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Letters to the editor

July 4, 2003 | Page 4

ILWU took a dive in our contract fight
Brutality of prison after death row

We deserve better than the "lesser evil"

Dear Socialist Worker,

Donald Williams argues that our world can't "tolerate another four years of Bush, Cheney, Aschcroft, Perle, Rove and Rumsfeld." (SW, June 20) I couldn't agree more--a huge swath of the world's population is already refusing to tolerate these gangsters in blue suits.

From the more than 500,000 people in New York City who protested against the invasion of Iraq on February 15 to the millions of Iraqis who are struggling against an occupying army, people are standing up to Bush. And Bush's attacks on working-class people will drive more folks to fight back.

But I have to disagree with Williams on something else--he, like many people on the left, is arguing that we have to vote for a Democrat as the lesser evil in 2004. The problem is that supporting Democrats is how we wound up with Bush in the first place.

If folks remember what happened in Florida in 2000, while outraged people pointed out the disenfranchisement of Black voters and the undemocratic nature of the Electoral College, Al Gore only put up a tepid fight focusing on "hanging" and "pregnant" chads. And when the U.S. Supreme Court installed Bush as commander-in-thief, Gore admonished the nation to follow its new leader--presumably to war, layoffs and massive cuts in social spending.

Was Al Gore just spineless? Not exactly. He and the rest of the Democratic Party leadership represent the same corporate interests as Bush's gang of warmongers and ex-CEOs. And those interests were more important than actual democracy.

The Democratic Party led the way into every major war of the 20th century except the first Gulf War--from the First World War to Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson ran as the peace candidate in 1964, but then massively escalated the Vietnam War.

During the strike wave of the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt tried to trick striking autoworkers occupying a factory into handing it back to their bosses. If they had listened, they would have lost the strike that led to the building of the United Auto Workers union.

Sure, there's a difference between Democrats and Republicans. Democrats will present themselves as moderate, liberal or even left wing if they're worried about pressure from below. Sometimes, they even support protests and strikes. But calling for a vote for the Democrats retards the grassroots movements that push politicians in both parties to do what we want.

For every evil thing that Bush has done, there were plenty of Democrats willing to jump on the evil bandwagon--from the USA PATRIOT Act, to the war on Iraq. If the Democrats have the left safely in their pocket, they will continue to move right.

And the system will continue to belch up the same politicians that send workers off to kill other workers in war. The only practical solution is to build our own party--one that isn't "evil" at all.

Adam Turl, Chicago

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ILWU took a dive in our contract fight

Dear Socialist Worker,

Aloha from Hawaii, home to ILWU Local 142. I can empathize with ILWU Local 10 business agent Jack Heyman (SW, January 10) about the new contract negotiations and what came out of it. My frustration level might be even higher than Heyman's.

Whatever the West Coast workers got in the contract, we in Hawaii got even worse--and in my opinion without even putting up much of a fight. If it were a boxing match, people would say that it was fixed.

If you're going to take a dive, at least go a few rounds to give the impression that you gave it a shot. Don't take a dive in the first round like our people did.

Our union likes to preach "same work, same pay." Too bad they don't actually follow that rule. I think in some ways, our union leaders have become politicians.

And I have to wholeheartedly agree that this new contract was in no way a major victory. Not in Hawaii anyway.

Robert McDurmin, From the Internet

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Brutality of prison after death row

Dear Socialist Worker,

I want to show my support for possibly the best newspaper in the world by sharing my story with you and the world.

I was under the sentence of death for over 12 years, and 11 of those years were spent at the Pontiac human warehouse. My sentence was commuted to life without the possibility of parole on January 10, 2003, by former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. Myself and 11 others were transferred from the Pontiac human warehouse to here--the Menard human warehouse on January 28.

Readers and those of you out there who stand against all forms of oppression inflicted upon your human brothers and sisters behind these walls, rest assured: former Gov. Ryan kept his word when he said that "life won't be anywhere near easy for those individuals" whose sentences he commuted to life. After being transferred off death row, I was assigned to a unit of chaos and confusion. I am confined to a cage with only a former death row prisoner.

I might get the chance to go to the yard twice a week--when I was on death row, I was allowed to go to the yard six days a week. I am only allowed to eat my lunch or dinner for 15 minutes when I go to the mess hall.

I have to buy shampoo from the commissary to clean the cage that I am confined to. On death row, I was given cleaning supplies. I might get a 15-minute shower twice a week. When I was on death row, I was given a shower six days a week.

I might get the chance to use the telephone once a week to call my family whenever I am allowed to go to the yard. It wasn't like this on death row. I am not allowed any kind of job assignment. I barely sleep now. I am being discriminated against, and worst of all, my attorney was dropped from my case.

I give the former governor a triple "A+" for effort, because he did spare many lives. However, I did not ask for this undercover punishment. I asked for a full pardon or nothing at all.

Dedrick Coleman, Menard, Ill.

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