Saturday, March 2, 2013

Fwd: SEP Newsletter: 15 Years of the World Socialist Web Site

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Date: Mar 2, 2013 1:00 PM
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World Socialist Web Site

Socialist Equality Party Newsletter

Below are a selection of recent articles published on the World Socialist Web Site. Read the WSWS every day at Take up the fight for socialism! Join the Socialist Equality Party! For more information and to get involved, click here.


WSWS 15th Anniversary Chronology: The Year in Review 2000

When the first issue of the World Socialist Web Site was posted on February 14, 1998, the corporate media was proclaiming the irreversible triumph of the capitalism and "the end of history." A new era of peace and prosperity had supposedly dawned. What followed, however, was the unending "war on terror," the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, a devastating collapse in working class living standards, unprecedented attacks on democratic rights, and, in the face of these events, profound cultural and intellectual disorientation.
The International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site is posting a year-by-year Chronology, selected from its archive of more than 45,000 articles, to provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the critical events of years 1998 to 2013. We urge our readers to study the Chronology, and review how the great events, political issues, social processes, and cultural and intellectual controversies of the last 15 years were reported on and analyzed by the WSWS.
This week, the WSWS posted its third installment in Chronology. Read the full essay for 2000 and previous years here.
People around the world rang in New Year's Day 2000 with hopes that the new millennium would bring a better world, one with less violence and poverty. For their part, the ruling classes proclaimed that social convulsions and revolutions were a thing of the past and the next period would be one of triumphant capitalism.
The World Socialist Web Site took note of the ever-widening social and economic divisions within capitalism in the United States and internationally. We stressed that global financial instability and intensifying conflicts between rival nation-states presaged a new period of wars and political upheavals
In the course of the year, this assessment would be born out, first by the collapse of the dot-com bubble on the stock market, then by the greatest political crisis in more than a century in the United States--the 2000 presidential election. The outcome of the presidential election was in doubt for more than a month after the votes were cast. Finally, the Supreme Court intervened to halt vote-counting in Florida and award the state's electoral votes, and with it the White House, to George W. Bush.
While maintaining intransigent opposition to both corporate-controlled US parties, the Democrats and Republicans, the WSWS explained that the bitter struggle in Florida was of decisive importance to the working class because of what it revealed about the break with democratic norms by all sections of the US ruling class.
Read the full essay for 2000 and previous years here.

Workers rebel against right-wing unions

27 February 2013
Four-and-a-half years after the financial collapse of 2008 there are many signs of growing militancy in the working class internationally.
In response to the crisis, the ruling class is imposing unprecedented austerity measures along with layoffs and wage cuts. The general consensus in parliaments, government chambers and corporate boardrooms is that the working class, the vast majority of the world's population, must pay for a crisis they did not create and for which they are not responsible.
The mass social struggles that emerged in 2011 are now entering a new stage. Strikes continue in Egypt against the US-backed regime and the International Monetary Fund; transit and ferry workers in Greece have gone on strike and Spanish workers have carried out mass protests against the European Union's austerity demands; auto workers in France have occupied factories threatened with closure; tens of million of workers in India shut down much of the country in a two-day general strike last week.
In each of these struggles common problems arise. While there is no lack of the will to fight and the courage to prevail, every section of workers has been forced to confront the question of leadership and organization. To the extent that they remain under the control of the trade unions and the so-called "left" parties, the struggles are directed back into the political establishment and betrayed.
The objective logic of the class struggle, however, is driving the working class in a different direction. Workers are seeking to break free of the decades-long stranglehold of right-wing bureaucracies and the artificial suppression of social conflict.
Late last year, South Africa platinum miners revolted against the National Union of Mineworkers, which functions as a cheap labor contractor for the global mining companies. The response of the NUM was to collaborate with the African National Congress government in the use of force to suppress the rebellion.
In Germany, auto workers at the GM-Opel plant in Bochum have begun to call for the withholding of union dues and a mass exodus from the IG Metall trade union, which has done nothing to fight the closure of the factory.
For the ruling class, the prospect of working class struggle outside of the framework of the official unions is deeply unsettling. Nowhere are the implications of this development more explosive than in the United States.
The US is the most unequal of all industrialized countries. Yet for three decades, as the wealth of the financial aristocracy has soared and the living conditions of masses of working people have deteriorated, every struggle of the working class has been isolated and defeated. In this, the official trade unions have played the central role.
Against this background, the formation of a rank-and-file committee by New York City school bus workers emerges as a highly significant development.
Workers formed the committee in the aftermath of the betrayal of the strike by 9,000 school bus drivers, matrons and mechanics by the Amalgamated Transit Union and the rest of the city's unions. Although there was widespread support for a struggle against the city's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, the ATU, the AFL-CIO, the subway and bus unions, the teachers' union and the rest of the city unions isolated the strike. It was shut down without a membership meeting or vote, and with none of the workers' demands met.
From the beginning, the ATU made it clear it was willing to accept Bloomberg's plan to reduce the school bus workers to low-paid, casual workers, as long as the ATU maintained its franchise and was allowed to continue collecting dues money from workers' pay checks, no matter how small the checks. The ATU leaders sought to use the workers as pawns, hoping to convince Bloomberg and big business that they could accomplish their cost-cutting more effectively with the union than without it.
The course of the New York bus workers strike paralleled that of countless struggles. Confronting a ruthless ruling class, workers are trapped in organizations that accept the entire corporate-dominated framework and work actively for the defeat of the workers they claim to represent. The impoverishment of the workers does not in any way detract from the income of the upper-middle class executives who run the unions.
The precondition for a serious and effective struggle is an organizational break with the official unions. The workers themselves are beginning to recognize this.
At the start of the New York meeting to set up the rank-and-file committee, a veteran school bus driver announced this was "not a union meeting," but a meeting "by the members and for the members." This statement reflected the growing awareness that the interests of the union and the interests of the members are fundamentally antagonistic.
The transformation of the unions into anti-working class organizations is not simply the result of corrupt officials, but rather the failure of their entire program, which is based on the subordination of the working class to the profit system and the global needs of American capitalism, carried out centrally through the political subordination of workers to the Democratic Party.
As the struggle of workers begins to erupt outside of the framework of the unions, the growth of militancy is accompanied by a growing receptivity to the perspective of socialism. In the course of the school bus strike, many workers came to recognize that the only publication that told the truth and articulated their interests was the World Socialist Web Site. Our warnings against the treachery of the union and our exposure of the role of the Democrats were completely vindicated in the living experience of the workers themselves.
Many political issues remain to be clarified. But the growing striving of American workers to break with the pro-capitalist trade unions and their openness to socialism is a historic change with the most far-reaching implications for the class struggle internationally. Millions of workers are coming to an understanding that they confront not only a particular corporation or government official, but an entire socio-economic system.
The militancy, anger and determination of workers must be combined with and enriched by a thoroughly worked-out political program that articulates the real interests of working people in opposition to the policies of the ruling elites in the US and around the world. As the experience of the New York City school bus strike shows, only the Socialist Equality Party is fighting to arm the working class with such a program. We call on workers who see the need for such a struggle to join the SEP and help build it as the new, revolutionary leadership of the working class.
Jerry White

Washington escalates Syrian bloodbath

1 March 2013
Meeting in Rome with the so-called Friends of Syria--fellow NATO powers and the reactionary Sunni monarchies of the Gulf states--Washington's new secretary of state, John Kerry, announced on Monday that for the first time the US will begin funneling "non-lethal" aid directly to the armed militias seeking the overthrow of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
On its face, the new aid fell short of impressive. US officials spoke of providing the so-called Free Syrian Army with medical supplies and the US military's Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) field rations. In addition, Washington has announced it is providing an additional $60 million in "humanitarian aid" to areas held by the Western-backed rebels.
Kerry indicated, however, that these public acts to assist the anti-regime militias were merely the tip of the iceberg. "We're doing this, but other countries are doing other things," Kerry explained.
While not going into detail, the meaning was clear to anyone following the civil war in Syria. In recent months, more advanced weaponry has poured across the country's borders, paid for by Washington's key Arab allies, the monarchical dictatorships in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and covertly organized by the CIA.
Meanwhile, the European powers are discussing proposals to stretch the definition of "non-lethal" assistance to include military equipment ranging from body armor and night-vision goggles to armored vehicles, all of which will be used to sharply escalate the lethality of the Syrian conflict.
A statement issued at the close of the meeting in Rome described the Syrian National Coalition--a formation cobbled together by the US State Department at a luxury hotel in Doha last November--as "the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people." Kerry appeared at a joint press conference with Mouaz al-Khatib, the Sunni preacher and ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, whom Washington is grooming to become the Syrian equivalent of Iraq's Ahmed Chalabi or Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai.
The US-sponsored coalition was supposed to convene a meeting Saturday in Istanbul to announce the formation of a "transitional government." It was reported on Thursday, however, that the meeting had been postponed, likely due to another falling-out over the division of posts and spoils.
Taken together, these steps point to the elaboration of a strategy for ever-more direct US military intervention in Syria.
Demands for such action are becoming increasingly shrill in the media and sections of the ruling establishment. The Washington Post, for example, published an editorial Thursday demanding that Washington "move decisively to break Syria's bloody stalemate" or risk losing "what may be a last chance to partner with the more moderate forces challenging Mr. Assad and to steer the country toward a new regime that the West could support."
It calls on the Obama administration to engineer the formation of a "full-fledged alternative government on Syrian territory...recognizing it as the legal government of Syria. That would legitimize the supply of arms and allow the U.S. military to protect the Syrian population with airstrikes or Patriot anti-missile batteries, if that were necessary..."
Increasingly, the argument is being advanced within ruling circles that the US must intervene aggressively because of the danger that Al Qaeda-linked forces will dominate the anti-Assad forces and pose a threat to US interests if the regime collapses.
This amounts to US imperialism pointing to its own crime to justify an even greater atrocity. By all accounts, the Al Qaeda-linked elements of Jabhat al-Nusra and foreign fighters are playing the decisive role in prosecuting Syria's civil war.
As the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, the al-Nusra front "is now seen as the most powerful force in ... rebel areas along the Turkish and Iraq borders." The Journal went on to quote Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as declaring, "The Syrian conflict is gong to be as big, if not bigger, than Afghanistan was in the 1980s in terms of mobilizing jihadi fighters."
Of course the mobilization in Afghanistan was carried out under the auspices of the CIA, then in alliance with Osama bin Laden and the organization that became Al Qaeda. While publicly claiming to be involved in a never-ending global war against Al Qaeda, once again, in Syria, Washington has utilized these reactionary Islamist forces for the purpose of overthrowing a secular regime seen as an obstacle to US hegemony in the Middle East.
The results of this policy have been catastrophic. Syria, following in the wake of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, has seen its entire society torn to pieces as a result of a US-backed war for regime change, with tens of thousands killed and wounded, the country's economy devastated and its population confronting a humanitarian crisis of tragic proportions.
A recent report prepared by the Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR) estimated that the losses to the country's economy over the last 22 months amounted to $48.4 billion--the equivalent of 81.7 percent of the country's GDP for 2010. It estimated that GDP had declined by 18.8 percent in 2012, this on top of a decline of 35 percent since the fighting --together with punishing Western sanctions--began. According to the report, losses to the country's capital stock amount to $42 billion, with the outright physical destruction of plants, equipment and buildings accounting for $20.8 billion.
The US-backed "rebels" have systematically looted the economy in areas of the industrial capital of Aleppo that have fallen under their control, stripping factories of their goods and machinery and smuggling them across the border to Turkey.
The war has sent nearly one million refugees fleeing across Syria's border to escape the fighting. Another estimated two million are internally displaced within Syria. According to the United Nations, three quarters of the refugees are women and children.
The US-backed war is destabilizing the entire region as Washington attempts to utilize regime change in Syria as a means of redrawing the map of the Middle East to suit its own interests and to prepare for a far more dangerous war against Iran.
If the Obama administration now feels it can move ahead toward more direct military intervention, it is in large measure thanks to an official "antiwar" movement that has been thoroughly integrated into the Democratic Party. Pseudo-left organizations have functioned as adjuncts of the CIA in promoting "humanitarian" intervention and portraying a bloody sectarian conflict as a "social revolution."
Nonetheless, the policy of military aggression abroad, like that of austerity at home, is deeply unpopular among working people, the vast majority of the population. Preventing another catastrophic eruption of American militarism depends upon the political mobilization of the working class against the root cause of war, the capitalist system.
Bill Van Auken

Sequester cuts: A new stage in the assault on the US working class

2 March 2013
With the launching of $85 billion in domestic spending cuts this year, and $1.2 trillion over the next decade, the American ruling elite has dramatically escalated its drive to place the full burden of its crisis on the working class. The across-the-board cuts in health care, housing, education, public transit, jobless benefits, nutrition assistance and other social services, under the so-called budget sequestration that took effect on Friday, have been presented as temporary reductions pending a bipartisan deficit-cutting deal.
In fact, these cuts will never be fully restored. On top of the $1.2 trillion in cuts enacted by the Obama administration and Congress last year, they establish a new base line for even deeper cuts to come.
At the same time, the escalating impact of the cuts, including mass layoffs and furloughs of federal workers and a chain reaction of cuts and layoffs at the state and local level, will be used to generate a crisis atmosphere and soften up the population for the imposition of historic attacks on the basic health and retiree benefit programs--so-called entitlements--upon which tens of millions people rely.
No less devastating will be the economic aftershocks of the spending cuts, which are expected to cause close to a million job losses after the worst quarter of economic growth since the 2008 crash.
Absent in the phony debate and media blather on the deficit is any reflection of the social crisis bearing down on ever wider sections of the population, or any expression of the needs and interests of working people.
Behind the partisan mud-slinging, the stepped-up offensive against the working class is the product of a conspiracy between the Democrats and Republicans, spearheaded by the Obama administration. In a press conference Friday, Obama professed concern over the impact of the cuts on ordinary people. He postured as the proponent of a "fair" and "balanced" approach to deficit-cutting, and the defender of the "middle class."
This pose amounts to calls for token tax increases on the rich in addition to spending cuts, and attempts to shift all blame for the sequester cuts on the Republicans, who reject any tax increases.
At the same time, Obama signaled to his real constituency--the corporate-financial aristocracy--that the cuts will be permanent. "In the absence of a decision on the part of the speaker of the house and others to put middle class families ahead of whatever political imperatives he might have right now," Obama said, "we're going to have these cuts in place."
He reiterated that his central targets are the core social programs remaining from the reforms of the 1930s and 1960s--Medicare and Social Security. Any eventual bipartisan budget deal, he made clear, would include major cuts in these entitlement programs.
Obama stressed that previous White House proposals--including slashing hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare, raising the eligibility age for the program, and cutting Social Security benefits--remained on the table.
"I'm prepared to take on the problem where it exists on entitlements, and do some things that my own party really doesn't like," he said.
Cuts to these programs, something opposed by close to 90 percent of the population, according to opinion polls, were previously seen as the "third rail" of American politics. The Democrats and Republicans under Obama have conspired to create a series of manufactured crises--the 2011 debt ceiling deadline, the January 1 "fiscal cliff," and now the sequester--to blackmail the population into accepting the slashing of these programs as the long-term "solution" to what they portray as a looming deficit disaster.
Obama's cynicism knows no bounds. His pretense of concern for working people bears no relation to what he has done in the White House--overseeing handouts to the rich and attacks on workers--and what he intends to do.
The sequester cuts are entirely in line with the agenda Obama brought with him when he entered the White House in 2009. The budget projection he presented that year called for a reduction in domestic discretionary spending to 7.4 percent of the US gross domestic product by 2013, and to just 6.3 percent by 2019. This compares to 7.9 percent in the final year of the Bush administration.
It was, moreover, the White House that proposed the sequestration cuts as part of the budget-cutting deal reached with the Republicans in 2011.
Obama has repeatedly boasted of bringing domestic discretionary spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration. Since taking office, he has overseen the elimination of 719,000 federal, state and local government jobs. If the pre-2008 trend in government hiring had continued through Obama's first term, there would be two million more government employees than there are now.
It is no accident that Obama made gestures in support of gay marriage and women's rights on the eve of the sequester cuts. "I was pleased to see that the House passed the Violence Against Women Act yesterday," he said at his Friday press conference, and noted that his administration had filed a brief the previous day urging the US Supreme Court to overturn a California law banning gay marriage.
These were calculated moves to shore up his support among liberals and middle-class pseudo-left groups, such as the International Socialist Organization, whose obsession with racial and gender politics has provided the ideological framework for their transition into the camp of US imperialism. Obama's sops to gay and women's rights were designed to provide these forces with political cover for their support for his austerity agenda.
The World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party call on workers and youth to reject the entire framework of the so-called debate on the deficit. Working people are not responsible for and must not be made to pay for the failure of the capitalist system.
The central claim of the ruling elite and its political mouthpieces--that "there is no money" for jobs, education, health care, housing, pensions--is a lie. The American financial elite has never been richer. Even as the government was launching its attack on social programs, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was heading for a new record high. Corporate profits and CEO pay continue to soar, subsidized by trillions in virtually free loans and bailouts from the Treasury and the Federal Reserve.
The resources exist to provide good-paying jobs, decent education, housing, health care and pensions for all. These resources are, under the profit system and the two-party monopoly that defends it, concentrated in the hands of a tiny parasitical elite.
Workers should reject all demands that they "sacrifice" to bail out this modern-day aristocracy. Instead, they should demand that all of the cuts already enacted be fully restored and hundreds of billions of dollars be made available to secure their basic social rights to jobs, education, housing and health care.
These demands can be met only through the united mobilization of the working class in opposition to the Obama administration, the two parties of big business, and the entrenched wealth and power of the financial oligarchy. The Socialist Equality Party fights for the development of a mass socialist movement of the working class to establish a workers' government and nationalize the corporations and banks under the democratic control of the working population. This is the only basis for reorganizing economic life on the basis of social need, not private greed.
Andre Damon and Barry Grey