By Patrick Martin
The ongoing mass protests in Wisconsin underscore the utter ruthlessness of the ruling class in its determination to drive down the living conditions of workers, not only in that state but throughout the United States.
The political reality that is ncovered up by the American media is the brazen and brutal use of power by an entire social class.
The privileged financial elite in the Us is prepared to use violence to achieve its ends. This kind of language is similar to what would have been used by Mubarak in Egypt or Gaddafi in Libya as they prepared a brutal crackdown.
The attacks on state workers aren't just a series of disconnected episodes, but as part of a broader struggle to crush the working class and turn back the clock by decades, in terms of their social rights.
This attack is being waged in states throughout the country, as well as by the federal government, under both Democratic and Republican Party leadership.
Workers must understand of the nature of the conflict they find themselves in. They face a ruling elite that has declared war.
While the ruling class is politically mobilized, with two parties working consciously to achieve its ends, workers have yet to build mass organizations capable of countering this attack and advancing the interests of the vast majority of the population.
American trade unions are incapable of defending themselves, let alone the working class. In Wisconsin, officials of the state employee and teachers’ unions openly embrace all the cuts demanded by Walker in the income, benefits and workplace rights of the workers.
They are balking only at those demands—ending the dues check-off and automatic union recognition—that threaten their own incomes.
Decades of labor-management collaboration, anti-Communism, and denial of the class struggle—in which the very term “working class” was banned and replaced by “middle class”—have separated the interests of the trade unions from those of the working class.
As the ruling elite is waging a ruthless struggle to defend its ill-gotten wealth, the unions are irreconcilably hostile to a socialist struggle based on the expropriation of the financial aristocracy and the coming to power of the working class.
Instead, they tie the working class politically to the Democratic Party, a big business party whose representatives, no less than the Republicans, defend the profits of the giant corporations and the wealth of the ultra-rich.
In state after state, Democratic governors are making the same demands on public employees as Walker in Wisconsin, only preferring to use the unions to help extract concessions from the workers.
Indeed, the Obama administration is one of the main agents of the financial aristocracy’s war on the workers. As his administration pours trillions into bank bailouts and bonuses for Wall Street executives, he adamantly refuses to help bankrupt state and local governments.
He is also imposing wage freezes on federal workers, while preparing a budget with hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts aimed overwhelmingly at working people.
Three years into the biggest crisis of the capitalist system since the Great Depression, the American political system has revealed its class character in the most brazen possible fashion.
The Democrats and Republicans rescue billionaires and corporations, while demonizing schoolteachers and street sweepers as “overpaid” and “privileged.”
For millions of working people, the events in Wisconsin are a wake-up call. The working class must recognize—as its enemies surely do—that it faces a serious and protracted struggle.
The conflicts in Wisconsin, and in other states and cities throughout the country, are not separate and isolated events, but part of an ongoing class war.
Gov. Scott Walker stops at nothing to make his friends "richer"
By Patrick Martin
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled state legislature are moving to slash wages, gut health benefits and undermine pensions.
Walker will impose a legal straitjacket on public employees, stripping them of collective bargaining rights over anything but wages, and requiring any wage rise above the rate of inflation to be approved by a statewide referendum vote.
No such controls are proposed, of course, for the gargantuan salaries of corporate CEOs or the windfall profits of the banks and big business.
Nor will there be any limits imposed on the financial institutions that handle the issuing of state bonds—headed by Citigroup, the lead underwriter.
The “sacrifices” decreed by the governor apply only to working people: Walker has actually increased the state deficit to provide tax cuts for Wisconsin-based corporations.
The events in Wisconsin are a clear indication that the US is entering a new period of social upheaval.
The working class is driven into struggle by the objective crisis of capitalism and by the determination of the ruling class to defend its wealth through a ruthless attack on all the rights of working people—the right to a job, to a living wage, to education, health care and a secure retirement.
The budget deficit in Wisconsin is a tiny fraction of the wealth of the country’s billionaires. Indeed, the total budget deficit of all 50 states is about one-tenth of the net wealth of only the 400 richest Americans.
This wealth, and the trillions expended to bail out the banks, must be reclaimed to meet the basic social needs of vast majority of the population.
What is required is a political struggle, which begins from the understanding that nothing can be defended so long as the working class is subordinated to the Democratic Party and the capitalist two-party system.
The representatives of the capitalist class, in proclaiming that the preservation of capitalism requires the destruction of the jobs and living conditions of the vast majority of the population, are in fact acknowledging the historical bankruptcy of the system they defend.
The reemergence of the class struggle will bring with it a revival of the fight for socialism. As the American working class enters a new era of social upheaval, the critical task now is the building of a revolutionary party to lead these struggles.
Israel loses its Egyptian ally
The challenge to Israel of the revolutionary changes now underway may well be existential, depending on how it responds to these events. With Mubarak gone, Israel may once again be a pariah nation in the region.
Netanyahu’s government has already proved that even if Zionism is not racism, Zionists can be racists.
By denying Palestinians a state of their own and bringing about an apartheid state, it may yet succeed in persuading the world that Zionism as practised by Israel is indeed no different from the settler colonialism that existed in South Africa.
Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt is what ruled out a successful military challenge by the other countries in the region. Egypt has by far the most effective military force in the Arab Middle East, and no Arab military challenge to Israel would have been dared without Egypt’s participation.
A change of government in Egypt that brings to an end Mubarak’s policy of supporting America’s coddling of Israel will seriously undermine Israel’s strategic situation.
Moreover, Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel is unlikely to survive if Egypt’s treaty is abrogated – Jordan wouldn’t want to risk being the only Arab country to maintain normal relations with Israel.
No matter what further changes there may be in the region, developments in Tunisia and Egypt have already drastically curtailed the ability of surviving Arab regimes to move towards a rapprochement with Israel.
It is unlikely that the Arab Peace Initiative, disdained by Israel for nearly a decade, will remain on the table. No surviving Arab regime will dare challenge the popular rage against Israel for the humiliations it inflicts on the Palestinians.
While the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the prime cause of the current upheavals, the failure of Arab regimes to halt Palestinian dispossession is not far from the top of the list of popular grievances.
By Kathleen Christison
The U.S. complicity in Israeli expansionism, and the desperate acquiescence of the Palestinian leadership in Israeli demands for its surrender, have now been exposed in the massive document leak by al-Jazeera.
Dubbed the Palestine Papers, the collection of almost 1,700 documents was obtained from unknown, possibly Palestinian, sources and covers a decade of “peace process” maneuvering.
So far, there is only silence from the Obama administration, which is implicated in the documents along with the Bush and Clinton administrations. But reaction around the world is voluble and hard to ignore.
Palestinians, the documents show, offered compromises that verge on total capitulation. At a time in 2008 when talks with then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert were coming to a head and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was pushing hard, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his colleagues offered Israel the 1967 borders, the Palestinians’ right of return, and Israeli settlements on a silver platter.
The Palestinians would have agreed to let Israel keep all settlements in East Jerusalem except Har Homa; allowed Israel to annex more settlements in the West Bank (altogether totaling over 400,000 settlers).
They would have agreed to an inequitable territorial swap in return for giving Israel prime West Bank real estate, and settled for the return of only 5,000 Palestinian refugees (out of more than four million) over a five-year period.
And still Israel rejected the package of compromises, which they said “does not meet our demands” -- presumably because their principal desire is that the Palestinians simply disappear.
The Palestinian eagerness to offer Israel such massive compromises has been the most prominent story from the Palestine Papers.
But the story of the pressure one U.S. administration after another has exerted on Palestinian negotiators to make these concessions and accommodate all Israel’s demands shows U.S. conduct throughout almost two decades of negotiations to be perhaps the most cynical, and indeed the most shameful, of the three parties.
By Simon Assaf
The tyrant has fallen. Mubarak has gone. Israel’s man, imperialism man, the US’s man, the World Bank’s man, has been deposed. Mubarak has been swept away by one of the greatest mass movements in history.
The “moderate strongman” so loved by imperialism presided over a regime of cruelty, nepotism and corruption that went beyond silencing democracy activists. It touched all Egyptians, and reached across the Arab world.
Now the consequences for imperialism, Israel, the dictatorships and oil kingdoms are in the balance.
Mubarak rose to power on the back of a huge surge of reaction that spanned the Arab world following a peace deal with Israel—signed by his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in 1979.
He played a key role in the “disengagement”—a US strategy to break the alliance of Arab countries resisting Israel and imperialism.
The Camp David Accords that Egypt signed with Israel in 1978 freed the Israeli army to launch its deadly invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Mubarak was silent when this invasion ended with the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Chatila.
Mubarak’s regime was complicit with Israel’s long occupation of south Lebanon. He rallied Arab regimes to isolate Hizbollah and the Lebanese resistance during the 2006 war, and helped fund US clients in Lebanon.
Mubarak lent all his weight to crush the Palestinian Intifada from 1987, ordering Egyptian journalists to describe the Palestinian resistance as “terrorists”. Only with his help could Israel keep its grip on the Palestinians in Gaza.
He was a man the US could do business with. He sent troops to fight alongside the US in the 1990 Gulf War and opened the Suez Canal to warships on their way to Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He turned Egypt into a giant prison, and lent his torture chambers for “special rendition” in the “war on terror”.
Mubarak opened the country to the worst ravages of neo-liberalism. He imposed the privatisation of industries and encouraged the return of landlords who were deposed in the 1950s.
His dream of transforming the country into the “Tiger on the Nile” condemned large sections of the population to poverty. The wages for Egyptian workers, some just £3.26 a month, have remained unchanged since 1984—while inflation has rocketed.
Unions were banned, activists jailed and tortured. The factories were handed over to his cronies or global companies. Mubarak and his corrupt friends—known as the “one thousand families”—amassed huge amounts of wealth. He ran the country as his fiefdom, fixing elections and jailing opponents.
With Mubarak gone, Israel has become isolated, and every regime in the Arab world is now vulnerable. The mood of fatalism that had gripped the Arab world for decades has now evaporated.
This revolution has destroyed 30 years of US and Israeli strategy in the Middle East. At the beginning of the demonstrations Israel’s Haaretz newspaper described Israel as being in “strategic distress”.
For imperialism and its allies in the Middle East, this has now become strategic despair.
By Bill Van Auken
With his speech on Thursday night, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak threw down the gauntlet to the mass protests and growing strike wave that have rocked his regime for nearly three weeks.
After widespread media reports that Mubarak would announce his resignation—and rumors that he had already fled the country—the Egyptian president appeared on national television to declare that he would “remain adamant to shoulder my responsibility, protecting the constitution and safeguarding the interests of Egyptians” until elections are held and his term expires next September.
His remarks, which included vague promises to pursue “national dialogue” and to repeal police state measures in the country’s constitution once “stability allows”, included an announcement that he was delegating some of his presidential duties to his hand-picked vice president, the longtime chief of the regime’s secret police, Omar Suleiman.
Suleiman, a key ally of the US Central Intelligence Agency, then delivered an even more ominous speech. He demanded that Egypt’s millions of demonstrators and strikers “go back home” and “go back to work.” He warned them to “join hands” with the regime, rather than risk “chaos.” And he urged them not to listen to those promoting “sedition.”
The reaction of the millions of demonstrators assembled in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, central Alexandria and in towns and cities across the country was one of stunned disbelief followed by uncontrollable rage. Crowds that had been singing and dancing in celebration of Mubarak’s anticipated downfall began waving their shoes in the air in a sign of hatred and contempt for the US-backed dictator. Thousands were reported to be marching from Tahrir Square to the national state television headquarters and the presidential palace, both ringed by barbed wire and heavy troop deployments. In Alexandria, the majority of demonstrators reportedly left the center of the city to march on the local army base.
With even more millions expected to take to the streets on Friday, the likelihood of a bloody confrontation between the Egyptian military and the masses in revolt is growing. If murderous repression is unleashed, the political and moral responsibility for the dead and wounded will lie squarely with the Obama administration in Washington.
The decision of Hosni Mubarak to hold on to the Egyptian presidency was not, as the shallow and duplicitous reporting of the American media would have it, a matter of one man’s obstinacy or “military pride.”
Rather, it was the outcome of intense discussions within both Egypt’s own ruling establishment of corrupt capitalists and military commanders and within the corridors of power in Washington and other imperialist capitals.
Involved is the classic debate that besets every reactionary regime confronted with a revolutionary challenge from below. Some insist that at least nominal concessions must be made to defuse the revolutionary threat. And others counter that to make such concessions will only strengthen the revolution and hasten the downfall of the regime.
There are reports from Cairo that the military command, which Thursday convened its “supreme council”—a body that had met previously only during the wars with Israel in 1967 and 1973—was beset by just such divisions. It was Mubarak’s absence from the meeting that convinced many that his departure was already secured.
In his speech, Mubarak made an absurd attempt to appeal to nationalist sentiments by vowing not to bow to “foreign diktats”, by which he meant orders from Washington. However, the reality is that the Obama administration had in the previous days made it clear that it had accepted the Egyptian president remaining in office, while placing its full support behind the country’s chief torturer, Suleiman, as the organizer of an “orderly democratic transition.” It stressed that it was focusing on “process” rather than “personalities.” In other words, what Mubarak and Suleiman announced on Thursday was precisely what the Obama White House had promoted.
Whatever differences exist between the Obama administration and the dictatorship in Cairo are of an entirely tactical character. Within the US administration—as within the Egyptian regime itself—there are no doubt divisions as to whether salvaging the regime can best be accomplished with or without Mubarak, through a direct assumption of power by the military or by some intermediate means.
Israel, Washington’s principal client state, was even more categorical. Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom announced that any democratic opening was impermissible, because it would strengthen “radical elements.”
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama held private discussions with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi and other Persian Gulf potentates, all of whom urged the US to back Mubarak against the Egyptian masses. The fear, both from the semi-feudal monarchs and Washington itself, is that if an uprising succeeds in overthrowing the Egyptian dictator, these other US-backed regimes may fall as well.
Speaking hours before Mubarak’s speech, Obama declared in relation to Egypt, “What is absolutely clear is that we are witnessing history unfold.” He added, “Going forward, we want ... all Egyptians to know that America will continue to do everything that we can to support an orderly and genuine transition to democracy.”