T.O. 84 – Ohio Chernobyl – Antiwar – France Strikes – Profits Kill

The ORGANIZER Newsletter

Issue No. 84, February 21, 2023

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• EDITORIAL – Train Derailment in East Palestine: Ohio Chernobyl

• Chemical Warfare Against the Working Class – by Millie Phillips

• Building a United, Mass Movement Against War and Exploitation: ALL OUT MARCH 18 IN D.C. TO STOP THE WAR! – by Alan Benjamin

• Excerpts from LFN Antiwar Statement of March 8, 2022

• FRANCE: Workers Tribune Issue No. 377  –  February 15, 2023 – Editorial: åååThis Is When It All Really Gets Going

• FRANCE : February 19 Statement by POID : Pensions: Power Grab at the National Assembly, It’s Up to the Workers to Solve the Problem!

• Capitalism: A System That Destroys – by Coral Wheeler

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Train Derailment in East Palestine: Ohio Chernobyl


Ohio Chernobyl is one of the names given to the massive environmental disaster currently unfolding in East Palestine, Ohio, where on February 3, a two-mile-long, 150-car train carrying noxious chemicals derailed, spilling much of its contents onto the ground and into the water.

Horrific images of massive smoke plumes reminiscent of thick black mushroom clouds could be seen for miles, as the initial fire raged out of control and authorities later attempted to mitigate the potential disaster by initiating a “controlled burn” of the toxic leaked substances.

Although residents of the town – which sits near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border – were initially evacuated, they were told it was safe to return only five days later. Authorities claimed the air was safe to breathe and the water safe to drink. However, thousands of wild animals, livestock, and pets, have died since the incident, including 3,500 fish in local waterways.

Residents have reported alarming symptoms, ranging from diarrhea and difficulty breathing to rashes and headaches, with some residents even being hospitalized with “chemical pneumonia,” a dangerous condition with complications that include organ injury, lung scarring, recurrent pneumonia and even death.

The chemicals on the train are extremely toxic, both when spilled and when burned.

Among the 150 train cars on the derailed locomotive were tanker cars, each of which can carry up to 32,000 gallons of toxic chemicals. Those chemicals include vinyl chloride, used to make PVC, which goes into plastic pipes. Prolonged exposure to vinyl chloride has been linked to higher rates of liver angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. When burned, as was done in this case, vinyl chloride becomes hydrogen chloride, which is corrosive to any tissue it touches, and phosgene, a chemical weapon from World War I [see sidebar].

An entire car-load of butyle acrylate, used for making paints, caulks, and adhesives, was also “lost,” and the train company, Norfolk Southern, cannot account for the contents of another derailed tanker truck carrying ethylene glycol monobutyl ether, a substance used in varnishes, paint thinners, and household cleaners.

Despite claims of safety, shocking effects of the disaster remain. One video posted online gained over 2 million views. It shows a resident throwing a rock into seemingly normal stream in her backyard, only to see an iridescent film bubbling-up and covering the water’s surface, similar to what is seen when gasoline is present in water.

Residents are also reporting a lack of transparency in the specific chemicals that were on the train, with new chemicals being added as time goes on. Alarmingly, the crash caused many of these chemicals to spill into the Ohio river, which provides drinking water for 5 million people. The city of Cincinnati has stopped sourcing its water supply from the Ohio river, out of “an abundance of caution.”

To add insult to injury, at a community meeting last week (February 15) about the disaster, not one representative from Norfolk Southern bothered to show up, citing concerns for their own safety. Biden, for his part, has also not visited the area, nor has he declared it a state of emergency. FEMA is now reported to be headed to the area, but the two-week delay has the Democrats and Republicans rushing to point fingers at each other for who has done less for the people of East Palestine.

A preventable disaster

This train derailment did not have to happen. However, derailments in general are not that unusual. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, about 1,000 derailments occur each year. And while derailments have been on the decline since their peak in 2003, when 2,133 trains went off the rails, there has been a recent up-tick in the last few years.

Like so many industries under capitalism, the continued deregulation of the industry has made trains less safe, and working conditions much worse. Trains are getting longer and longer – average train length has increased by about 25 percent since 2008. At the same time, North American Class 1 freight railroads such as Norfolk Southern have been slashing rail jobs. This all adds up to an increasing danger for rail workers on the job – the rate of fatal injuries for railroad workers is about twice that in other industries.

Railroad Workers United (RWU), a cross-union workers’ organization, stated the issue in stark terms: “In the last 10 years, the Class One carriers have dramatically increased both the length and tonnage of the average train, while cutting back on maintenance and inspection, and we have a time bomb ticking.” A bomb that went off in a working-class town. A bomb planted by capitalism and lit by the corruption of our ruling class politicians.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has suggested that what led to the derailment of the train in East Palestine was an overheated wheel bearing on the car that initiated the crash. A video from taken from a security camera in Salem, Ohio, shows one train car putting off major sparks underneath the carriage. This means that the train may have been on fire for up to 20 miles before derailing!

RWU tied the disaster directly to the over-working of its members. Cuts to inspection times and layoffs meant that the damaged car was missed and allowed to leave the terminal. Further safeguards have also been lessened due to the shortage in workers.

In order to increase profits, private industries put lives at stake – not only the lives of their workers, but the lives of anyone who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Capitalism views all human life as nothing more than a means to enrich the select few who are lucky enough to have been born owning the means of production, while the rest of us can simply get out of the way or die.

Democrats complicit: the breaking of the rail workers’ strike

Another consequence of the greed of the rail industry and the corruption of those tasked with keeping that greed in check has been the decline of worker freedom and rights on the job.

Rail workers are not guaranteed a single paid sick day, and in many cases are not even allowed to take unpaid time off for doctor appointments without suffering an absence penalty. This is shocking even when compared to the substandard working conditions in other U.S. industries. It was the major sticking point in the last contract negotiations between the industry and the 12 major unions that represent rail workers.

The results of these contract negotiations, as we have written about in this publication [see issues 81-83 on our website], offer a striking show of the absolute corruption and anti-worker sentiment in both major political parties. President Biden called on Congress to invoke the antiquated Railway Labor Act in order to both force the unions to accept the latest deal, and to prevent the rail workers from striking, which they had been poised to do after rejecting the agreement that failed to provide them more than one paid sick day.

Along with Biden, all of the so-called “progressives” in Congress‚ with the sole exception of Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, voted to support the railroad strikebreaker bill. This includes Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Acasio-Cortez. This puts to rest (again) any notion that these DSA-supported candidates are acting in the interests of the working class. The so-called dirty break strategy, advocated by DSA members, is nothing more than a dirty trick – dirtier than the water in East Palestine.

Finally, the breaking of the strike has once again highlighted the capitulation of top union officials to the Democratic Party. The leadership of one rail-workers union, SMART TD, went so far as to “thank the President, House Speaker, Senate leadership, and Cabinet members for their support at the negotiating table and on the floor of Congress in an attempt to achieve more for our members,” while AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler failed to even mention the breaking of the strike in her statement.

This boot-licking and looking the other way has unfortunately become commonplace for the very people to which the working class look to protect them. This is why one of our primary tasks is to get involved in our unions and win them back over to the side of the workers. We must push for rank-and-file control of our unions, and for the formation of committees in each union that advocate for a clean break with the Democratic Party. This is the strategy put forth by Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), which we support whole-heartedly.

The right to strike is the most fundamental right a worker has. Under capitalism, workers have no property, and nothing to bargain with other than the power of their labor and their right to withhold it if they so choose. Any labor official or party official who denies that right, for any reason, is fundamentally anti-labor. The Democrats and the top union bosses have revealed themselves – this time with disastrous consequences – as the anti-worker and anti-union forces they are.

What way forward ­ nationalize the rail industry!

Ohio Chernobyl shows that there is no solution for the working class under capitalism. Private ownership of the means of production, in this case of the railroad industry, is directly responsible for the erosion of worker rights and protections, and for the apocalyptic disaster in East Ohio. This is just one – albeit a monstrous – example of how capitalism is destroying all life on this planet. How many more Chernobyl-type disasters will occur if we fail to act to curb corporate greed, and eventually win worker ownership and control of our major industries?

Toward this end, in a very important development, the RWU has called for all of labor to support the immediate nationalization of the rail industry. In a February 26 statement addressed to unions as well as environmental, transportation justice and workers’ rights organizations, they state, ”[I]n the face of the degeneration of the rail system in the last decade, and after more than a decade of discussion and debate on the question, Railroad Workers United (RWU) has taken a position in support of public ownership of the rail system in the United States. We ask you to consider doing the same, and announce your organization’s support for rail public ownership.”

This is a crucial statement, and must be brought to our unions and community organizations. It must be promoted broadly in all workers’ struggles. There is no solution to this nor any environmental disaster, no prevention of Chernobyl 2.0 or even 3.0, unless we have direct worker control of this and other major industries.

But even this, ultimately, is not enough. As Leon Trotsky put it, “state ownership of the means of production does not turn manure into gold.” Public ownership of such a major industry is a stepping stone to the overall solution – socialism. It is a transitional demand, as it shows that workers must control the state if they are to control the state-owned means of production.

We must act immediately to put this industry, and all major industries, under public control. Only then will we be able to prioritize human need over the greed of the corporate bosses. Only then can we prevent environmental disasters to our water, our homes, and our planet. Nationalize the rail industry now!

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Chemical Warfare Against the Working Class

By Millie Phillips

The open-air burning of hazardous chemicals gives an added meaning to the idea that capitalism is conducting an outright war against the working class (and the environment as a whole): In this case, chemical warfare.

Carbonyl chloride (phosgene) is among several hazardous byproducts of burning vinyl chloride that can cause severe health problems and be fatal in higher concentrations. Phosgene, a mostly colorless and odorless gas, was widely used as a chemical weapon in WWI, causing almost 100,000 deaths and hundreds of thousands of lesser casualties. 

Any exposure to phosgene should be treated as a medical emergency requiring immediate removal from the source of exposure and rapid medical treatment. Phosgene exposure is especially dangerous because its symptoms are not always instant or obvious, and the impacts are cumulative, that is, low concentrations for longer durations may be as risky as high short-term exposure.

Even when symptoms such as coughing, mucous membrane irritation, and shortness of breath show up immediately, they easily could be mistaken as caused by less dangerous substances, as might be expected in an incident involving multiple chemicals. Death from pulmonary edema – defined as excessive fluid in the lungs, often resulting from chemical pneumonitis – can take place in a few days without immediate emergency care. Survivors of pulmonary edema often have long-term lung problems. Thus, delays in informing the public of potential exposure to phosgene could be fatal.

As a precautionary measure, all the residents of East Palestine should have been immediately evacuated and offered free emergency medical care and testing for all types of hazardous chemical exposure that could be anticipated in such a disaster, returning only when the safety of local waterways and air quality has been restored and extensively documented, and the residents should be fully reimbursed for all financial costs incurred. Anything less is chemical warfare against the working class.

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Building a United, Mass Movement Against War and Exploitation: ALL OUT MARCH 18 IN D.C. TO STOP THE WAR!

By Alan Benjamin

February 24 marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war provoked by the U.S. and NATO that has devastated the entire region and caused untold hardship to workers and oppressed peoples the world over, a war that is escalating by the day. The warmongering governments, beginning with the U.S., are now publicly targeting China and raising the specter of World War III. The only ones benefiting from this war are the capitalists, particularly the military-industrial complex.

To mark this anniversary, President Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine, where he announced another $500 million in military aid to Ukraine and more sanctions on Russia. The visit took place at a time when growing numbers of people in the United States and around the world are pushing for an end to the fighting, worried that a Third World War could be in the making if a ceasefire is not decreed immediately.

At the initiative of the International Workers Committee Against War and Exploitation, For a Workers’ International (IWC), workers, activists, and youth will be mobilizing internationally on February 24 and 25 to protest this unjust war. In 42 countries, they will be raising the following demands:

• Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!

• U.S.-NATO Troops Out of Europe!

• Disband NATO!

• No Sanctions! Ceasefire Now!

• Close U.S. Military Bases Worldwide!

• Neither Putin, Nor Biden – No Support for Warmongering Governments!

• Not One Penny, Not One Weapon for Unjust Wars!

• Billions for Jobs, Schools, Healthcare, Immigration Reform/DREAMers and Social Services — Not War!

A Misguided Strategy …

The question of what strategy should be pursued to build a mass, united-front antiwar movement here in the United States is a burning one. Some activists argue that an alliance with Ron Paul and the Libertarian Party, as well as with top figures in the proto-fascist LaRouche party, is legitimate; after all, the Libertarian Party and the People’s Party organized a national Rage Against the Machine national march and rally in DC on February 19 that attracted an estimated 1,500 people.

Socialist Organizer does not believe that there can be any united front with the right-wing, racist forces that were invited by the Libertarian Party and People’s Party to address the gathering. The inclusion – and prominent role at the rally – of leaders of the LaRouche Organization is a case in point. They had two live speakers and one speaker (the head of the LaRouche Schiller Institute) on a giant video screen.

Diane Sare, LaRouche Organization candidate for the U.S. Senate last November, heralded in her platform statement (New Federalist, October 18, 2022) her “30-year collaboration with America’s greatest statesman and physical economist: the late Lyndon LaRouche.” This man was a hardened anti-Semitic, racist, neo-fascist conspiracy theorist who was best known for sending his party members to go bash the heads of leftist activists at the public forums organized by the SWP and Communist Party. The LaRouche-ites acted as goons, with full police protection. The well-publicized objective of “Operation Mop-Up” was to physically destroy these organizations.

Another case in point: The featured (and closing) speaker of the rally was Ron Paul, a longtime Republican member of Congress before joining the Libertarian Party. He devoted his speech to attacking taxation and calling for “less government.” The Libertarians oppose funding for public education, Medicare, Social Security, and the Post Office – which is why it is not surprising that the list of February 19 rally demands did not include any variant of the traditional antiwar call for “Billions for Jobs, Schools, Healthcare, Immigration Reform/DREAMers and Social Services — Not War!”

Ron Paul reduced the fight against the war on working people here at home to a call to end the Fed and stop inflation. Again, this is not surprising: Ron Paul “was the “brains,” as The Atlantic accurately described him, and champion of the mass rightwing racist, anti-immigrant Tea Party and a participant in its mobilizations.

But what about the speech by Jill Stein, presidential candidate of the Green Party, someone might object? She made many excellent points and was by far the best speaker. But she placed these demands in a left-wing populist framework dear to the Occupy movement. She argued that our task is to wage the struggle against the 1 percent on behalf of the 99 percent. This is not a class-based analysis that arms you to fight the capitalist system and its twin parties and institutions. It’s a view, moreover, that enables alliances between left-wing populists and right-wing populists like Ron Paul, such as we witnessed at the Lincoln Memorial. 

This is why Socialist Organizer is calling for “All Out Against the War!” in Washington, DC, on March 18. The march and rally are organized by the ANSWER coalition, in alliance with UNAC, Code Pink, and many other peace and activist organizations.

Should the U.S. antiwar movement include the Russian Troops Out of Ukraine demand?

There is another issue that is dividing the antiwar movement: Should you include the demand of “Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!” along with the demands of “US-NATO Troops Out of Ukraine!” “Disband NATO!” -and “Billions for Jobs, Healthcare, Education!”

We say yes. 

On a more fundamental level, it is important to understand the nature of this war.

Technically, the war of 2022 was initiated by Putin and his regime – that is by a new Russian bourgeoisie that has emerged from the “bureaucratic nomenklatura” and that has rallied to global capitalism on the basis of plundering the vast resources of the former Soviet Union. This is not a regime, albeit thoroughly bureaucratized, that rests upon a workers’ state based on socialized property relations.

The Putin regime, supported by a mafia-like military-industrial complex, by a gang of billionaire oligarchs, is trying to carve out a small place for itself in the capitalist sun. The problem is that U.S. imperialism has no intention of conceding even this small place. This is why we have to understand that, although technically it was Putin’s regime that triggered the war in Ukraine, this is one link in a chain that has seen, since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the growing control of U.S. imperialism over both the world economy and the organization of relations between States on a world scale … giving rise to a number of conflicts resulting from the clash between conflicting interests.

In terms of building a broad-based antiwar movement, we believe that the demand of “Russian Troops Out of Ukraine!” is a means to express our solidarity with both the Ukranian and Russian people, neither of whom have any interests to defend in this war. We believe, as well, that the call for “U.S.-NATO Troops Out of Europe!” cannot be separated from the demand to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. To denounce Russia, while remaining silent on the U.S. government’s role in creating and escalating this conflict, as the AFL-CIO leadership has done, is simply to join the camp of the warmakers.

In our view, the March 8, 2022, statement by the Labor Fightback Network [see excerpts below] explains correctly why this demand must be included. Having said that, we must stress one key point: We who live in the belly of the beast must focus our demands and our protests against our own imperialist government.

The antiwar issue is pivotal today; the U.S. is siphoning more than $900 billion of our money to foment massive death and devastation in Ukraine and across the globe. China is the next target. 

There is no task more urgent today than to put a stop to the warmongers and their military-industrial complex.

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Excerpts from LFN Antiwar Statement of March 8, 2022

The demand for Russian troops to withdraw from Ukraine is a most urgent one. The war is escalating and could soon engulf other countries neighboring Russia. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed. Millions have become refugees in Poland and elsewhere.

At the same time, more than 4,000 Russian antiwar protesters have been jailed and face up to 15 years in jail for daring to denounce Putin’s war in Ukraine. The Labor Fightback Network stands in solidarity with their struggle to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine.

We also oppose the call for sanctions against Russia, as the only ones who will suffer are the people of Russia. The billionaire oligarchs won’t be affected in the least. Sanctions can only lead to mass hunger and even starvation.

The demand of “U.S.-NATO Troops Out of Europe!” cannot be separated from the demand to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine. To denounce Russia, while remaining silent on the U.S. government’s role in creating and escalating this conflict, as the AFL-CIO leadership has done, is simply to join the camp of the warmakers.

The second demand of March 6 Global Day of Action – “Stop NATO Expansion” – is principled but it fails to address the very existence of NATO as a war machine directed against all the peoples in the region.

We prefer the demand that “U.S. Withdraw from NATO!” This formulation points to the need to dismantle NATO, which has long been a tool of U.S. imperialist expansionism in Eastern Europe and which set the stage for the current war in Ukraine.

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La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue No. 377  –  February 25, 2023  –  Editorial

This Is When It All Really Gets Going!

By Daniel Gluckstein

A “reform that is ultimately modest in the savings it brings … , but rich in real symbolic force … . It indicates, finally, the right direction: work rather than tax.” So says the editorial writer of [daily newspaper] Le Figaro (13 February). Things are clearly stated: the aim of the pensions reform is to increase the exploitation of workers (“work”) and to inflate capitalist profits (less tax).

Workers, you whom the reform condemns to two more years of exploitation pulling pallets, carrying loads, transporting the sick; you from whom this reform wants to steal two years of your life, you will know that, for the capitalist class, it has above all the value of a “symbol” of the super-exploitation that the government and the bosses want to impose on you.

More and more workers are grasping this issue. In one factory, the discussion was taking place on Monday the 13th: “The strike numbers are very big”, says a worker. “Yes, but the government won’t budge because it has Article 49.3” (1), says another. “Why don’t the unions call for the country to be brought to a stop, for everyone to strike for withdrawal [of the pensions bill]?”, asks a third. “On March 7? We have wage negotiations coming up at our workplace, maybe we’ll even go on strike before that.” Discussion in a workshop, like those taking place on other factory floors, departments, schools and offices. Everywhere, the possibility of an all-out strike to prevent the government’s plan was discussed.

The inter-union call to “bring the country to a standstill on March 7” is not the origin of this discussion being conducted “down below.” Rather, it is a consequence of this collective reflection which has seen workers seriously discussing the situation and organizing themselves for several weeks.

The day after the powerful day of action on February 11, the capitalist press was quick to conclude: “A few more days of sterile shouting and fury in the National Assembly, and then the reform will pass. And Macron can prepare his constitutional reform, etc.”.

This scenario – their scenario – is based on a reality: the Constitution allows a law to be passed, even without a majority in the National Assembly.

Unless… Unless the working class, through its organized movement, sweeps away the pre-established patterns.

In the February 11 demonstration in Paris, the slogans launched by the Democratic Independent Workers’ Party (POID) – and in particular: “If Macron does not want to withdraw his reform, he must go, and take his reform with him” – were widely taken up by demonstrators of all origins and all political and trade union schools of thought. More and more workers are aware of the need to put an end to this capitalist government. This puts on the agenda the question of a workers’ government that will serve the interests of the majority.

Contrary to what some commentators claim, nothing has been decided yet. On the contrary, this is when it all really gest going, when everything is possible. Through the thousand and one links which, in workshop and factory meetings and in union assemblies, patiently and methodically forging the workers’ chain, the chain of an all-out strike to make the government back down. It is in the service of this policy that we are building the Workers’ Party.

•   •   •   •   •

(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 tabled within 24 hours by the opposition in the National Assembly and then passed.

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Pensions: Power Grab at the National Assembly,

It’s Up to the Workers to Solve the Problem!

February 19 Statement by POID

• February 16: Stock market prices break a new record, promising monstrous profits for shareholders.

• February 17: Macron announces that France is committed to the war in Ukraine for many years and will spend hundreds of billions on it.

• February 18: The “debate” on pension reform comes to a close in the National Assembly. Without even a vote, the bill is sent to the Senate. Minister Dussopt declares that this coup de force is “in conformity with the Constitution ».

On this point, Macron is right.

The Constitution of the Fifth Republic is tailor-made for the needs of capitalists and warmongers. When it comes to robbing workers of two years of their lives to make more profits for the multinationals, or when it comes to closing schools and hospitals to finance the war, the Constitution allows everything. This includes passing the pension reform without a single vote “for” in the National Assembly. This is what a former president of the French Republic called the “permanent coup d’état.”

But nothing has been settled.

Since January 19, millions of workers and young people have been on strike and demonstrating in the streets for the withdrawal of the Macron-Borne bill.

Yes, the withdrawal in its entirety! Because every article of this “reform” is an anti-worker attack: the 64 years, the 43 years of pensionable service, the measures that aggravate discrimination against women workers, the abolition of special programs. …

Millions of people have mobilized. Millions remain mobilized. They responded positively to the call by the trade unions to “strengthen the movement by bringing France to a standstill in all sectors on March 7.”

Despite the government’s lies and propaganda, all sections of the population – workers, employees, young people, managers, shopkeepers, craftspeople – consider this reform to be unjust and support the strikes and demonstrations.

So how can we impose the withdrawal?

The proof is in the pudding that there is nothing to expect from the anti-democratic institutions of the Fifth Republic. Only the relationship of forces will make Macron, Borne and Dussopt back down.

“Bringing the country to a standstill”: This is the means available to the workers, united with their organizations, to impose the withdrawal.

Bringing the country to a standstill means that the workers take matters into their own hands to solve the problem.

Already, in many workplaces, workers have started to meet to work out how they are going to organize themselves to “shut down” their workshop, their office, their department, their school.

By contacting colleagues in other workplaces, departments, etc., they are organizing the shutdown of the whole company, or of all the schools in a town… Together with the unions, “shutdown organization committees” are being formed for the total withdrawal of the “reform.”

The Independent Democratic Workers’ Party has no interests separate from those of all workers. That is why it supports the movement by which workers and young people are organizing this total strike, the only weapon in their hands to roll back this antidemocratic and anti-working-class regime.

The Independent Democratic Workers’ Party is a staunch opponent of the Fifth Republic. It is a supporter of genuine democracy. For us, it is the practical movement of the workers to defend and regain their rights that will pave the way for a democratic Republic, a government of the majority, a government of working people.

• Down with the war!

• Confiscate the hundreds of billions of euros earmarked for the Military Preparation Law and redirect these sums for wages, pensions, public services!

• In unity, let’s impose the total withdrawal of the Macron-Borne “reform!”

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Capitalism: A System That Destroys

By Coral Wheeler

Capitalism can’t save us from the wholesale destruction of most life on the planet. Indeed, the system that produces not for human need, but to enrich the small but powerful capitalist class, has proven to be a destructive force both for working people and the environment. Climate change and the increasingly brutal environmental catastrophes that result, along with the glaring disparity in the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, are all evidence of its devastating impact.

The relentless pursuit of profit has led to debilitating poverty, the increasing certainty of a new world war, and worsening environmental degradation, with fracking, deforestation, water contamination, and the potential world-ending heating of the planet as just a few of the immediate calamities to which the human race is being subjected.

The time is now to prevent the irreversible heating of the planet

By preventing and delaying any meaningful response to the human-induced heating of the Earth, capitalism is driving us ever and ever closer to the so-called “tipping point” in the climate crisis — a rise in the global temperature beyond which certain climate systems such as the polar icecaps or the Amazon rainforest, start to irreversibly decline. This leads to a runaway effect that ultimately means the end of most life on the planet, even if global temperatures retreat at some point in the future. 

The oil and gas industry, supported by politicians on both sides of the aisle, has used its wealth and political power to influence policies and delay action on climate change, to disastrous effect. According to OpenSecrets, a watchdog group that tracks money in politics, the top recipient of political contributions from the oil and gas industry in the Senate in 2022 was Democrat Joe Manchin. Manchin received $1.18 million in campaign donations in 2022 and reported $491,949 in income from a coal company he owns in West Virgina in a 2020 disclosure. In 2022, Manchin notably blocked provisions in his own party’s climate and social programs bill that would have reduced fossil-fuel emissions.

This opposition to any environmental regulations, as well as the persistence of anti-science climate denial by right-wing media figures and politicians, has hindered progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, leading to a continued rise in global temperatures and the acceleration of the climate crisis. And the delay on any significant action has already led to more frequent and intense natural disasters, rising sea levels, and devastating wildfires.

The 2019 fires in Australia burned for nine months, killing or displacing nearly three billion mammals, reptiles, birds, and frogs, and displacing over 65,000 people. As with a similar increase in the frequency and intensity of fires in California and the Amazon, these Australian brushfires can be directly linked to the failure to address climate change, with global warming causing the heating and drying of brush, making it more susceptible to burning.

Global response to the pandemic shows the priorities of capitalism are profit over people

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed the inherent failures of capitalism in caring for the health of humankind. The irrational prioritization of intellectual property over human life has limited access to life-saving vaccines and medical care in certain parts of the world, with countries such as India and South Africa being denied waivers to patent laws, limiting their ability to quickly produce and distribute the life-saving vaccines.

Although a limited form of the waivers was eventually passed by the WTO, it came 18 months after it was initially requested. During those 18 months, how many lives were lost because Democrats like Joe Biden, joined by capitalist politicians in Europe, delayed their approval?

Even in our own country, it is the working class and marginalized communities that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. The lack of access to adequate healthcare for certain sectors of the population has led to a glaring disparity in COVID deaths, with age-standardized data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that that “Hispanic people, American Indian and Alaskan Native people, and Black people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as their White counterparts.” The exploitation of the healthcare industry by pharmaceutical companies has also driven up the cost of drugs and medical treatments, making them inaccessible to millions.

Environmental impacts primarily felt by communities of color

Capitalism’s destructive impact on marginalized communities also manifests in the phenomenon of environmental racism. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by polluting industries and toxic waste sites. Indigenous communities – living on the small portions of their former lands that were either sold or given back to them as reservations with limited rights of sovereignty, after having been stolen by U.S. imperialism – are often targeted for oil, gas and mineral extraction, leading to polluted water and an increased risk of environmental disasters.

Furthermore, the residents of Flint, Michigan, — predominantly Black — have been subjected to a lead-contaminated water supply due to the failure of state and federal governments to enforce basic safety and environmental regulations.

The public health crisis resulting from elevated levels of lead exposure has caused serious health problems in the community, including neurological damage and increased risk of cancer. More than eight years after the Flint water crisis was created by the corruption of these politicians and corporate greed, bottled water distribution has ended at help centers in Flint. Despite the lack of recent reporting on the disaster in the news, and the belief among many that the problem has been solved, the man-made emergency is continuing into 2023.

Capitalism marches to war – and the death of billions

Potentially the fastest path capitalism can take for the widespread eradication of a majority of life forms on the earth is the recent frantic and terrifying push to war. Capitalism’s inherent drive for profit and the subsequent competition among imperialist nations for resources and new markets leads to conflict and wars.

With Biden approving an Obama-era policy that leaves the option of using nuclear weapons to respond to non-nuclear threats on the table, and with the increased posturing and tension between the United States and China over trade and geopolitical interests, as well as over Taiwan, the current conflict has the distinct possibility and even probability to lead to a third world war, complete with nuclear annihilation. This could mean a potential mass extinction event at an extremely accelerated timescale.

The threat is very real, as we witnessed with the missile strike that hit the Zaporishzhia nuclear power plant, the largest such plant in Europe, an errant bomb or missile could strike any one of Ukraine’s five other nuclear power plants, unleashing a massive radioactive fallout that could dwarf the fallout from Chernobyl.

The threat of a third world war, with its devastating consequences for human life, highlights the urgent need for a radical change to society. Only a socialist society, based on prioritizing human need over corporate profit, offers hope for a future free from the threat of war and the horrors of imperialism.

Capitalism’s inherent drive for profit leads to human and environmental destruction

This drive for profit has wrought enormous environmental damage as well as caused the death of millions of people. 

A glaring example of our generation is the rampant use of the powerful herbicide/defoliant Agent Orange by the United States during the Vietnam War. Over a ten-year period, between 1961 and 1971, U.S. forces sprayed more than 20 million gallons of herbicides in Vietnam as well as in Cambodia and Laos with the explicit intention of defoliating trees and shrubs as well as destroying food crops. 

Manufactured by Monsanto and Dow Chemical, Agent Orange was the most widely used (13 million gallons) but Agent Pink, Green, Purple, White and Blue were spread as well. Aside from the immediate impact of destroying ground cover and the food supply, the effects of this genocidal rampage remain with us to this day. Dioxin, the primary chemical compound, is a toxin in even minute doses and lasts for many years in soil and sediment of rivers and lakes disrupting the food chain and potable water. 

The Vietnam Red Cross estimates that 3 million Vietnamese were affected, including 150,000 children born after the war with serious birth defects. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers were exposed, too, with consequences now recognized as including various cancers and Parkinson’s Disease.

The time has come for working people and the poor to join forces and fight against the push to war.

Yes, NATO is the instigator in the current conflict, but Putin does not deserve our support. Putin and the oligarchs that control Russia are not acting in the interests of the Russian people — the war is as devastating to them as it is to the working class worldwide. 

We say: Russian Troops Out of Ukraine! U.S.-NATO Troops Out of Europe! Disband NATO – Close All U.S. Military Bases Worldwide! No Sanctions! Ceasefire Now! Neither Putin nor Biden! No support for Warmongering Governments! Not One Penny, Not One Weapon for this Unjust War! Billions for Jobs, Schools, Healthcare & Social Services — Not War!

It is with these demands that delegates from 31 countries came together in Paris on October 30-32 at a World Conference Against War and Exploitation, and why thousands mobilized on December 9-11 in 42 countries, and that many more will be mobilizing across the globe on February 24 and 25, which marks the year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The struggle against war, the fight against environmental destruction, environmental racism, and the fight for equitable response to outbreaks of disease, are inseparable from the struggle against capitalism. Only the defeat of the private ownership of the means of production and its class of profiteers and war-mongers — indeed only a worldwide socialist revolution — can prevent the annihilation of nearly all living organisms on the planet. Capitalism won’t save us, we must save ourselves from capitalism.

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