brutality of deportations.
The Not One More campaign gained strength and numbers. Undocumented youth risked arrest staging protests, sit-ins, and occupying several Obama campaign offices. These mobilizations – coupled with Obama needing the Latino vote to win re-election – eventually forced the administration to relent. After years of claiming it was not possible, Obama created “DACA,” a program that temporarily “legalized” the presence of undocumented youth brought to the United States as children.
Yet DACA was only a partial victory. Although it gave reprieve to thousands of youth from deportation, it fell significantly short of the movement’s demand to stop all deportations. As a result, undocumented youth – especially Black and LGBTQ immigrants, many of whom were excluded from DACA – would go on to become the backbone of a new militant movement: one that sought new strategies on how to stop deportations for all immigrants living in the U.S., not just those brought to the U.S. as children.
C. Collective action against detention and deportation
With Republicans sweeping the 2012 Congressional elections, the immigrant rights movement turned to local efforts to expose and stop deportations: creating “sanctuary policies,” establishing emergency networks to respond to deportations, and shutting down local detention centers. Like the undocumented youth movement, these efforts found success through grassroots militancy by immigrant workers in the face of opposition from both the Obama and Trump administrations.
Sanctuary policies: During his administration, Obama erected a deportation machine that relied heavily on local police. Police would (and continue to) arrest an immigrant, notify immigration enforcement officials, and hand them over to be deported. This collaboration between local police and national immigration officers facilitated the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants and created a deep distrust between the police and immigrant communities of color. This system was so effective, total numbers of deportations peaked in Obama’s first term.
Local communities of immigrants and their working-class allies began to organize against these practices. Inspired by the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s, when Central American immigrants sought sanctuary from deportation in houses of worship, communities fought for “sanctuary policies” at the city, county, and state level, to limit the police’s role in cooperating with national immigration officers within the boundaries of a smaller jurisdiction. Sanctuary policies prohibited police from arresting people solely for being undocumented, detaining people at the behest of immigration officers, and sharing certain information with immigration agencies. Although not leakproof, these policies succeeded in slowing, thwarting, or preventing thousands of deportations. Despite the Trump administration’s best efforts, in its four-year term it could only effectuate two-thirds the total number of deportations that Obama executed in his first term alone. Trump officials have cited sanctuary policies as a primary reason it could not deport more immigrants.
Rapid response networks: Under the Trump administration, local communities also created community emergency networks called “rapid response networks.” These networks include telephone hotlines that community members can call when they see immigration making an arrest in their community; volunteer responders who are dispatched to the scene and videotape and document immigration officials’ actions; and volunteer attorneys who try to prevent an immigrant from being immediately detained or deported. By making it harder for immigration enforcement to do their job and exposing the brutality of deportation arrests, rapid response networks have decreased detentions and deportations across the country.
Shutting down immigrant jails: Since the inception of immigration detention centers, undocumented immigrants inside and outside have fought to shut them down. They have understood that with every jail that is closed, immigration enforcement has less bedspace to warehouse immigrants, and therefore must release individuals and stop making new arrests in the community. With this goal in mind, detained immigrants have conducted hunger strikes and protests, exposed their inhumane conditions to the press, and demanded support from elected officials to shut down immigrant jails. The COVID pandemic accelerated these fights, as detained immigrants literally fought to stay alive.
The strategy to shut down immigrant jails worked. It liberated thousands of undocumented immigrants, and the number of detained immigrants has dropped by more than half since 2020. In California, over the last 5 years immigrant workers shut down three county jails loaning bed space to immigration enforcement and as a result, immigration arrests in communities have declined.
In total, despite an extremely hostile national political environment, undocumented immigrant workers have demonstrated the power of collective action from below. By organizing and winning achievable goals at the local and state level, immigrants cut off the national deportation machine at the knees.
D. Undocumented Worker Movement
Undocumented workers also play a critical role in the US economy and have organized powerfully as workers in the last several years. For instance, during the early phases of the COVID pandemic, undocumented workers continued to work as “essential workers” in homes, stores, farms, meat-packing plants, warehouses, and transportation, despite the dangers of COVID exposure. Yet, these same workers were excluded from receiving unemployment and health benefits, or a path to legal status in the United States.
Undocumented workers highlighted this disparity and called for a path to citizenship for “essential workers.” They also called on state governments to provide unemployment benefits to undocumented workers to give them parity with citizen workers. The demands for unemployment insurance or similar cash benefits succeeded in several states, although the demand for a path to citizenship was defeated in Congress in 2021 as a result of the latest betrayal by the Democratic Party.
Undocumented workers in immigration detention centers have also mobilized around their labor rights. They have begun a coordinated strategy of work stoppages and lawsuits against the private prison companies contracted by national immigration enforcement that exploit their labor and pay them only $1 a day for their work. By withholding their labor, detained workers are highlighting the value of their labor and its super-exploitation for corporate profits. In organizing as workers, the strikers are also developing a class consciousness and uniting their struggle to the broader struggle of workers in the United States and beyond.
Over the last 20 years, the immigrant rights movement has become one of the largest working-class oppositional movements in the United States. It has increasingly learned to organize independently of the two ruling parties and to mobilize in the streets, schools, workplaces, and detention centers to stop detentions and deportations. This is an example of the progressive force for social change that working-class immigrants, when organized, can have in any country.
Today, the immigrant rights movement in the United States continues to struggle for basic economic and democratic rights. This includes the fight for citizenship rights for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who pay $120 billion in taxes annually without the right to vote or the right to receive retirement or health benefits; the fight to abolish all detention centers that cage immigrants; the fight to open the borders to all refugees; and the fight to end all deportations that separate families.
The immigrant rights movement has yet to organize itself politically. This is an essential step which of necessity links the immigrant rights struggle with those of the entire working class. Labor and Community for an Independent Party, creating coalitions in local communities that are the building blocks towards the formation of a mass working-class party rooted in labor and oppressed communities, is the path forward.
With immigrants displaced worldwide, none of these fights are possible without building unity with workers and other oppressed communities in the United States and around the world.