T.O. 83: Memphis Police Killing – 2.5 Million Strike in France – Antiwar Dossier – Britain, General Strike Needed
The Organizer Newsletter
Issue No. 83 – January 31, 2023
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• Police Killing of Tyre Nichols: Nothing Has Changed! – Statement by Socialist Organizer
• FRANCE Special Report: 2.5 Million on Strike, in the Streets on Jan. 31 Demanding Withdrawal of Pension ‘Reform’ – Statement by the Independent Democratic Workers Party of France (POID)
• U.S.-NATO War in Ukraine Escalates, Heavy Offensive Weapons on Their Way – by J.A
• “The Hidden Stakes in the War in Ukraine: Raw Materials” (Reporterre) – by J.A.
• War and Control of Markets – An Example from the War in Ukraine – by Mya Shone
• GREAT BRITAIN: The Question of a General Strike to Make the Government Back Down Is Raised – by Jean-Pierre Barrois
• FRANCE: Everything is Concentrated in the Class Struggle – By Daniel Gluckstein (Editorial of Workers Tribune Issue No. 374 (January 25, 2023)
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Police Killing of Tyre Nichols: Nothing Has Changed!
Statement by Socialist Organizer
The police video of the brutal assassination of Tyre Nichols by the Memphis police reminds us that nothing has changed since George Floyd was murdered. More than 1,000 people have been killed at the hands of the police in each year since Floyd’s death.
As soon as the police video was released, the Memphis police preemptively disbanded the specialized SCORPION street-crime unit whose members included officers charged in Nichols’ death. The police hoped to defuse a potentially explosive situation within the Black community.
In the video, one can see that the shirt on at least one of the police thugs who murdered Nichols reads “Organized Crime Unit.” Who are they fooling! Unwarranted traffic stops, community harassment, brutality, assassinations — that’s what Black people face every day. And since when is a SCORPION an image for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods!
Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor who often comments on MSNBC, stated clearly: “What you see is an American citizen being tortured by armed representatives of the State.”
Democratic Party politicians are preaching “racial reconciliation,” insisting that everything can be resolved through dialogue and “mutual respect and understanding.” But Black workers, especially the militant Black youth, following on the heels of the Black liberation movement of the 1960s, are not buying this snake oil.
They are demanding Black control of the Black community. “This is an indispensable step toward freeing the Black masses from domination by white racists who benefit from their exploitation,” wrote LT, a young blogger.
Nnamdi Lumumba, co-convener of the Ujima Peoples Progress Party (UPP), put it this way in an interview with The Organizer newspaper:
“The State has given us these Civilian Review Boards – but they have no power and no teeth. What we propose is this:
“First, we have to have a grassroots campaign that is led by working-class people to deal with the issue of the police. You have to have a grassroots education campaign.
“Second, you have to define your goal: We want a Citizens Review Board that is elected by the citizens of the city and that has the power to conduct its own investigations and bring charges against officers, independent of the state’s attorney in our district.
“Lastly, we want the ability to set standards and policies, and have the ability to fire and hire people based on those policies. If we leave it to their commissions and ‘organized crime units’ to try to solve things for us, they will find ways to let the State off the hook. We need to build the kind of people power to create the kind of board that we need.”
Black control of the Black community necessarily means political control outside the reach of the two parties of Capital. In Maryland, UPP is organizing a Black-led, working-class political party, as they work within LCIP (Labor and Community for an Independent Party) to build working-class power across the country. Without organizing a working-class party that is separate and independent from the parties of Capital – the Democratic Party and Republican Party – city councils and the police will continue allegiance to Capital and not to working-class interests. Toward that goal, UPP is stepping up preparations for its petition-drive to register as a Black working-class-led political party in Maryland.
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Statement by the Independent Democratic Workers Party of France (POID)
(January 31, 2023 – 9 p.m.)
“Even More Numerous This Time: On January 31, We Were More than 2.5 million … ”
This January 31, there were millions of us; we were even more numerous than on January 19.
Millions on strike, united with all the unions, with the young people who came in great numbers.
On the banners, the signs, the stickers, in the slogans that were shouted out, in every shape or form, there was one unanimous demand: The Macron-Borne pension ‘reform’ plan must be withdrawn!
All workers know that this reform has no justification. There is no deficit. The only reason for this ‘reform’ is to feed the state coffers, in particular to finance the 413 billion euros for the military readiness program — 413 billion for the war!
And now what?
Macron still refuses to listen. What will make him give in?
Nobody expects anything from the “debate” in the National Assembly. Its only purpose is to give the impression that we are living in a democracy. But everyone knows that the Constitution gives Macron the means to adopt his plan, even without a majority, even without a vote.
No, it is not at the National Assembly that Macron will be forced to give in.
Democracy is the law of the majority. The majority demands the withdrawal of the Macron-Borne pension reform plan.
It is the strike – the total strike – in unity that will force the government to back down.
Already, in the assemblies, the workers are discussing: renewal of the strike, creation of organizing committees, setting up strike funds, how to give themselves the means to win.
The trade union confederations were right to constitute a united front leading to the strikes and demonstrations of January 19 and 31.
On January 31, after the demonstrations, they announced new days of strikes and demonstrations on February 7 and 11 and declared: “In the face of the massive rejection, the government must withdraw its reforms.”
The strength of the millions of strikers and demonstrators on January 31 now gives the trade union confederations a mandate: to put on the agenda the organization of the total united strike that will force Macron to back down. And if he does not back down, he must leave and take his reform with him!
Workers, young people, militants, you are invited to participate in the meetings organized by the Independent Democratic Workers Party all over the country to discuss these proposals.
[More on France at the end of this posting.]
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U.S.-NATO War in Ukraine Escalates, Heavy Offensive Weapons on Their Way
On January 26 the German and U.S. governments announced that they will send battle tanks to Ukraine. Associated Press reported that this is “the first stage of a coordinated effort by the West to provide dozens of heavy weapons to help Kyiv break combat stalemates as Russia’s invasion enters its 12th month.”
The U.S. will send 31 M1 Abrams battle tanks, “reversing months of persistent arguments that the tanks were too difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.” (What this means, of course, is that it’s just a matter of time before U.S. troops are on the ground training and operating these new tanks.) Meanwhile, Germany agreed to send 14 Leopard 2 A6 tanks to Ukraine.
These announcements came soon after the French government’s decision to deliver AMX-10-RC tanks to the Ukrainian army and the British government’s promise to deliver 14 Challenger 2 heavy tanks.
“Until now, Kyiv’s Western allies had made the delivery of heavy tanks to Ukraine a red line, believing that the supply of such powerful equipment could lead to an escalation with Moscow,” writes Le Monde (January 16), which adds: “Finland and Poland say they are ready to send tanks to Ukraine, but they need the green light from Berlin,” where “pressure … is in the process of making the chancellor give in.”
Pressure Came from U.S.-NATO Contact Group
And heavy pressure there was. On January 20, the “Contact Group for the Defense of Ukraine” met at the NATO base in Ramstein, Germany. It was chaired by the United States.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed “the willingness of the United Kingdom, France and Poland to provide battle tanks,” and he went on to urge the German government to follow suit. Although fully aligned with NATO, German Social Democrat Chancellor Scholz had been reluctant to deliver tanks to a country at war; this would violate a rule that has prevailed since 1945, putting him even more at odds with large sectors of the German people.
For the NATO secretary general, all member countries must “accelerate the production of armaments and ammunition” and to do so they must “work closely with industry.” The “industry” in question is the arms industry, a sector dominated by U.S. capitalists.
Despite the new arms deliveries, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army warned that “it will be “very difficult” to dislodge the Russian army by the end of 2023.” For the U.S. administration, Ukraine must win, but slowly, and the war must last as long as possible.
The French weekly magazine L’Express explained why the war must continue: “The United States is the big winner at the global level without a single GI having had to set foot on Ukrainian soil. … NATO is coming out stronger. U.S. industry is reaping contracts, particularly with the production of Liquified Natural Gas “Made in USA.” [See accompanying article by Mya Shone.]
Who will still dare to say that the United States and NATO are not at war? — J.A.
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“The Hidden Stakes in the War in Ukraine: Raw Materials” (Reporterre)
“The hidden stakes in the war in Ukraine: raw materials.” We are not the ones saying this; it was the title of the lead story in Reporterre, a pro-ecology journal published in France (December 8, 2022). Far from being a war “in defense of the Ukrainian people,” as Biden, Macron and NATO claim, it is a war for plunder and spheres of influence, both on the side of the great imperialist powers and on the side of the Russian oligarchs.
Ukraine, explains Reporterre, “lives under the dependence of the Russian company Gazprom” and “has the most important gas reserves in Europe after Russia.” It is the “sixth largest producer of titanium in the world, a strategic metal for aeronautical production, and has large deposits of lithium, copper, cobalt and rare earths. It also ranks “fifth in the world for its iron, graphite and manganese reserves, two critical elements for the production of electric batteries.”
U.S. multinationals Come Out the Winners
For the past 15 years, “the rapprochement of Ukrainian governments with Western powers has allowed the United States and the European Union to plan the extraction of raw materials from this richly endowed country. The multinationals ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, EDF, and ENI obtained operating licenses in 2012 and 2013.
For its part, since the invasion, “Russia has taken possession of 41 coal mines, about 50 gas and oil sites, and a dozen strategic mining deposits. These deposits are as strategic for the NATO countries as they are for Russia … . The Russian aggression of Ukraine can only be understood against the backdrop of this confrontation for the supply of critical materials, whose first victim is the Ukrainian population.” (Ibid.)
On November 16, 2022 in Brussels, Ukrainian Prime Minister Shmyhal and European Commissioner Sefcovic reaffirmed the partnership concluded in 2021 between Ukraine and the European Union. This “partnership,” writes Reporterre, “responds to the desire of the European Union – and more broadly of NATO – to secure supplies of raw materials for its industry in the face of Chinese and Russian monopolies.”
The Ukrainian Minister of Energy reassured the multinational corporations: “Despite the bombing, the reform of the Mining Code is almost complete … and it will be in the service of investors who will come forward after the war.”
The European Commissioner was pleased to hear this: “We will not only rebuild Ukraine, but we will rebuild it better, greener.” Like the color of the dollar? In conclusion, Reporterre wonders: “Once the war is over, won’t Ukrainians have the unpleasant surprise of discovering that while they were trying to survive the Russian assaults and bombings, entire regions of their country were being sold to foreign mining and gas corporations?”
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War and Control of Markets – An Example from the War in Ukraine
By Mya Shone
In May 1940, on the eve of World War II, Leon Trotsky wrote, and the Fourth International adopted, “The Manifesto of the Fourth International on the Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution” — known as the “Alarm Manifesto” — in which the Fourth International rejected superficial explanations for the second imperialist war. The Manifesto explained that the war “derived its origin inexorably from the contradictions of international capitalist interests.”
More precisely, it specified that “Contrary to official fables designed to drug the people, the chief cause of war as of all social evils — such as unemployment, the high cost of living, fascism, colonial oppression — is private ownership of the means of production together with the bourgeois state which rests on this foundation.” Concretely the quest for profits is tied inextricably to the control of resources (raw materials), land, and markets.
“In contrast to the 19th century,” explained Trotsky, “when the competition between capitalist countries developed in an expanding world market, the economic arena of struggle today is narrowing down so that nothing remains open to the imperialists except tearing pieces of the world market away from each other.”
There is no better example of the quest for control of markets and “tearing pieces of the world market away from each other” than that which is unfolding today between the United States and Russia over the sale of natural gas, a competition that is part and parcel of the current war in Ukraine.
Let us examine the facts:
The 27 countries of the European Union, with a combined population of 512 million, depend upon natural gas for power generation, household heating, and industrial processes. Over 30% of households in the EU use gas to heat their homes. Up through 2021, the EU imported 83% of its natural gas, of which 40% was bought from Gazprom, the Russian state-majority-owned company. Natural gas flowed through pipelines constructed in the 1970s-80s during the Soviet era from Russian fields through Ukraine to the rest of Europe.
In 1997, a consortium of Gazprom, the Finnish oil company Neste, the German gas company Ruhrgas, and other EU companies began construction of Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia directly to Germany (by-passing Ukraine). In 2011, Nord Stream 1 began operations, and Ukraine started to experience the loss of income derived from the Soviet-era gas transmission route to Europe. (Ukraine had earned $3 billion in annual transit revenues, almost 3% of the country’s GDP.)
The United States in this era was not a Russian competitor for sales of natural gas. Gas transmission in Europe as in the United States depended primarily upon massive networks of pipelines. That is, until the further development of the liquid natural gas (LNG) process wherein natural gas is cooled down to a liquid state —at about minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit with only 1/600th of the volume of gas in its natural state. As such, it can be transported in non-pressurized double-hulled tanker ships across the seas.
Suddenly, the United States with an ample supply of natural gas pushed to become a gas exporter. The United States is the world’s largest producer of natural gas, most of which — two-thirds — is produced by fracking, an environmentally destructive method. Qatar, Australia, and Russia also are exporters of LNG, with Qatar supplying China and Europe, Russia supplying 15% of European LNG primarily to Belgium, France, and the Netherlands and Japan being the leading export destination for Australian LNG.
The political issue at hand was to convince Germany, the largest EU natural gas user, to switch from purchasing the lower-cost Russian natural gas to the more-costly U.S. LNG.
Pressure from the U.S. government mounted during the Trump administration after Cheniere Energy, a Texas corporation whose shareholders are primarily major U.S. investment funds, shipped its first LNG exports in February 2016. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a former governor of Texas, circled the world pushing for U.S. exports of LNG which he called “Freedom Gas.” The Germans, however, were not convinced – even though they had experienced Russia cutting off the flow of gas through Ukraine in 2006 and 2009, leaving many in Western Europe without heat in the middle of winter. Arrangements with Gazprom continued, including work on the additional Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
It was not until the current U.S.-NATO provoked war in Ukraine which resulted in the invasion by Russia on February 24, 2022 that the switch to U.S. LNG took off. Once the U.S. and NATO imposed sanctions upon Russia, Russia swiftly shut the spigot on NordStream 1, the major source of gas supply to Germany and much of Europe. The cost of natural gas skyrocketed with the 300% price increase accounting for 40% of inflation. This created a new situation for U.S.-sourced LNG.
LNG imports from the United States had doubled in just the year between August 2021 and August 2022 as the war was brewing. The U.S. boosted shipments to Europe such that by September 2022 when Nord Stream 1 was no longer operating, 70% of U.S. LNG exports were headed to Europe and more than 50% (half) of European imports of LNG came from the United States.
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GREAT BRITAIN: The Question of a General Strike to Make the Government Back Down Is Raised
By Jean-Pierre Barrois
Through their strikes, the British workers are demanding higher wages. The government, however, refuses to heed their demands while it keeps pouring billions of pounds into the war in Ukraine.
Since January 1, here is the list of nationwide strikes in which hundreds of thousands of workers have participated:
• railway workers with their RMT union;
• locomotive drivers with their ASLEF union;
• Abelio bus drivers with their Unite union;
• teachers in Scotland and their EIS union;
• nurses with their RCN union;
• ambulance drivers;
• driving license inspectors;
• highway workers;
• Department of Labour workers;
• funeral service workers with their Unite union;
• primary school teachers who are members of the NASUWT union; and
• university workers and their UCU union, etc.
This list does not take into account the many local strikes or announced strikes [see below].
Whatever the profession, two demands are being heard on every picket line: On the one hand, an increase in wages above the level of inflation (and the refusal of any proposal for an increase below inflation – which would in fact be a pay cut). On the other hand, the withdrawal of the conservative government’s anti-union (anti-strike) bill.
When so many sectors of the working class are on strike daily, one after the other, over the same demands, the question of a general strike is raised.
This explains why Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has been relentless in his denunciation of strikes, calling for a “real partnership between government, business and trade unions.” As for the leadership of the trade union confederation, the TUC, which takes orders from the Labour leadership, its general secretary dared to declare that a general strike would not serve the interests of the working class. In the face of the anti-strike bill, the TUC leadership is content to call for a “day of protest” on February 1, without calling for a strike.
All are aligned with the government and its policy of “war abroad.” This is a government whose ministers repeat in every negotiation with the unions that there is no money to increase wages. What about the 2.5 billion euros of military equipment provided to fuel the war in Ukraine? And the 300 million in ammunition to be delivered to NATO in 2023? What about the 148 Challenger 2 tanks currently being prepared to be sent to Ukraine?
A trade union official in the north of England explains:
“On the eve of the TUC congress on September 11, my local union passed a motion saying that if the government does not address the strikers’ demands, then the congress must put a call for general strike action on the agenda. Since then, TUC General Secretary Novak has ruled out a full-scale confrontation with the Conservative government. However, it is regularly said on the picket lines that the union federation’s general council should call for a general strike to force the government to meet their demands. Whether the TUC leaders like it or not, the will of millions of workers will have to prevail.
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Nurses on Strike Again
Report from a Local TUC Secretary
After their national strike in December – the first in 106 years – nurses, who are members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), were on strike again on January 17, for higher wages and to save the National Health Service. The government representative dared to suggest to the union, “If you help us find efficiencies, maybe we can make a case to the Minister of Finance.”
Translation: Help us close more beds and services and the “savings” will be used to increase your wages. Through the strike, nurses are saying: immediately restore the 133,400 positions that you (and your Labour Party predecessors) cut. Every week, 300 to 500 patients die in emergency rooms. No! Patients are not dying because nurses are on strike. … Nurses are on strike so that patients don’t die anymore!”
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FRANCE: Everything Is Concentrated in the Class Struggle
(Workers Tribune) Issue No. 374 – January 25, 2023 – Editorial
By Daniel Gluckstein
Five days after millions of demonstrators took to the streets [to demand the withdrawal of Macron’s pension reform plan, which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 – Tr. Note], Patrick Martin, vice-president of MEDEF [the employers’ organization), is worried: “The debate is drifting towards a pro- or anti-Macron referendum.” We understand his fear: in such a referendum, the “anti-Macron” vote could win.
Macron is isolated. Isolated in the face of public opinion that increasingly is opposed to his pension reform and in favor of strike action. He is even beginning to be isolated from his own social base. Of course, the capitalists are in favor of the attack on workers’ pensions. But not to the point of letting Macron push the country onto the path to revolution.
But Macron is ramping up his acts of provocation. In one week, he announced 413 billion euros for the Military Planning Act and gifted 290 billion euros to the bosses for “decarbonization.” And he pretends to plead poverty over a few billion supposedly “missing” from the public pension fund a– an outright lie – and repeats that, for this reason, he will carry on with his Bill at all costs. No wonder people are increasingly convinced that this government is lying to them about everything.
If he persists, Macron will transform what is already a social crisis into a regime crisis. In the demonstrations, we hear this question: if Macron refuses to withdraw his reform Bill, what means will be left to us other than to impose the withdrawal of Macron himself?
Macron is calling for help. He proposes that “the government together with the parliamentarians … can work on the text and improve it.” This is a crude trick. Everyone knows that he already has Articles 49.3 and 47.1 of the Constitution ready to hand. And that those Articles guarantee that he will push his bill through within the next 50 days, whatever happens in the National Assembly. 
Everything is concentrated in the class struggle. A day of strike action and demonstrations has shaken the regime. The organizing of a mass strike will force it to back down. Or else to quit.
The “left” MPs who support the mobilization of workers and youth would be wise not to fall into the trap set for them by Macron. “Amending” this Bill would only serve to give a semblance of democracy to this attempted coup. This is why, in solidarity with the strikers and demonstrators, the NUPES MPs  should renounce it. And quite simply, refuse to sit in the National Assembly as long as the government has not backed down.
The mandate of January 19 is clear: total withdrawal of the Macron-Borne plan. Respecting this mandate raises the question of a general strike. If the government persists, will the trade union confederations that called for action on January 19 and 31 have any other choice – in order to make the government back down – but to call for the country to be shut down through united action?
The more Macron clings to his counter-reform, the more the question of power is posed.
Tomorrow, “He should go, and take his reform with him!” may become the slogan of millions upon millions of women and men mobilized in strike action and demonstrations.
(1) Translator’s note: Macron has repeatedly used Article 49.3 of the Constitution introduced in 1958 under the Bonapartist Fifth Republic to force through legislation which probably would not have been approved by Parliament. Article 49.3 allows the Prime Minister to “commit the government’s responsibility to the National Assembly on the passing of a Bill” without a vote. The Bill is deemed to be carried, unless a motion of no confidence in the government is placed on the table within 24 hours by the opposition in the National Assembly and then passed.
Article 47.1 stipulates the process and restricted timing for debating Social Security Financing Bills in Parliament. A Bill is first considered in the National Assembly, but if this fails to reach a decision within 20 days, the Bill is then referred to the Senate, which must announce its decision within 15 days. The Article states: “Should Parliament fail to reach a decision within fifty days, the provisions of the Bill may be implemented by Ordinance”, i.e., by executive order of the Council of Ministers.
 Translator’s Note: The New Popular, Ecological and Social Union (NUPES) was the electoral coalition for the June 2022 legislative elections headed by Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of France Unbowed. The coalition included France Unbowed, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV).
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France: “Meet, establish precise demands, prepare, decide on the strike on the 31st [of January], discuss the follow-up to obtain withdrawal of the Macron-Borne plan”
In the French department of Val-de-Marne, the education unions affiliated to all the different national federations issued a statement calling for the trade unions to take strike action on January 31 to demand the immediate withdrawal of the Macron-Borne pension reform plan. The call states in part:
“The trade unions call on all staff to amplify the mobilization for the withdrawal of this counter-reform. We invite colleagues to meet in schools and establishments to establish their precise demands, to prepare and decide on the strike on January 31, to discuss the next steps to obtain the withdrawal of the Macron-Borne project, and to mandate delegates to participate in the general assemblies organized in the localities and at the departmental level.”
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