Monday, June 20, 2016

The French Labor Movement and Marxism

[Cf. NYT article after comment]
"The Communist Party and Mr. Martinez share a view of class struggle and unending worker exploitation, according to several experts on French unions." I can't help but think that if we had the level of class consciousness of the French we would not have to choose between HRC and Trump, and Sanders ( whose views have been likened to those of an Eisenhower era liberal Republican) would have been a shoo-in.
["I'm no more socialist than Eisenhower" -- Bernie Sanders, Time Magazine 11-15- 2015 online] Do we even have a Left left?
Thomas Riggins

Commitment to Class Conflict Drives Leader of French Labor Unrest

PARIS — All up and down the boulevard, store windows were smashed — at a Starbucks, a supermarket, a handbag store. Young men clambered on top of bus shelters. Even a children’s hospital was attacked. The police brought out tear gas and a rarely used water cannon.

Even for a country used to unruly labor protests, the violence on the streets of Paris on Tuesday was a shock. But days later, the man behind the antigovernment protests that have rippled across France was barely apologetic. If anything, he promised more.

Philippe Martinez, the mustachioed boss of one of France’s biggest labor unions, the General Confederation of Labor, known as C.G.T., has mobilized tens of thousands of workers and sent them coursing through the streets of French cities for weeks.

This past week, it was Paris’s turn. Mr. Martinez — 55, stocky, pugnacious and combative — ordered over 600 buses to ferry union protesters from the provinces to a march here, which drew tens of thousands of demonstrators on Tuesday.

The protests are aimed at stopping a government push for a new labor law that would make it slightly easier to hire and fire workers. But they are also part of a struggle between competing visions for France’s future, experts on French unions say.

For unions, the government’s proposed labor law is another step by President François Hollande to move France to the center in order to address the challenges of a global economy. Mr. Martinez, those familiar with him and his union say, has a different vision, shaped by decades of close ties between his union and the French Communist Party, of which he was a longtime member.

The Communist Party and Mr. Martinez share a view of class struggle and unending worker exploitation, according to several experts on French unions. Mr. Martinez, a Renault car factory worker, declined to be interviewed.

“He agrees that class struggle is the watchword of history, and that workers are necessarily in combat against bosses,” said René Mouriaux, a leading historian of the French union movement. In Mr. Martinez’s view, he added, between bosses and workers “there can be compromises, but no definitive agreements.”

Three weeks ago, Mr. Martinez’s workers went on strike to block the printing of France’s national newspapers for a day after newspapers refused to publish a commentary he had written. The Communist newspaper L’Humanité was the only one to print it.

“Philippe Martinez, the man who wants to bring France to its knees,” read a recent headline in the right-leaning newspaper Le Figaro. An article in the left-center newspaper Le Monde called him “the Lider Maximo of the protest movement.”

On Friday, Mr. Martinez angrily denied that the protest had been connected to the violence at the march through Paris, which left the Boulevard du Montparnasse, a main artery of the city’s Left Bank, looking like a war zone.

“The hooligans are there to discredit our movement,” he told journalists in the courtyard of the Labor Ministry, vowing to continue the marches until the government gives up its labor law.

But despite Mr. Martinez’s belated disavowals, violence, including serious injuries, has been a constant feature of his union’s protests over the past few months.

Paris’s police prefect has released photos of union members ripping up paving stones to be used as projectiles. Mr. Martinez said they had simply been defending themselves.

Philippe Martinez, center, the head of the General Confederation of Labor, at a protest against a proposed labor law last month in Paris. Credit Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
Shocked by the smashed windows at the children’s hospital, Mr. Hollande said a ban on future demonstrations was possible, provoking outrage among some members his own Socialist Party.

“There’s no reason for us now to back down from our days of mobilization,” Mr. Martinez told reporters on Friday after a fruitless meeting with the labor minister to end the standoff. “For three months, the government has been counting on us to lose steam. It’s been a bad bet.”

Mr. Hollande’s government is equally unlikely to back down. It is pinning its hopes of denting France’s chronically high unemployment on a law that would only slightly relax negotiating conditions between workers and management.

The change is considered mild by most economists, but has been deemed hopelessly pro-capitalist by Mr. Martinez’s union and even by members of Mr. Hollande’s party.

Months of protests have weakened the proposed law, and it no longer includes a mechanism to cap payouts to fired workers. The law would also define more precisely how companies could lay off workers — currently an arduous process in a country where workers are highly protected.

But the part of the proposal that most infuriates C.G.T. and a few other unions would allow labor agreements negotiated by individual companies — over such issues as hours worked, paid holidays and bonuses — to take precedence over agreements negotiated at the occupational sector level.

That change would weaken the power of unions such as C.G.T., and it has made Mr. Martinez see red. “You’ve got to respect the hierarchy of norms,” he told reporters on Friday, while leaving the door slightly open to possible exceptions.

Yet with each new burst of violence in the streets, the government is increasingly dismissive of Mr. Martinez and his motives. Some government officials say that the violence will backfire and put the French on the side of the labor law, and that Mr. Martinez is using the violence to shore up his base.

If so, the union leader is doing a good job. France has among the lowest rates of unionization in Europe, and C.G.T., which represents train workers, metalworkers, public sector workers, miners and others, has been losing members for years. Between 1975 and 1993, it lost nearly two-thirds of its members, and now stands at about 686,000.

Today it is made up of mainly hard-core militants, analysts say. The old-fashioned language of class struggle was much in evidence among the crowds at Tuesday’s march, underscoring how many of France’s contemporary struggles are rooted in both the language and facts of its history.

“I Am in the Class Struggle” was a sticker sported by many protesters. “Work Is a Crime Against Humanity,” read another. “Victory in Chaos,” someone had scrawled on a building. “The Struggle Is About Class Against Class,” read one billboard.

Mr. Martinez moves easily among these views. His father fought in the Spanish Civil War in the International Brigades against the fascists, and his mother was a housekeeper.

C.G.T. was founded in 1895, and its “explicit aim was to bring down the state,” said another historian of French labor, Nick Parsons of Cardiff University in Wales. “It still has that anticapitalist orientation.”

“This is a guy who was brought up in that sort of atmosphere,” Dr. Parsons added. “He’s imbued with that history and culture.”

Mr. Martinez has shown a willingness to compromise in negotiations as a metalworker representative in preceding decades, Dr. Parsons noted. But that side is not evident now, with polls showing that most French people are still opposed to the labor law.

The class struggle continues.

“It shouldn’t be called the ‘law on work,’ but the ‘social dumping law,’” Mr. Martinez yelled during a recent speech at a factory in southern France. “We’re not close to giving up. The stakes are high — for today’s workers, for the young, for our country.”

Sunday, June 19, 2016

U.S. Should Ally With Russia To End Fighting in Syria

[Cf. New York Times report after the following comment.]
Like it or not the Syrian government is the internationally recognized legal govenment of that nation and is a fellow member of the UN with the United States (the UN was founded so that member states would not attack one another). It is outrageous that the U.S. is funding mercenaries trying to overthrow that government. The civil war would have long been over and peace restored if the U.S., Saudi Arabia and their allies were not funding the so-called rebels and keeping the war going as an excuse to feed money into our own military industrial complex. ISIS exists as a by product of U.S. and its puppet NATO's interference in the Middle East.
If the U.S. is serious in ridding the world of the baleful influence of ISIS it will call off the dogs of war it is funding in Syria and join with Russia to knock out ISIS and the NUSRA FRONT and other anti-Syrian govenment jihadists posing as "moderate" Islamists. The U.S. and Russia can then work with the Syrian government and the United Nations to rebuild that ravaged nation and help the millions of displaced and immigrant families to return to their homes. The major threat to the peace of the world, as everyone except Americans seem to know, is the U.S. drive to maintain world military supremacy and political hegemony over all other nations. All the conflicts going on in the Middle East (Including Israel/Palestine), the Korean peninsula, the South China Sea, Africa, and Central and South America, and our own streets for that matter, stem from this insatiable drive for economic domination backed by military threats and interventions. That fact we are about to elect HRC who is a firm believer in all of the above including a conflict with Russia over a no fly zone in Syria will put the American people at odds with the people of the world at large. We are digging our own graves if we can't create a political movement to counteract the imperialist dreams of our ruling class.
Thomas Riggins


U.S. Tells Russia of ‘Strong Concerns’ About Strikes on Syrian Rebels

Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, second from the left in the back row, visited the Russian air base in Syria on Saturday. Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, via Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Senior American and Russian defense officials held what the Pentagon described as an “extraordinary” videoconference on Saturday to discuss Russian airstrikes that days earlier hit a garrison manned by Syrian rebels backed by the United States.

The Russian strikes hit Syrian opposition fighters on Thursday at the al-Tanf crossing, which lies on Syria’s border with Iraq. The rebels there are battling the Islamic State, the Pentagon said, and are also supposed to be covered by a partial cease-fire that the United States and Russia brokered in February.

During the videoconference on Saturday, Pentagon officials “expressed strong concerns about the attack” on forces that are fighting the Islamic State, Peter Cook, the Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement.

American officials told the Russians that their strikes had continued even after they were officially informed of allied air support underway for the rebels and that this had “created safety concerns for U.S. and coalition forces,” the statement said.

Though fighting has tapered off in many areas since the cease-fire went into effect in February, there have been fierce clashes in recent weeks in areas of northern Syria where the Islamic State and the Nusra Front are strongest. American officials have accused Russia of failing to stop the forces of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, from violating the cease-fire and attacking rebel groups backed by the United States.

There was no immediate word on how Russian officials responded to the concerns expressed by American officials on Saturday. But the videoconference took place as Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, met with Mr. Assad in Damascus and visited the Russian air base in Syria, The Associated Press reported.

Since the Russian air campaign in Syria began in September, it has helped Mr. Assad’s forces reclaim territory, reversing the fortunes of a regime that at this time last year appeared to be in an increasingly perilous position.

American-backed rebel forces, in contrast, have continued to struggle on the battlefield against both Mr. Assad’s forces and the Islamic State, and more than 50 State Department diplomats recently signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration’s policy in Syria.

The memo pressed for American military strikes against Mr. Assad’s government to stop what it said were persistent violations of the cease-fire. American policy has been “overwhelmed” by the violence in Syria, the memo said.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Saudis and 9/11

To some, a classified section of an inquiry into the terrorist attacks points to Saudi involvement, while the country’s foreign minister says, “There is no there there.”
"To some, a classified section of an inquiry into the terrorist attacks points to Saudi involvement, while the country’s foreign minister says, “There is no there there.”"

Well, if there is no there there make public the 28 classified pages -- Snowden where are you? By the way, there is more evidence in this NYT report of Saudi complicity in 9/11 than there was of Iraq's (0 evidence) or Afghanistan's (0 evidence). We invaded Afghanistan because its government refused to "hand over" bin Laden not because it knew about or participated in 9/11. The NYT article makes it clear that Saudi govenment officials fed and housed and aided 2 of the highjackers. The Saudi government also sends money and material to the jihadists in Syria that we are fighting against! Some ally. So why does the US coddle and defend the Saudi's when every finger of suspicion that they were part of the 9/11 attack is pointing at them? Because fighting "terrorism" is just a lot of bunk that the US leaders (Democrat or Republican) feed to a gullible and ignorant American people to hide what is really going on -- namely a fight to control the world's oil and other resources and justification to spend billions, even trillions, of dollars on the military industrial complex -- i.e., the private corporations that the US military has been created to defend (normally referred to as "us"). We are now about to have a great election where "we" will choose one of two puppets of that complex to rule over us. Oops -- actually only one is a puppet -- Trump has upset the applecart, he is not part of the traditional Republican/Democratic military industrial complex -- this is why the Republican leadership is running around like a chicken with its head cut off -- they lost control. Clinton will be the next president: the Republicans have failed to serve their masters but the Democrats have proven their loyal submission to our rulers (they rejected  Sanders overturning their applecart ) and demonstrated that they are still capable of keeping the people's eyes covered with wool. Unfortunately for us Trump represents a crypto-fascist (maybe not so crypto) mass movement, which shows that, with the abominably low educational levels and political consciousness of our people, fascism has a better chance than socialism of coming to power.
Thomas Riggins

Monday, June 13, 2016

Andrew Cuomo's attack on the First Amendment


Andrew Cuomo’s Anti-Free Speech Move on B.D.S.

In trying to support Israel, the New York governor is restricting people’s rights.

Authoritarian attacks on the Consitution and Bill of Rights are not the sole preserve of Republicans and Donald Trump and his supporters; Andrew Cuomo, a so-called liberal democrat has launched his own war against freedom of speech and expression by issuing an executive order to use state power against those who advocate boycotting Israel to pressure its government to make peace with the Palestinians and withdraw from the West Bank. This is a massive violation of First Amendment rights and had Donald Trump advocated it the Democrats would be howling in protest about dictatorship (while at the same time praising Israel and condemning the boycott, they would not have ignored the illegality of the use of state power to deny citizens the right to express their opinions nor passed up the opportunity of exposing Trump's antidemocratic tendencies: will they protest against one of their own?)
Thomas Riggins