Month: April, 2010
Texas to Become Leading Trading Partner with Cuba
worker | April 30, 2010 | 7:35 pm | Latin America, Local/State | Comments closed

By James Thompson

HOUSTON – According to an article in the Texas Tribune on 4/28/10, the Port of Houston has gained permission for its container vessels to sail to Cuba. This development could strengthen Texas’ position as a trading partner with the island nation.

The trade potential is significant. In 2009, the U.S. total trade with Cuba was $521 million. In 2008 it was $710 million. $85 million worth of goods was sent to Cuba from Texas in 2009.

Restrictive trade laws implemented by the Bush administration made trade with Cuba extremely difficult. The policy change was approved by the U.S. Commerce Department, the Bureau of Industry and Security and Cuba’s Alimport agency. It will ease the flow of cargo through the port.

Current legislation is pending before the U.S. House of Representatives which would ease the draconian trade restrictions imposed by the Bush administration as well as previous administrations. H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act would allow U.S. citizens the freedom to travel to Cuba which has been denied them for many years. It would also loosen punitive financial restrictions imposed by the Bush administration in a retaliatory move in 2005. The Bush policy mandates that Cuba pre-pay for its goods through a third country’s banking system. This leaves the Cubans vulnerable, because the U.S. government could seize the pre-payment before the goods were delivered and then stop the delivery of the goods. No other nation in the world has to deal with this punitive trade policy.

Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, states, “The potential economic impact on our nation and region is really too great not to proactively explore restoration of trade with Cuba.” He calls for achieving “peace through commerce.”

Many Texans recognize the potential for increasing jobs as a result of easing travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. In light of the current economic and jobs crisis, it only makes sense to trade with one of our closest neighbors. It is clearly a win-win proposition.

TSU symposium explores the art of the African diaspora
worker | April 27, 2010 | 11:48 am | Uncategorized | Comments closed

TSU SymposiumBy Paul Hill, People’s World

HOUSTON – The Texas Southern University, which is the second largest Historically Black College and University in the U.S., just celebrated the tenth anniversary of the University Museum. The celebration featured a symposium entitled “The John T. Biggers Carroll Harris Simms Symposium: On the art of the African diaspora. Building upon our legacy.”

The symposium was enlightening and instructive. John Biggers was a world famous artist known for his remarkable murals. He and his wife, Hazel, came to Houston and TSU in 1949. Dr. Biggers was hired to start an art department at the new HBCU in Houston. Carroll Simms was a renowned sculptor who also was instrumental in developing the art department at TSU.

Three of the students discussed Drs. Biggers’ and Simms’ legacy. The students were Elizabeth Montgomery, Charles Criner and Jesse Sifuentes. Sifuentes discussed his experience as a student and noted that the two professors “didn’t take anything for granted…and met you where you were at.” He said that Biggers instructed him in the fundamentals and emphasized “craftsmanship.”

Sifuentes also pointed out that Biggers sought to help students understand the importance of using their own culture in constructing their art. Biggers also taught his students the importance of the concept of “continuation” of the process of developing art.

Students remembered that Dr. Biggers was influenced by the world famous Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera and David Siqueiros. He was also influenced by a world famous African American muralist, Charles White.

Since most of the students and faculty were of African descent, there was a great deal of emphasis on Africa and the symbolism of African culture on the continent and in this country.

Charles Criner recalled that Biggers sought to instill the importance of togetherness. Elizabeth Montgomery told the audience that they were introduced to opera and classical music by Simms. They were also taught about the importance of excellence in art. Classes lasted 9 hours and students frequently worked into the wee hours of the morning. Simms taught them that art reflects what has happened, what is happening and what will happen in the future. They were taught that art is the glue of existence and serves to document what is happening in the artist’s community.

The TSU art department is the only university art program in the country that has mural painting as a required course.

Dr. Alvia Wardlaw, curator of the University Museum, said that both Simms and Biggers constantly asked their students questions centering on “What does that mean?” She recalled that both were wonderful storytellers.

The audience was treated to a conversation with the artist’s wife, Hazel Biggers. She told the story of Biggers being denounced by one of his students as a “communist.” She said he could not get a passport to travel out of the country because of this. He was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956 and was subsequently cleared. He and Mrs. Biggers travelled to Africa in 1957 and this was apparently a life changing experience for both of them. According to Mrs. Biggers, the conclusion of the HUAC, which was conducted in Houston, was that the great artist was a “good old boy from North Carolina and those Yankees messed up his mind.”

Biggers continued his activism after these experiences and when the Houston Police Department invaded the TSU campus in 1967, he and his wife provided shelter to injured students in their home in the Third Ward. He also worked to form a committee to investigate the police actions on campus. He worked tirelessly to defend the beautiful murals done by TSU art students which can be seen in Hannah Hall, the main administration building on the TSU campus. There is a major effort underway to have the building and murals which reflect the civil rights struggles of the 50s, 60s and 70s in Houston declared a National Historical Site. There is also an effort to start restoring and preserving the murals since they are starting to deteriorate.

Mrs. Biggers said her deceased husband’s legacy was “respect for women…hard work…and if it’s important, do it and do it well and do it every day.”

Photo: Hazel Biggers, left, and Alvia Wardlaw, Ph.D., curator of the University Museum. Paul Hill/PW

UCUBED: The Machinists’ Website for the Unemployed
worker | April 26, 2010 | 11:44 pm | Labor | 1 Comment

As there are 31 million unemployed workers currently in the United States, the International Association of Machinists has launched a website to organize the unemployed as a force for creating jobs. The Machinists are also spearheading a campaign to demand Congress expand the Food Stamp program by expanding the income requirement threshold for food stamp eligibility to include the jobless and increase the maximum allotted benefit amount. Take action now!

Justice Bus Rolls to Stop Wage Theft
worker | April 17, 2010 | 12:08 am | Economy | Comments closed

By James Thompson, via People’s World

HOUSTON — The Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center assembled a group of 30 labor activists to ride the Justice Bus here to bring attention to wage theft. The Houston action was one of 30 taking place around the country as part of Nov. 19 national day of action to stop wage theft. Wage theft is a national crime wave that takes billions of dollars out of the pockets of millions of workers every year.

The group was ethnically diverse, included men and women representing a number of organizations to include HIWJ, SEIU, Justice for Janitors, United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers, Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Houston Mennonite Church, CRECEN, and AFL-CIO of Harris County.

The first stop was at Sugar Branch Condominiums in Southwest Houston. HIWJ has been trying since September to recover $2,500 in unpaid wages owed three landscaping workers. They have not been paid since April. The workers were pressured to return to work after they stopped working when they were not paid. They returned to work, but still were not paid and were given repeated promises that they would be paid “tomorrow.” Today a delegation met with the president of the Homeowners’ Association and requested that the workers be paid. She denied responsibility and was very upset and shut the door on the delegation. She told the delegation to contact the association’s attorneys.

It seemed ironic that the people in management at these condominiums would rather pay an attorney than the workers that had provided a needed service, the Justice Bus riders commented. “It would probably be cheaper to pay the workers than the attorneys,” said one activist.

Some people said that when workers are not paid, there is cascading effect on the worker, their family and the community. Unpaid workers go hungry, their self esteem is devastated and their families can become hungry and desperate. When they are unpaid, they are left with limited choices to help their families. Some may resort to crime and their family members may also engage in criminal activity so they do not starve. When businesses do not compensate their employees, they are contributing to the deterioration of the community.

All of the stops had a spirited rally outside the business. Participants had plastic water bottles with some popcorn kernels inside, which became loud noisemakers when shaken. Chants accompanied the percussive sounds of the bottles and included, “No more wage theft. Pay the workers. The workers united will never be defeated,” in English and Spanish.

The second stop was at the Honduras Restaurant in Northwest Houston. Here a female employee was paid $4.55 an hour which was two dollars under the minimum wage. Previous efforts by HIWJ to talk with the owner met with physical intimidation, yelling and threats to call the police and INS. Today HIWJ returned with 30 people, but the owner was not available. However, the owner of the strip center came out and when told the situation said he could not tolerate the bad publicity that this action generated.
The third scheduled stop was canceled because the owner, a minister himself, paid the workers on the previous evening in an effort to stop bad publicity and damage to his reputation among his peers in the faith community.

Over lunch, a male worker, Johnny, cried as he told his story to the group of activists. His boss at Supernova Furniture store allegedly owes him $16,000 in back pay. He talked about how he felt isolated and was glad to have the support of other people. As a result of the action, he said he did not feel he was the only one. Olga, a janitor, also cried as she told how her employer, Pritchard Southwest, made her work an extra hour without pay and when she refused to do this, they threatened to fire her. She is owed $697.50 in unpaid labor.

The fourth stop was at the Supernova Furniture store in South Houston. Johnny and a delegation of supporters met with the owners and they agreed to set a meeting with him and HIWJ to try to negotiate an acceptable agreement.

The fifth stop was at Prichard Southwest in the Heritage Plaza in downtown Houston. There the justice bus was met by about 300 janitors, community leaders and their supporters. Pritchard is the only company in Houston that refuses to negotiate a contract with SEIU Local 1 Justice for Janitors. The group loudly demanded that the company sit down with SEIU and bargain in good faith.
Some participants made cell phone calls to companies across the country that contract with Pritchard asking them to tell Pritchard to negotiate with their workers.

A report on wage theft by the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center concludes that worker abuse is widespread in the greater Houston metropolitan area and nationally. One thousand nineteen workers have reported to the Workers Center here and appealed for help in resolving their grievances. The report also notes that wage theft is encouraged by the lack of government enforcement by agencies whose mandate is to protect and defend workers. The report calls for more enforcement of the laws against wage theft by government agencies and the formation of special task forces to address these wrongs.

US imperialists are “hard-pressed” to see the threat they pose to Venezuela
worker | April 8, 2010 | 11:48 pm | Analysis, Latin America | Comments closed

By Arthur Shaw

QUESTION: And also, in Venezuela. Venezuela and Russia – there is this thing that they want to buy and the Russians apparently want to sell them about $5 billion worth of weapons. Have you anything on this? Do you consider this a threat? Do you know which kind of weapons?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, what relationships governments have is up to them. What they do in those relationships is, again, a matter of a bilateral issue between Venezuela and Russia. We don’t care. On the other hand, to the extent that Venezuela is purchasing military equipment, we’re hard-pressed to see what legitimate defense needs Venezuela has for this equipment. Our primary concern is not – if Venezuela wants to acquire these – this equipment, we can probably think of better things that could be invested on behalf of the Venezuelan people. But our primary concern is that – that if Venezuela is going to increase its military hardware, we certainly don’t want to see this hardware migrate into other parts of the hemisphere. And we would simply remind Venezuela that through a number of accords has responsibility for transparency in its acquisitions and must make clear about the purpose of acquiring these materials.

Two days later, April 7, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez described the concerns of the bourgeois and imperialist regime in Washington, over arms deals between Venezuela and Russia, as cynical. Chavez pointed out that the imperialist regime under Obama is fueling the military build-up in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“They are so cynical that they criticize us just because we are trying to strengthen our defense,” Chavez said.

US imperialists spend more on arms than all of the other countries of the world combined. They have over 800 military bases scattered all over the globe which threaten all peoples of the world, including Venezuelans. The runaway military spending of the imperialist US regime has helped to bankrupt the regime, plunging the desperate regime into trillions and trillions of dollars of debt. The ongoing aggressions and occupations by the armed forces of the imperialist regime in DC are exterminating human beings at monstrous rate … 2,000,000 war-related fatalities in seven years so far in Iraq demonstrated by a series of scientific mortality studies, an estimated 5,000,000 war-related fatalities in Afghanistan in nine years, and the fatalities in Pakistan are approaching the magnitude of the Iraqi and Afghan numbers, 30,000 occupation-related fatalities in the two year occupation of Haiti between 2004-2006 that was supervised by the Bush regime. As pretexts for its aggressions against other countries, the imperialist regime resorts to lies, facts, and everything between lies and facts. The imperialist regime in the USA deploys huge non-combat private armies of US mercenaries … 110,000 mercenaries in Iraq … which conduct genocide or mass extermination operations against civilians of countries occupied by US imperialists. The savage regime of US imperialists operates a international network of 70 concentration camps that holds over 500,000 political prisoners, often kidnapped or “rendered” and often tortured or subjected to “enhanced interrogation” before many of them are murdered or “executed or neutralized extra judicially.”

Most of these atrocities or these massive violations of human rights, the US imperialists openly boast about and they argue that their regime has to do these terrible things in order to win the so-called war on terrorism. This is the same argument that Hitler and Pol Pot made.

Like Hitler and Pol Pot, the imperialist regime in Washington is itself the main terrorist.

With this rogue regime in Washington on the loose in the world, the rogue says “We’re hard-pressed to see what legitimate defense needs Venezuela has for this equipment” which Venezuela buys from Russia to defend itself. Clearly, the Obama regime believes that the needs of a country to defend itself from US imperialist aggression, occupation, and genocide is not legitimate.

“We are threatened by the empire,” Hugo Chavez said on April 7.

Why are US imperialists “hard-pressed” to see what are Venezuela’s “legitimate defend needs” given the imperial threat aimed at Venezuela? The only way US imperialists could be “hard-pressed” to see Venezuela’s legitimate defense needs is the imperialists close their eyes to Venezuela’s legitimate defense needs. When one closes one’s eyes, one is “hard-pressed” to see anything. Using its quislings in Venezuela, US imperialism in April 2002 tried to overthrow democracy in Venezuela and set up a brutal bourgeois dictatorship that was friendly to US imperialists. No doubt, the US imperialists are “hard-pressed” to see anything wrong in this 2002 aggression against the Venezuelan people. In 2009, the US imperialists announced they were increasing the number of US military bases in Colombia, a country that borders Venezuela on the west, from three to ten and expanding the size and capabilities of all 10 US military bases in Colombia. No doubt, these US imperialists are “hard-pressed” to see that their military expansionism poses a threat to Venezuela and all of Latin America.

Naturally, US imperialists deny that they were behind the 2002 attempt to overthrow the democratic government of Venezuela. But US imperialists always lie when they are asked to admit their culpability in these things. So, their denials should never be believed, unless confirmed by independent sources. No such sources have so far confirmed the imperial denial.

Among the main threats to Venezuela mentioned by Chavez are US military bases in Colombia, Panama and the Netherlands Antilles, as well as the reactivation of the 4th US Fleet in the Caribbean.

Compared to the huge US imperial military presence in the Caribbean, Russia’s recent arm sales to Venezuela are miniscule.

Russia has sold to Venezuela MI Helicopters, Sukhoi aircrafts and AKM rifles, and Venezuela is expecting the arrival of anti-aircraft tanks and shoulder-fired SAM missiles that utilize cutting-edge technology.

By the way, what “legitimate defense needs” do the US imperialists have for their current huge military presence in the Caribbean?

I am “hard-pressed” to see any legitimate defense needs of the imperialist regime in Washington that are served by its 13 US military bases in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We know that about one third of the US people … the reactionaries or the conservatives … are delighted by the imperial bestiality exhibited by two Bush regimes and the Clinton and Obama regimes. Most of the highly-paid US mercenaries who are skilled in genocide come out of this reactionary sector of the US people. These animals are eager to do genocide on the Venezuelan people or any other people, including their own people in the USA.

Another third of the US people … so-called independents who occupy ideological and political space between the reactionaries and liberals … are more or less disposed against the adventures of US imperialists, but they are not disposed very strongly. The idea of another US imperialist attack on Venezuela appals them, but they are not prepared to fight to prevent another US imperialist attack on Venezuela.

The remaining third of the US people … the liberals … are disposed against the adventures of US imperialist predators against other countries, including Venezuela, and are fighting to prevent such attacks. So, the basic issue is whether the liberal or the reactionaries will win over the independents.

The de-composition that is the imperialist sector of the US bourgeoisie says it speaks for the US people, but in reality they speak only for the reactionary sector of the US people, a mass of animals.

The majority of the US people opposes the adventures of US imperialists and this majority is rather consistent in expressing their opposition when they vote or otherwise express themselves.

The problem is the US imperialists pay little or no attention to the majority of the US people.

CPUSA Convention is Just Weeks Away
worker | April 6, 2010 | 9:23 pm | Announcements | Comments closed
As our National Convention gets closer, there is plenty of convention related material to read, view and act on. Visit our webpage to see all the written contributions.

If you didn’t see the March 30 video presentation on peace and international issues by People’s World co-editor Sue Webb, it is an outstanding presentation you won’t want to miss.

Still another video presentation was an historic first for our Party. Juan Lopez, chair of the Northern California region of our Party, spoke in Spanish on our main discussion documents. Be sure to forward it to your Spanish speaking friends.

Save the date: The next video presentation will be on Tuesday April 27 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Scott Marshall, the Communist Party Labor Secretary will discuss the work being done to build the movement for jobs. We want you to call in with your questions and experiences in building this all important movement.

New this week are two special reports to the National Board of the Communist Party that add to the pre-convention discussion by analyzing key racially and nationally oppressed communities in our country. Jarvis Tyner contributed a document on African American Equality and Rosalio Muñoz contributed a presentation on Mexican American Equality. Both or worthy of reading and discussing locally.

To see what’s happening in the fight for jobs and other struggles make sure to sign up for regular email updates from the People’s World news site. Twice a week, some the PW’s top stories will be sent to your inbox. Encourage your friends to do the same.

All for now, more coming next week.

John Rummel & Joelle Fishman

Co-Chairs, Convention Organizing Committee

Sanguino (PSUV) and Goicoechea agree that bourgeois politics is a pigsty…
worker | April 2, 2010 | 7:28 pm | Analysis, Latin America | Comments closed

By Arthur Shaw, via VHeadline

Democracy seems to be a form of state in which supreme power resides in the body of citizens entitled to vote, where these citizens elect their representatives who are accountable to these citizens and who exercise state power in accordance with the rule of law. If this concept of democracy corresponds to reality, bourgeois democracy is never democratic … because in bourgeois democracy, supreme power always resides in the capitalist class, the class of millionaires, not in the body of citizens entitled to vote.

Only proletarian democracy is really democratic, because in theory or practice or both, supreme power resides in the people.

But bourgeois democracy however is widely believed to respect the electoral principle of democracy … that is, citizens elect their representatives. The bourgeoisie in Venezuela, along with its working class and middle class tail of reactionaries, is loosely organized into something that calls itself the “opposition.” Almost nobody in the opposition believes either the people or even the members of the opposition elect their representatives. Yon Goicoechea, the youth leader from the reactionary Primero Justicia party which belongs to the opposition, says “It’s the same old story of the Fourth Republic parties, which refuse to die. They keep doing the same maneuvers to exclude bases from their own organizations.”

By “bases,” Yon Goicoechea means the reactionary sectors of the people entitled to vote. The Fourth Republic was the collection of bourgeois regimes that immediately preceded the Venezuelan Revolution of 1999 when state power began to pass by degrees from the capitalist class to the working class.

Yon Goicoechea begs the main bourgeois parties in the opposition to carry out real primary elections to nominate their candidates. The opposition demands its candidates give a ton of money to participate in a rigged procedures which the opposition calls “primaries.”� The candidate for a given seat who gives the most money to the opposition is virtually guaranteed the nomination of the opposition. To buy the nomination, the candidates must woo the millionaire stratum of the opposition and US imperialists for financial contributions, unless the candidate is very rich.

The tail, consisting of middle class and working class supporters of the opposition, have no voice in the nomination process.

Goicoechea, who jumped into politics after leading counter-revolutionary college students in anti-government protests, said “There is no chance that someone opposing the [the Chavez] government could win an election if he or she is not a member of a political organization. The Unity Table [the executive committee of the opposition] is just a table to distribute the posts.”� Goicoechea is right. The Unity Table or the executive committee of the opposition sees counter-revolutionary college students as an element of the tail that is firmly attached to the rear of the opposition. As these reactionary college students and former students grow older or grow up, they are divided and absorbed into various bourgeois parties that compose the opposition.

Goicoechea must be aware that he and his ex-student followers can organized their own bourgeois party and challenge the opposition ruling clique for leadership of counter-revolutionary sector of the Venezuelan people. But currently there are, to varying degrees, incorporated in the tail that dangles from the hideous rear of the opposition about 30 riff-raff bourgeois parties. Collectively, the riff-raff in the tail of the opposition gets less than 1% of the reactionary vote. Evidently, Goicoechea and his colleagues don’t want to become the 31st member of the riff-raff that populates bourgeois politics in Venezuela.

In contrast to the rigged and venal procedures of the opposition, the PSUV, the main working class party in Venezuela, will hold internal elections to nominate candidates on May 16. The bourgeois media throughout world which covers Venezuelan electoral processes in minute detail generally ignore this important difference in the internal processes between the working class and bourgeois parties.

“The opposition espouses the capitalistic conception of politics. While we [the PSUV] consider politics social action oriented to solve problems jointly with communities. They [the opposition] see it just as a way to get personal profits. To them, politics is a business. To us, a social apostolate,”� National Assembly deputy Ricardo Sanguino (PSUV) said.

Sanguino, the the middle-aged revolutionary, and Goicoechea, the twenty-something counter-revolutionary, seem at least to agree that bourgeois politics in Venezuela is a pigsty.