The recent strike and mass mobilisations of teachers and their supporters in Chicago were significant for those who opposed them. The Democrat Barack Obama and the Republican Mitt Romney aligned themselves against this fight to defend public schools. In contrast, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein expressed solidarity with the movement and was invited to speak at a rally.
Chicago's teachers have successfully fought off an assault on their union, school children and public education launched by Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and even pushed him back in some respects. The strike and mass mobilisations of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) ended on September 19 when the teachers went back to work. The evening before, the elected House of Delegates, which represents teachers throughout the system, voted by 98% to end the strike.
The Chicago teachers’ strike entered its third day on September 12. This strike is of national significance for a number of reasons: * It is a militant fightback against the ruling class onslaught to destroy public education being carried out by Democrats and Republicans across the country. * It is aimed at the policies of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party machine in Chicago headed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, longtime aide, advisor and fundraiser for Obama. *It is being organised by a new rank-and file-leaders with a class-struggle perspective.
The election rallies of the mis-named “conventions” of the twin parties of Wall Street are over. The Tea Party-dominated Republicans have gone sharply to the right. Is supporting the Democrats the way to fight the rightward shift in US capitalist politics? Many who consider themselves leftists or even socialists reply “yes”. Let us look at the record.
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate for the November presidential poll signaled the takeover of the Republicans by the Tea Party, at least through the election. Ryan’s record as a Congressperson puts the representative from Wisconsin squarely on the far right of capitalist politics. Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Republican representative from Missouri Todd Akin, who thinks that women cannot become pregnant from a “legitimate” rape. It sought to narrow the definition of rape to reduce the number of poor women who can get abortion through Medicaid.
In the early evening of August 6, a series of explosions at the Richmond Chevron oil refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area sparked a huge fire that burned for hours. The fire sent a huge black cloud that went for miles over densely populated areas. Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to stay in their homes, with windows and doors closed. Local authorities issued a level three warning, meaning the cloud would cause eye, skin, nose and respiratory sickness.
Wade Michael Page, a Nazi white supremacist, entered a Sikh temple in a town near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on August 5 and opened fire with a semi-automatic pistol, killing six and wounding three others. Page also shot a police officer who arrived on the scene, critically injuring him. After being wounded by another officer, Page killed himself. Page’s ex-girlfriend, who belonged to the same local Nazi group he did, was later arrested on a weapons charge, but has not been implicated in the attack on the Sikh temple. See also:
Police shot and killed a 25-year-old Latino man, Manuel Diaz, in Anaheim, California, in his front yard on July 21 Diaz was not armed. Within hours of the murder, hundreds of angry residents took to the streets in protest. The cops attacked the demonstrators with clubs, pepper spray and bean bag bullets. One protester was grabbed by a cop (who had his hand on his gun) for carrying a protest sign as he was walking toward the demonstration. He was charged with “jaywalking.”
Tens of thousands marched in June from 110th Street in Harlem down to billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s swank residence on 79th street in Manhattan. The demonstrators protested the huge levels of police racial profiling and harassment in New York City, that has developed over the past decade. The overwhelming majority of marchers were African Americans and Latinos. A multiracial contingent of LGBTI people also participated, reflecting another group singled out by the city administration.
One aspect of the drive by the super rich to make working people bear the brunt of the new Depression is to attack the social wage. Part of this attack is the serious erosion of public education. This predates the crisis that began in 2007, but the recession that followed has been met with a sharp increase in such attacks. The failure of the federal government to adequately fund public education cascades down to the states and cities, who all cry there is not enough money, so cutbacks are necessary.
In a split decision the United States Supreme Court largely upheld the health insurance law, the Affordable Health Care Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The key provision upheld by the nine robed reactionaries in a five-to-four split decision mandated that all US citizens have to buy health insurance from the private insurance companies beginning in 2014, or pay a penalty. This approach was originally proposed decades ago by right- wing think tanks as an alternative to national health insurance for all.
The United States Supreme Court has upheld the core provision of Arizona’s vicious anti-immigrant law. The part of the law upheld requires police to determine the immigration status of anyone they stop, for whatever reason, if they “suspect” they are undocumented. Arizona Governor Jan Brewster claims the law would not result in racial profiling. But she is lying through her teeth. Everyone knows that in Arizona, the only grounds for “suspicion” is having brown skin. No white person will be “suspected” of not having papers.
United States President Barack Obama announced on June 15 that deportations of undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children would be put on hold for two years. During this time, they could apply for work permits. About 800,000 young people could be affected. To be eligible, these youths must be 30 years old or younger, and have come into the country before they were 16. They must be in school, be high school graduates or military veterans and have no criminal records.
In a much-watched election on June 5, Republican Scott Walker handily defeated Democrat Tom Barrett in a recall election for governor of Wisconsin. Walker is on the right wing of the Republican Party and Barrett on the right wing of the Democrats. Walker was first elected in late 2010. When he took office early last year, Walker launched a drive to smash public worker unions. In response, there were huge mobilisations. Public sector unions went on strike and organised mass demonstrations in the capital city of Madison, the largest of which mobilised 100,000.
Workers in the United States know they are losing ground in the current Depression, as they are watching the rich going in the opposite direction. A decline in real wages comes on top of stagnation of wages in the three previous decades. A new report issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says: “The recent recovery in the United States appears unusual from a historical perspective … with a much stronger rebound in profits relative to labor income.
Anti-war soldiers headed a protest against the NATO summit in Chicago on May 20. Thousands poured through the streets in the largest anti-war demonstration seen in the United States for some time. The turnout was inspired by the Occupy movement that broke out last year, which helped legitimise street protest again. From conflicting accounts, the march involved about 10,000 people. See also: SYRIZA to anti-NATO protesters: 'Bring the war home!'