Month: May, 2012
The VA as a Health Care System Model
worker | May 31, 2012 | 11:38 pm | Action | Comments closed


Written by James Thompson

Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Thans Yours by Phillip Longman (2nd edition, 2010)

It is a daunting task to critically evaluate the delivery of health care in the United States.

Some try to masquerade U.S. health care delivery as a “system”, but this is entirely false. Health care delivery in the United States is based on capitalism, which is the basis for all social organization in this country.

Health care delivery is not immune from the disease of capitalism. Capitalism dictates the mode of production and this is true of the delivery of health care as well as any other social relationship in this country. This translates into a built-in profit motive that drives U.S. health care delivery in the private sector.

Longman has written a very interesting advocacy paper, which proposes that the current anarchy and chaos of American health care delivery be replaced by a model based on the Veterans’ Administration health care system (usually referred to as the VA).

It is remarkable that there exists an organized health care delivery system in the USA, which stands apart from the crazed, profit-driven health care delivery in the private sector. The VA is not based on profits, but rather based on providing quality health care to a special sector of the population, namely veterans. They do this very well and with great efficiency.

The VA is also already union-organized. Every employee including doctors and attorneys can join the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).

There is no doubt that the VA system of care offers many advances over the current state of health care delivery in the USA. I know this well on a personal basis. I worked as a VA psychologist for eight years in Houston.

I was impressed by the ability of the VA to provide services to veterans unmatched in the private sector. The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services, for example, are far superior to anything available for civilians.

Longman lauds the virtues of electronic medical records in the VA system. I used that medical records system as well as the MUMPS system to which he refers repeatedly. There are immeasurable advantages to these systems. They facilitate health care as well as research. I used these data in studies of homeless veterans as well as provision of psychological assessment and treatment while I worked at the Houston VA Medical Center.

It is invaluable for a doctor in Minneapolis to be able to access the medical records of somebody in Walla Walla, Washington with the click of a mouse. The reduction in duplication of services, elimination of unnecessary medical services to malingerers and drug seekers is a great advantage for the VA system.

It should be noted that the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas is ranked as the 11th best hospital in the country.
Longman advocates replacing health care delivery in the USA with a system he calls the VistA system (named after the VA computerized records system).

He notes that current health care delivery is reimbursed according to treatment provided. This means that providers are paid only according to the treatment they deliver to the individual patient. Therefore, if a patient presents complaining of “feeling bad”, the doctor gets paid if they provide treatment. So, even if the patient has no blood pressure problem, the doctor gets paid if they write a prescription for blood pressure medicine.

Similarly, the doctor gets reimbursed if they prescribe antidepressants even if the patient’s malady can be treated by psychotherapy. The dark unknown is what sort of kickback or privilege the doctor in the private sector receives from the drug company for prescribing the newest, most expensive blood pressure medicine, antidepressant or antipsychotic medication. I have treated patients who have been victimized by such unnecessary treatment.

He maintains that implementing a Single Payer health care system would only perpetuate the problems of current health care delivery. In other words, doctors would still be reimbursed according to the treatment provided.

Longman discusses the health care threat that diabetes poses to the general population. He points out that diabetes is an illness that cannot be contracted from other people. He implies that diabetes is a function of lifestyle. Many of the newer, more expensive medications have adverse side effects, which include diabetes. These medications include the atypical antipsychotics. These medications also can result in many other adverse side effects such as obesity and cardiac problems.

It is clear that rewarding doctors for the treatment they provide is not a good model. It would be better to provide treatment with a view to prevention within a system that would ensure ethical, reasonable, medically necessary treatment accessible to all. Such a system would be a tall order, to be sure.

Could such a health care delivery system be built on a “VA for all” model? Mr. Longman makes a strong case that it can.

Some would argue that the VA health care system is more advanced than a “Medicare for all” health care delivery system and emulates the British national health care system.

Currently the federal government is able to regulate unscrupulous practitioners to some extent. There have been many arrests of Medicare providers in Houston recently for fraudulent activity. With an organized health care system, presumably such regulations could be policed more efficiently and could put an end to the graft and corruption in private health care delivery.
Kickbacks would become a thing of the past in an organized health care delivery system.

Longman notes that the Bush Administration, during its execution of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, attacked accessibility of the VA to veterans. Now, non-service-connected veterans who do not meet the means test (in other words, whose incomes are too high) are not eligible for VA care.

This restriction is unfair to those who have served their country, and Longman calls for these restrictions to be removed. He makes the case that opening up the VA to all veterans would be a step in the right direction towards a universal health care system. One could argue that the VA should be opened up to veterans as well as their family members and this would also be a positive development.
By restricting VA health care to veterans with service connected disabilities and low income non-service-connected veterans, the right wing has reduced the political punch of veterans and their organizations by splitting them up. By eliminating the higher income veterans from eligibility, they have diminished the political strength of a sector of veterans. Such splitting tactics should be exposed and thereby used in the fight against the rise of the ultra-right wing.

Prior to the Bush administration, the right wing considered the VA to be an “untouchable” since it was an earned benefit for those who fought the bloody imperialist wars that furthered the interests of the 1%. However, the Bush administration did not support universal health care for veterans. President Obama has been more vocal in speaking about and advocating for veterans benefits.

In conclusion, Longman opens a discussion about health care delivery in the USA. The most important point is that we don’t have a health care delivery system, but only an anarchic, disorganized health care delivery that benefits those providers who provide the most and most expensive treatments.

Health care delivery in the USA also benefits the insurance companies, drug companies, hospital corporations and their shareholders. Many people talk about the administrative costs in the delivery of health care.

It would be interesting to see a study evaluating the cost of stocks and dividends paid out to stockholders as part of health care cost. Of course, the wealthy can buy the services of the most distinguished providers, but they are subject to the delivery of unnecessary health care services as much as the poorer classes of people.

Longman’s conclusion is that the answer to our health care problems is the VA system which he maintains could be implemented universally.

Longman reports that health care in the US is ranked 36th in the world. This is a sad commentary about the world’s wealthiest capitalist country. It might be useful to examine other health care systems as this country develops a new model. This would make it possible to fashion a comprehensive system of health care that incorporates the best elements of many diverse systems into a system which meets the needs of the working people of this country.

May 22, 2012

Hymns to the Silence
worker | May 30, 2012 | 9:20 pm | Action | Comments closed

May 29, 2012

The NYT’s Love Letter to Death Squads


I must, at last, admit defeat. I simply have no words, no rhetorical ammunition, no conceptual frameworks that could adequately address the total moral nullity exposed in Monday’s New York Times article on the death squad that Barack Obama is personally directing from the White House. (“Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.”)

It is not so much a newspaper story as a love letter — a love letter to death, to the awe-inspiring and fear-inducing power of death, as personified by Barack Obama in his temporary role as the manager of a ruthless, lawless imperial state. In the cringing obsequiousness of the multitude of insiders and sycophants who march in goose-step through the story, we can see the awe and fear — indeed, the worship — of death-dealing power. This enthrallment permeates the story, both in the words of the cringers and in the giddy thrill the writers display in gaining such delicious access to the inner sanctum.

In any other age — including the last administration — this story would have been presented as a scandalous exposé. The genuinely creepy scenes of the “nominating process” alone would have been seen as horrific revelations. Imagine the revulsion at the sight of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld sifting through PowerPoint slides on “suspected terrorists” all over the world, and giving their Neronic thumbs up or down as each swarthy face pops up on a screen in front of them. Imagine the tidal wave of moral outrage from the “Netroots Nation” and other progressive champions directed at Bush not only for operating a death squad (which he did), but then trotting out Condi and Colin and Bob Gates to brag about it openly, and to paint Bush as some kind of moral avatar for the careful consideration and philosophical rigor he applied to blowing human beings to bits in sneak attacks on faraway villages.

But the NYT piece is billed as just another “process story” about an interesting aspect of Obama’s presidency, part of an election-year series assessing his record. It is based entirely on the viewpoints of Beltway insiders. The very few dollops of mild criticism of the murder program are voiced by figures from deep within the imperial machine. And even these caveats are mostly tactical in nature, based on one question: “Does the program work, is it effective?” There is not a single line that ever suggests, even slightly, that the program might be morally wrong. There is not a single line in the story suggesting that such a program should up for debate or even examination by Congress. Nor is there even a perfunctory quote from mainstream organizations such as the ACLU or Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch — or from anyone in Pakistan or Yemen or the other main targets of Obama’s proudly proclaimed and personally approved death squad.

In other words, this portrait of an American president signing off — week after week after week after week — on the extrajudicial murder of people all over the world is presented as something completely uncontroversial. Indeed, the main thrust of the story is not the fact that human beings — including many women, children and men who have no connection whatsoever to “terrorism,” alleged or otherwise — are being regularly killed by the United States government; no, the main focus is how this program illustrates Barack Obama’s “evolving” style of leadership during the course of his presidency. That’s what’s really important. The murders — the eviscerated bodies, the children with their skulls bashed in, the pregnant women burned alive in their own homes — are just background. Unimportant. Non-controversial.


Here’s how it works:

“Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die.

“This secret “nominations” process is an invention of the Obama administration, a grim debating society that vets the PowerPoint slides bearing the names, aliases and life stories of suspected members of Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen or its allies in Somalia’s Shabab militia. … A parallel, more cloistered selection process at the C.I.A. focuses largely on Pakistan, where that agency conducts strikes.

“The nominations go to the White House, where by his own insistence and guided by Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama must approve any name. He signs off on every strike in Yemen and Somalia and also on the more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan — about a third of the total.

“Aides say Mr. Obama has several reasons for becoming so immersed in lethal counterterrorism operations. A student of writings on war by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, he believes that he should take moral responsibility for such actions.

“He realizes this isn’t science, this is judgments made off of, most of the time, human intelligence,” said Mr. Daley, the former chief of staff. “The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.”

Again, words fail. Aides pumping reporters with stories about the wise, judicious philosopher-king consulting Aquinas and Augustine before sending a drone missile on a “signature strike” on a group of picnickers in Yemen or farmers in Pakistan. The philosopher-king himself nobly taking on the “moral responsibility” for mass murder. And the cavalier assertion that “a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen” — a bland, blithe acceptance that you are in fact going to slaughter innocent human beings on a regular basis — precisely as if you walked up to an innocent man on the street, put a gun to his head and blew his brains out all over the sidewalk …. then walked away, absolved, unconcerned, and free to kill again. And again. And again. This psychopathic serial killing is, evidently, what Augustine meant by “moral responsibility.” Who knew?

Obama’s deep concern for “moral responsibility” is also reflected in his decision to kill according to “signature strikes” — that is, to kill people you don’t know, who haven’t even popped up on your PowerPoint slides, if you think they might possibly look or act like alleged potential “terrorists.” (Or if you receive some “human intelligence” from an agent or an informer or someone with a grudge or someone seeking payment that a group of people doing something somewhere might be terrorists.) This “moral responsibility” is also seen in Obama’s decision to count “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

Guilty until proven posthumously innocent! How’s that for “moral responsibility”? Here Obama has surpassed Augustine and Aquinas — yea, even great Aristotle himself — in this bold extension of the parameters of moral responsibility.

It is, I confess, beyond all my imagining that a national leader so deeply immersed in murdering people would trumpet his atrocity so openly, so gleefully — and so deliberately, sending his top aides out to collude in a major story in the nation’s leading newspaper, to ensure maximum exposure of his killing spree. Although many leaders have wielded such powers, they almost always seek to hide or obscure the reality of the operation. Even the Nazis took enormous pains to hide the true nature of their murder programs from the public. And one can scarcely conceive of Stalin inviting reporters from Pravda into the Politburo meetings where he and Molotov and Beria debated the lists of counterrevolutionary “terrorists” given to them by the KGB and ticked off those who would live and those who would die. Of course, those lists too were based on “intelligence reports,” often gathered through “strenuous interrogation techniques” or the reports of informers. No doubt these reports were every bit as credible as the PowerPoint presentations reviewed each week by Obama and his team.

And no doubt Stalin and his team were just as sincerely concerned about “national security” as the Aquinas acolyte in the White House today — and just as determined to do “whatever it takes” to preserve that security. As Stalin liked to say of the innocent people caught up in his national security efforts: “When wood is chopped, chips fly.”

Of course, he was an evil man without any sense of moral responsibility at all. In our much more enlightened times, under the guidance of a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in the White House, we are so much wiser, so much better. We say: “A certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen.” Isn’t that more nuanced? Isn’t that more moral?

There is more, much more of this nullity — and rotting hypocrisy and vapid sycophancy — in the story. But I don’t have the strength or the stomach to wade any further through this swamp. It stinks of death. It taints and stains us all.

Chris Floyd is an American writer and frequent contributor to CounterPunch. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at

Alice Slater

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NY

446 East 86 St.

New York, NY 10028



We may now care for each Earthian individual at a sustainable billionaire’s level of affluence while living exclusively on less than 1 percent of our planet’s daily energy income from our cosmically designed nuclear reactor, the Sun, optimally located 92 million safe miles away from us.

Buckminster Fuller

Annals of imperialism: U.S. military takes on Honduras
worker | May 30, 2012 | 8:37 pm | Action | Comments closed

W. T. Whitney Jr.

On May 11 in Honduras’ Mosquito region, helicopter gunfire killed two women, two men, and seriously wounded four more, including children. They were targeted as drug traffickers. The helicopters belonged to the U.S. State Department. On board were agents of the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration in military uniforms, plus Honduran soldiers. Many Hondurans say agents did the shooting.

Drug war is used to justify U.S. military intervention in Honduras, now a way station for drug transfer from South America to U.S. consumers. The United States has posted 600 soldiers to Honduras and operates an Air Force base and three new so-called forward operating bases there. Meanwhile, political and social deterioration has brought calamity. U.S. military build-up is non-stop.

Intervention is hardly new in Honduras. U.S. troops invaded in 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924, and 1925, usually at times of political turmoil. They were “protecting U.S. interests” like banana plantations, banks, and railroads. In the 1980’s Honduras was a U.S. staging area for Contra troops fighting Nicaragua’s leftist government.

The United States backed the Honduran government formed by plotters who had arranged the military coup overthrowing President Jose Manuel Zelaya in June, 2009. Now the U.S. government supports a successor regime headed by President Porfirio Lobo, elected under dubious circumstances. Lobo’s visit to Washington in October, 2011 got red carpet treatment.

Zelaya tinkered with land reform and called for a minimum wage, thereby enraging local political bosses. The U.S. government was offended by his having led Honduras into the anti-imperialist ALBA alliance of Latin American countries.

The wealthy elite behind the coup are prospering. The family of Miguel Facussé is emblematic of ten families which “control everything, telecommunications, electrical generation, marketing of petroleum products, the financial market, construction, food, etc.” (, May 23, 2012) Facussé’s 42, 500 acres in Lower Aguan grow African palms, the oil of which Facussé’s Dinant Corporation converts into biodiesel.

Deadly struggle is playing out in Lower Aguan and may soon intensify. Dinant Corporation announced that if by June 1 Facussé has not received government payment for land small farmers are occupying, Dinant will evict farm families. Already private security forces have murdered 48 land reform activists there since September, 2009. The occupations are in fulfillment of land reform measures revived during the Zelaya era.

The United States overlooks landowner repression even though Facussé properties are dotted with traffickers’ landing strips. Social catastrophe – 70 percent poverty and 40 percent unemployed – and terror likewise seem to be acceptable. Honduras’ is the highest murder rate in the world – 6723 murders in 2011. Political repression has taken the lives of 25 journalists during the Lobo presidency. The body of popular broadcaster Alfredo Villatoro was found on May 15, that of LGBT activist Erick Martinez, two days earlier
U.S. interventionists tolerate governmental corruption. California academician Dana Frank maintains, “[D]rug trafficking is interlaced with the post-coup government…even the Minister of Defense has talked about the so-called Narco Congress people, the Narco judges…The police regularly kill people… None of these people have been prosecuted.”

Trafficking bolsters wealth and power. A local Chamber of Commerce official reported drug lords “have bought tremendous tracts, ranches, farms (and) coastlands.” The McClatchy story suggests, “Drug profits have filtered into sectors such as banking, construction, sports teams, restaurants, auto sales and private security.”

So there’s more to U.S. military intervention than just war on drugs. According to an Argentinean analyst, “The Southern Command of the Pentagon throughout Central America is backing ‘failed states’ in order to justify interventions in the name of national security.” Col. Ross Brown, a U.S. commander in Honduras, told a reporter that the U.S. military mission is expanding because of “the potential nexus between transnational organized criminals and terrorists who would do harm to our country.”

Uruguayan solidarity activists demand President Lobo take steps “to avoid new bloodshed.” They seek United Nations and European Union intervention to protect human rights in Honduras. Representatives of 12 Latin American and European countries joined United Nations officials in Lower Aguan in late May to deal with conflict there.

Popular forces are mobilizing. Formed after the 2009 coup, the National Front for Popular Resistance established the Broad Front of Popular Resistance, which looks toward a constituent assembly and is preparing for presidential elections in 2013. The Front’s “social struggle” entails agrarian reform, popular organizing, defending human rights, and opposition to privatization and foreign control of natural resources.

Given the experience of the Chile’s socialist government with U.S. intervention in 1973, this is perilous business. Yet the promise is real.
Seven years ago social and economic indicators for Bolivia and Honduras were similar. Each GDP was $10 billion, the average per capita annual income for both was $700 – $800, international financial reserves were $1.5 billion apiece, their rates of extreme poverty were 40-50 percent, and unemployment rates were 10-14 percent. Honduras’ GDP today is still $10 billion. For Bolivia, moving toward socialism, the current GDP is $20 billion. Honduras’ average per capita annual income is $700; Bolivia’s was $1833 in 2010. Honduras’ current foreign financial reserves are now less than $1.5 billion; those for Bolivia exceed $12 billion. Today, Honduras’ unemployment rate is 40 percent; Bolivia’s rate for 2011 was 5.9 percent. Finally, extreme poverty in Honduras in 2010 was 50 percent. The rate that year for Bolivia was 25 percent (, May 25, 2012

Sign the on-line petition to overturn the anti-communist law in Texas!
worker | May 29, 2012 | 10:23 pm | Action | Comments closed

Please go to to sign our petition to overturn the Texas anti-communist law. The link is  . The petition is entitled “Texas legislature: Overturn the anti-communist law”. You can also suggest that others sign the on-line petition. For more information, go to

Thanks for your support.

The revolutionary origins of Memorial Day and its political hijacking
worker | May 28, 2012 | 8:30 pm | Action | 1 Comment


A day celebrating Black liberation utilized for white supremacy
By Ben Becker
MAY 26, 2012

The way the Civil War became officially remembered — through Memorial Day celebrations— was based on the erasure of the Black veteran and the liberated slave.What we now know as Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. It was a tradition initiated by former slaves to celebrate emancipation and commemorate those who died for that cause.
These days, Memorial Day is arranged as a day “without politics”—a general patriotic celebration of all soldiers and veterans, regardless of the nature of the wars in which they participated. This is the opposite of how the day emerged, with explicitly partisan motivations, to celebrate those who fought for justice and liberation.

The concept that the population must “remember the sacrifice” of U.S. service members, without a critical reflection on the wars themselves, did not emerge by accident. It came about in the Jim Crow period as the Northern and Southern ruling classes sought to reunite the country around apolitical mourning, which required erasing the “divisive” issues of slavery and Black citizenship. These issues had been at the heart of the struggles of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

To truly honor Memorial Day means putting the politics back in. It means reviving the visions of emancipation and liberation that animated the first Decoration Days. It means celebrating those who have fought for justice, while exposing the cruel manipulation of hundreds of thousands of U.S. service members who have been sent to fight and die in wars for conquest and empire.

The first Decoration Day

As the U.S. Civil War came to a close in April 1865, Union troops entered the city of Charleston, S.C., where four years prior the war had begun. While white residents had largely fled the city, Black residents of Charleston remained to celebrate and welcome the troops, who included the TwentyFirst Colored Infantry. Their celebration on May 1, 1865, the first “Decoration Day,” later became Memorial Day.

Historian David Blight retold the story:

During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the planters’ horse track, the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, into an outdoor prison. Union soldiers were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of exposure and disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand. Some 28 black workmen went to the site, re-buried the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Then, black Charlestonians in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people on the slaveholders’ race course. The symbolic power of the low-country planter aristocracy’s horse track (where they had displayed their wealth, leisure, and influence) was not lost on the freed people. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

At 9 a.m. on May 1, the procession stepped off led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” The children were followed by several hundred black women with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses.

Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantry and other black and white citizens. As many as possible gathered in the cemetery enclosure; a childrens’ choir sang “We’ll Rally around the Flag,” the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and several spirituals before several black ministers read from scripture. (“The First Decoration Day,” Newark Star Ledger)

The battle over the ‘memory’ of the Civil War

Blight’s award-winning “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” (2001) explained how three “overall visions of Civil War memory collided” in the decades after the war.

The first was the emancipationist vision, embodied in African Americans’ remembrances and the politics of Radical Reconstruction, in which the Civil War was understood principally as a war for the destruction of slavery and the liberation of African Americans to achieve full citizenship.

The second was the reconciliationist vision, ostensibly less political, which focused on honoring the dead on both sides, respecting their sacrifice, and the reunion of the country.

The third was the white supremacist vision, which was either openly pro-Confederate or at least despising of Reconstruction as “Black rule” in the South.

Over the late 1800s and the early 1900s, in the context of Jim Crow and the complete subordination of Black political participation, the second and third visions largely combined. The emancipationist version of the Civil War, and the heroic participation of African Americans in their own liberation, was erased from popular culture, the history books and official commemoration.

In 1877, the Northern capitalist establishment decisively turned their backs on Reconstruction, striking a deal with the old slavocracy to return the South to white supremacist rule in exchange for the South’s acceptance of capitalist expansion. This political and economic deal was reflected in how the war was commemorated. Just as the reunion of the Northern and Southern ruling classes was based on the elimination of Black political participation, the way the Civil War became officially remembered—through the invention of Memorial Day—was based on the elimination of the Black veteran and the liberated slave.

The spirit of the first Decoration Day—the struggle for Black liberation and the fight against racism—has unfortunately been whitewashed from the modern Memorial Day.As Blight explains, “With time, in the North, the war’s two great results—black freedom and the preservation of the Union—were rarely accorded equal space. In the South, a uniquely Confederate version of the war’s meaning, rooted in resistance to Reconstruction, coalesced around Memorial Day practice.” (“Race and Reunion,” p. 65)

The Civil War whitewashed

In the statues, anniversary parades and popular magazines, the Civil War was portrayed as an all-white affair, a tragic conflict between brothers. To the extent the role of slavery was allowed in these remembrances, Lincoln was typically portrayed as the beneficent liberator standing above the kneeling slave.

The mere image of the fighting Black soldier pierced through this particular “memory,” which in reality was a collective and forced “forgetting” of the real past. Portraying the rebellious slave or Black soldier would unmask the Civil War as a life-and-death struggle against slavery, a true social revolution, and a reminder of the political promises that had been betrayed.

While African Americans and white radicals continued to uphold the emancipationist remembrance of the Civil War during the following decades—as exemplified by W.E.B. DuBois’ landmark “Black Reconstruction”—this interpretation was effectively silenced in the “respectable” circles of academia, mainstream politics and popular culture. The white supremacist and reconciliationist retelling of the war and Reconstruction was only overthrown in official academic circles in the 1950s and 1960s as the Civil Rights movement shook the country to its core, and more African Americans fought their way into the country’s universities.

While historians have gone a long way to expose the white supremacist history of the Civil War and uncover its revolutionary content, the spirit of the first Decoration Day—the struggle for Black liberation and the fight against racism—has unfortunately been whitewashed from the modern Memorial Day.

So let’s use Memorial Day weekend to honor the fallen fighters for justice worldwide, to speak plainly about this country’s historic crimes, and rededicate ourselves to take on those of the present.

WFTU Statement on the occasion of the election for Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO)
worker | May 27, 2012 | 7:58 pm | Action | Comments closed

FEDERATION OF TRADE UNIONS Athens, Greece 17.05.2012

May 28
This is the date for the elections at the International Labour Organization (ILO) to elect a new Director General to replace the Chilean Juan Somavia.

The World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), representing 82 million workers and affiliates in 120 countries, considers that instead of referring to the characteristics of each of the candidates, the most important aspects to take into account are the following:


If we ask the millions of employees and unemployed workers in every country of the five continents about their views on the impact of the ILO in their countries and the benefits for workers, the answer will be almost unanimous: it is useless for them. In the last decades the workers have been deprived of their rights and conquests and fundamental ILO conventions are blatantly violated. What will the new Director General of the ILO do to reverse this situation?


In the Governing Body of the ILO there are representatives of governments and employers that have imposed neoliberal policies and adjustment plans in their respective countries, undermining the rights of workers and violating the international labor standards (ILS). For this reason, the ILO is not reflected as an organization in defense of workers. What is the position of the new Director-General on these issues?


The current situation of precariousness for workers requires a Director General free of the influence and pressure from such governments and employers that undermine the ILS, acting against the values of the ILO. Does the new Director General intend to take a truly independent attitude?


Under the current structure of the ILO, in the decision-making bodies and the Governing Body, there is a monopoly of a single trend of interests of neoliberal governments, employers and the leaderships of one part of the workers representation. Would the new Director General be willing to drive the changes needed to break the monopoly and allow plural participation in the Governing Body with proportional representation of the other group of opinion in the workers group?


The WFTU considers it necessary to modify the structure and regulations of the ILO to adapt them to the current conditions in order to be an efficient instrument to guarantee unconditional respect for the conventions and fundamental rights of workers. Does the new Director General intend to promote such changes?


The ILO at central and regional level as well as the new Director General must respect the autonomy and self determination of the unions. They must respect the decisions, the foundations and the democratic functioning of trade unions. Unfortunately, lately these principles are being violated and the management and administration services of the ILO intervene in the internal affairs of unions, trying to support some of them over the others, promoting some unions and unfairly blaming others, etc. This phenomenon is against the founding objectives of the ILO. The WFTU condemns such phenomenon and it will continue the struggle for equality among all unions, equality irrespective of ideological, political and trade union differences.


Just as the peoples of the planet demand the democratization of the Organization of the United Nations (UN), all of us who from the WFTU demand the democratization of the ILO. Would the new Director General be willing to promote a true democratization of the ILO?


The WFTU considers that under the conditions of the deep crisis of the capitalist system and the intensification of the imperialist aggression, the ILO should support the struggles of workers, pensioners, unemployed workers, poor people and immigrants; it should defend trade union rights, democratic and trade union freedoms and free collective bargaining. The challenges for the ILO, its cadres and its new Director General are enormous.


The geographical composition represented by the General Directors of the ILO throughout history, shows that for 78 years
, 8 General Directors were from developed capitalist countries (2 respectively from United States, Britain and France) (1 respectively from Belgium and Ireland). The first Latin American Director-General was the Chilean Juan Somavia, elected in 1999 to the present.
The WFTU and its affiliates are willing to work with the ILO in order to clear our concerns and questions; to implement these aspirations, guided by the Athens Pact, the central document adopted by the XVI World Trade Union Congress.

Solidarity with Cuba and the Cuban 5 at the anti-NATO protests in Chicago May 20
worker | May 26, 2012 | 8:53 pm | Action | Comments closed

Organizers of the May 20 protest at the presence of the NATO war-wongerers in Chicago estimate that 15,000 protested Sunday. It was significant that in spite of the city-police-corporate media campaign to scare people away from attending, 15,000 came out, the largest ant-war protest in years, and the largest in Chicago since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The highlight of the protest was the closing rally, given over to Afghan and Iraq invasion war veterans. One by one they took the stage to explain why they were throwing back their medals. This can be seen in the May 21 program of Democracy Now, starting at about 9:38 in the program.

A combination of about 15 representatives of Midwest justice for Cuba and committees to free the Cuban 5 participated in the protest. We had three banners about Cuba taped up surrounding the stage at the opening rally, where they were seen by all. Two called for freeing the Cuban 5 and one called for ending the U.S. blockade of Cuba. We also carried 3 banners with the same message during the march. These were banners of the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, National Network on Cuba, Pastors for Peace and Detroit Metro Committee to Free the 5. Many people came up to us and congratulated us for carrying the message of the Cuban 5, and countless numbers of people took photos of us carrying the banners in the march.

It was quite obvious, that unlike 8-9 years ago, many people knew of the case and many were supportive of our work. Art Heitzer noted that a good number also stopped to take photos of his Cuban 5 t-shirts. He added, “When I was giving out literature to younger activists, especiallly those of color, I frequently asked them if they knew anyone who wanted to become a doctor but could not afford it, and then told them of what Cuba has offered. The reactions were universally and strongly positive, with some already having some awareness. In other conversations, I sometimes mentioned the recent firebombing of the travel agency in Miami, which none had heard of unless they were on some Cuba email list.”

We handed out about 1100 glossy palm cards about the Cuban 5 case put out by the Chicago Cuban 5 committee. We also distributed about 900 NNOC flyers with information on the U.S. blockade of Cuba, the Cuban 5 and the summer travel challenges to Cuba by African Awareness Association, Venceremos Brigade and IFCO/Pastors for Peace.

Many thanks to local representatives of Chicago Pastors for Peace, Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, Louisville Committee to Free the Cuban 5, Wisconsin Coalition to Normalize Relations with Cuba, and NNOC who participated in the 90 degree heat.