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Aug 22, 15

All the News You Didn’t Even Know Was Going Down

Originally posted to It’s Going Down

In Chicago, in the face of massive cuts to education and layoffs to teachers, community members have staged a hunger-strike since Monday inside a shuttered school they want to re-open. One hunger striker stated they are prepared to remain outside Dyett School “as long as the creator allows us to be out here. We don’t plan to leave,” he said. “We plan to be here.”

Chicago, which was the scene of a massive teachers strike several years ago, is still on a path towards austerity with help from the Democrats, union leaders, and teachers’ union Vice President, Jess Sharkey, also a member of the International Socialist Organization. As Kristina Betinis wrote:

If anyone expected the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to oppose the cuts and layoffs they would have been sadly mistaken. Speaking at the end of the hearing on the north side, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, a leading member of the International Socialist Organization, gave advice to CPS officials on how best to wipe out teachers’ jobs.

Referring to potential layoffs of more teachers in the midst of the school year if the $480 million budget gap is not resolved, Sharkey expressed his preference for immediate layoffs, saying, “If you lay us off now, we can look for new jobs. If you let us go in the middle of the year, that’s our livelihood.”

Sharkey’s comment is only the latest confirmation of the right-wing character of the ISO, which is little more than an adjunct of the Democratic Party. The organization, which has nothing whatsoever to do with socialism, accepts without question the necessity for austerity, teacher layoffs and other anti-working class attacks. In his position in the leadership of the CTU, Sharkey functions as every other union bureaucrat enforcing the dictates of big business and the capitalist political establishment.

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In Compton, California, hundreds of students walked out of school in protest of horrible conditions and also carried signs against teacher layoffs, classroom sizes, and budget cuts. According to one ABC report:

A group of more than 200 Dominguez High School students made their voices heard during a walkout Thursday to protest what they say are horrid conditions at the school.

“Our books are tagged on, they’re ripped. They’re messed up. You can’t read them. They have missing pages that you can’t even read,” said Kacey Odom, a student. The students refused to go class in protest of just about everything, including an infestation of cockroaches and rats. “We have rat poop everywhere in some of the special ed classes. We have dust everywhere, which some students are allergic to,” described Luz Ramirez, another student.

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In Atlanta, Georgia, Dhoruba bin Wahad, former political prisoner and Black Panther, gave a news conference along with Kalonji Jama Changa about a recent attack on them by the New Black Panther Party. Wahad and Changa stated that they were attacked due to political differences and Wahad’s jaw was broken. According to the report:

A bruised and battered Dhoruba bin Wahad (former Richard Moore) and Kalonji Jama Changa held a news conference on August 18 in Atlanta, Georgia, to denounce the New Black Panther Party. The two men and four others were assaulted in an Atlanta hotel ballroom ten days earlier by members of the group. Changa is the coordinator of the Free the People Movement and was leading several of his members in a protest against the New Black Panthers.

Meanwhile, in Ferguson, St. Louis, and across the US, protests continued in response to a multitude of police killings. School children also held a march in Ferguson, Missouri for Jamyla Bolden that went to the Mike Brown memorial, after the young girl was killed in a non-police officer involved shooting. Ferguson police were on hand and took part in the march in an attempt to smooth over relations with the community.

More protests continued across the US in response to continued shootings and deaths in and out of custody. As of this writing, police in the US have killed 748 people in 2015.

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In the US South, vandalism and protests continued against Confederate statues and symbols.

 

In the California State prison of Susanville, guards shot an inmate to death during a prison riot.

In Honolulu, protests continue by indigenous groups to stop the construction of a telescope atop a sacred site. Further arrests have been made.

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In Vancouver, Downtown Eastside residents held a solidarity march and demonstration with the Unist’ot’en camp and pipeline blockade. From the report:

The rally and picket drew attention to the intimate links between resource extraction and real estate displacement in British Columbia. As Seb Bonet writes in the Downtown East: “To many people who are Indigenous or living with low incomes, pipelines and cranes represent the latest in a long series of displacements.”

In Columbus, Ohio today thousands of union members protested the Koch brothers and their “Defending the American Dream” summit.

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In further labor news, in the auto and steel industry, several large contracts are coming up and some are predicting angry battles erupting. As Jerry White commented:

Workers in the steel, auto, airline and telecom industries have already faced, or are about to face, contract expirations, and sentiment is spreading for a unified struggle to recoup lost income and win significant improvements.

Contracts covering 30,000 steelworkers at ArcelorMittal and US Steel facilities in the US expire on September 1. Two weeks later, on September 15, contracts run out for 140,000 autoworkers at General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. This has thrust these workers into a fight not only against the corporations and their Wall Street financiers, but also against the Obama administration, which has spearheaded the drive to slash labor costs for big business.

Meanwhile, in various US cities, Planned Parenthood clinics are bracing for protests by anti-abortion groups.

In ecological news, resistance to fracking pipelines continued, and some researchers are saying that human activity is helping to kill forests across the world. As Motherboard writes: 

“For millennia, drought has been a key disturbance agent in temperate forests,” Millar and Stephenson said. “Over the past few decades, however, rising global temperatures have contributed to droughts of a severity that is unprecedented in the last century or more.”

“[E]xceptional droughts, directly and in combination with other disturbance factors, are pushing some temperate forests beyond thresholds of sustainability,” the team concluded.

Forests that have been severely dehydrated by megadroughts suffer from water depletion, and they also turn into enormous tinder piles that can feed megafires. On top of that, temperate forests coincide with heavy population densities, so there a lot of anthropogenic stressors on them as well, like pollution, industrial development, and invasive species.

“[T]he actions we take now in temperate forests can ease and guide transitions, diminishing effects to forest ecosystems and human societies,” Millar and Stephenson said.

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In Mexico, Oaxacan teachers continue to struggle. As one report reads:

Mexican teachers are mobilizing once again —demonstrating by the tens of thousands—this time against anti-union reforms and the militarization of the state of Oaxaca by its governor Gabino Cué Monteagudo from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Nine years after the 2006 teachers’ rebellion, Oaxaca is bracing for another potentially violent conflict.

For the last year, tens of thousands of Mexican teachers have demonstrated, carried out lengthy strikes, seized highway tool booths and government buildings, and clashed with the police and army. These teachers, mainly from the southern and western states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Michoacán oppose the 2013 education reform, which grants the government power to evaluate the country’s 1.4 million teachers and remove them if they don’t pass a standardized test. President Enrique Peña Nieto argues that the reform will improve education for the country’s youth, but teachers insist that it is designed to break the union, weaken public education, and destroy what’s left of the country’s social compact.

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Normalistas continued to take action in Guerrero, Mexico. According to one report:

Tuesday, Normalistas belonging to the United Front of normal public of Guerrero ( FUNPEG ) continued their protests demanding the state government deliver 720 [job] seats automatically to all graduates of normal Guerrero. The Normalistas’ 5 buses arrived in the Central Mall Chilpancingo and took a radio station , which is located in the Zapata Avenue. The hooded youths  took the microphone to reiterate its demand that they hand over the place without any type of examination.

From there they marched in the direction of the Autopista del Sol, from north to south, up to the Parador del Marques, blocking the direction from north to south and then turned to return to Chilpancingo. [Then] they headed for the offices of the Internal Control of the Ministry of Education of Guerrero where they went into the building and brought out all the workers of the place. Once all the staff came out, they took the building…

Back in the US, the recent Republican presidential debates point to the bankruptcy and bile of American politics. Candidates, backed by billionaires, are in a rush to out attack immigrants, union workers, and defend ‘traditional values.’ Those on the Left fare no better, with unions lining up behind Hilary and the rest behind Sanders, such as Socialist Organizer and others. As Patrick Martin wrote on the debates:

The ten candidates who assembled on the stage, headed by billionaire Donald Trump, represented and appealed to everything rotten and backward in American society: racism, misogynism, anti-immigrant chauvinism, religious bigotry, militarism and the worship of accumulated wealth.

The tone was set from the beginning by Trump, the real estate developer and reality TV host who has been heading up polls of likely Republican voters. He gives the lead with his demeaning sneers against women, immigrants, his rivals and just about everyone in the universe who is not Donald Trump. The others on the platform attempted to keep up with him in promoting the most prejudiced and backward views.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a demagogue in the style of Joe McCarthy, denounced Obama’s alleged refusal to pronounce the words “radical Islamic terrorism” and declared that the US needed “a president that shows the courage [of] Egypt’s President al-Sisi.” This is the military butcher who has killed thousands of his own citizens after overthrowing the elected president and crushing strikes and protests.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who recently expressed a desire to give public school teachers “a punch in the nose” for opposing school privatization and budget cuts, denounced any restriction on the NSA and other government spy agencies. Christie demonstrated his “toughness” at the expense of the elderly by demanding an increase in the retirement age for Social Security from 67 to 69, together with the imposition of means testing.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee went further, demanding that Social Security and Medicare be funded by a consumption tax. He argued that this would hit “illegals, prostitutes, pimps, drug dealers, all the people that are freeloading off the system now.” He added that the next president should defy the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, declare every fetus a person from the moment of conception, and use executive authority, including federal troops, to shut down abortion clinics.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who came to national prominence through attacks on workers’ rights that sparked statewide protests in 2011, sought favor with the religious right by calling for an absolute prohibition on abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother. “Would you really let a mother die rather than have an abortion?” he was asked. Walker answered in the affirmative.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, asked whether he favored waterboarding prisoners in terrorism investigations, gave an enthusiastic thumbs up.

It was left to Trump to express most crudely the class position of all the capitalist politicians on the stage. He dismissed a question about his use of bankruptcy laws to close companies, default on loans and wipe out thousands of jobs, saying he was only doing what any corporate executive in his circumstances would have done—perhaps the only true statement uttered all evening.

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The plunging of stocks on Thursday over fears of economic slowdowns continue to point to future and continued problems that are part and parcel to the capitalist system and its boom and bust cycle of crisis that continues to wreck the lives of millions. Not discussed anywhere in mainstream discourse is the need to immediately dismantle the entire industrial system as the world’s ecosystems continues to hurtle towards disaster. Meanwhile, the systems of surveillance, military style policing, and homegrown repression abound and grow stronger.

What the candidates on both the Left and Right do represent however, is a commitment to managing the current disaster; to prolonging the crisis. The politicians, if anything, provide a welcome distraction from the continuing train wreck of civilization. For those that seek the destruction of such a system and not its continued existence on life support, what is needed now is strategic action. We will have to intervene in social life, but we must make this push not with the naïve hope that things will somehow get better simply after those in power see our indignation. Instead, we need to act with the knowledge that the whole world must be completely remade. The battle cry of the Argentinian crisis of 2001 rings true, “Que se vayan todos!” They all must go!  

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