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Letters to the editor

March 19, 2004 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Greenspan's war on Social Security
Socialists fight for the environment
We can't afford Wal-Mart anymore

The courts are not our allies

Dear Socialist Worker,
The courts' stay of Kevin Cooper's execution in California and holding that gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts are developments that everyone should applaud. But this should not lead anyone to think that courts are now our reliable allies, or that they can ensure that our civil rights are respected.

Contrary to the myth of judicial independence, courts--like other political institutions--are just as subject to the polarization and radicalization happening in U.S. society today. So while some judges may grant a stay of execution or uphold gay marriage, others, as we've seen, can just as easily affirm the constitutionality of the USA PATRIOT Act or sanction the indefinite imprisonment of "enemy combatants."

Courts also can't enforce their own judgments. For 10 years after the Supreme Court issued its landmark 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, for example, a mere 1.2 percent of public schools had been desegregated because of resistance from Southern states. Not until the civil rights movement burst onto the scene in 1964 did integration really happen.

The key is pressure from below. Were it not for the activism of thousands of abolitionists, the courts would have let Kevin Cooper die. And gay marriage will remain largely symbolic unless a mass movement makes it a reality.

We will have to force the Massachusetts state legislature to enforce the court's ruling, and, in San Francisco, force Mayor Gavin Newsom to continue granting gay and lesbian couples marriage licenses since he has already promised to "step down" from it should the courts decide otherwise.

We can win these reforms. But as our predecessors in the civil rights--and, for that matter, antiwar--movements found, reforms are, at best, temporary. The death penalty, abolished in 1972, was reinstated four years later. The U.S. is more segregated today than it was in 1954. We are, again, at war.

We need simultaneously to press for reforms and understand that only by abolishing--not reforming--capitalism can we ultimately get rid of racism, homophobia and war. To get rid of oppression permanently, the fight for socialism has to lie at the heart of our new social movements.
Eduardo Capulong, San Francisco

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Greenspan's war on Social Security

Dear Socialist Worker,
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's proposal that Social Security benefits should be cut to reduce Bush's massive budget deficits is truly outrageous. It's not just that the deficits are the result of huge increases in military spending combined with enormous tax cuts for the rich, or that Social Security is currently running a huge surplus and will remain in the black for decades to come.

Back in the 1980s, Greenspan headed a commission that convinced Congress to increase regressive payroll taxes that fund Social Security. Increased contributions by low- and middle-income Americans are why the system is currently running such a big surplus.

Then, in 2001 Greenspan supported Bush's tax cuts, arguing that the federal government's then budget surplus--created in part by increased Social Security contributions--needed to be reduced, and promising that the cuts would not jeopardize programs like Social Security. As New York Times columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman puts it, Greenspan has carried out an astonishing "bait-and-switch" con game.

In order to pay for Bush's giveaways to military contractors and the super rich, workers are already paying higher taxes and are now threatened with having their Social Security benefits slashed. Democrats, as well as Republicans, are going along with this plan, proving once again that there aren't two political parties in mainstream U.S. politics--just a single business party with two wings.
Phil Gasper, San Leandro, Calif.

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Socialists fight for the environment

Dear Socialist Worker,
Brian Yanity's letter (SW, February 20) contains many true statements about science, the environment and society. However, the conclusions he draws from these statements miss the boat.

Many people on the left don't know much about science, and there is indeed a current of anti-technology sentiment in the left. But to blame this on a "left culture [which] teaches us to ignore scientific issues" lets the system off the hook. Education under capitalism teaches us the myth that science is difficult to learn and best left to the talented few. And for those who pursue an education in the sciences, capitalism steps in to channel all scientific pursuits towards serving the interests of profit and war.

Socialists firmly reject this perversion of science. Yet Brian indicts his comrades in the International Socialist Organization (ISO) along with the rest of the left for both ignorance and antagonism with respect to science.

But the argument that the capitalist system--not science and technology--is destroying the environment lies at the heart of ISO politics. We stand proudly in the Marxist tradition of scientific socialism, which doesn't mean that ours is a socialism that is somehow directly based on the physical and biological sciences, but rather that it shares with the sciences a reliance upon the scientific method of learning about and explaining the world through observation.

Socialists observe the horrors of world hunger. We also observe that science has enabled modern society to produce enough to feed the entire human population. We observe that governments and corporations destroy food in order to safeguard profits. We therefore conclude that capitalism is deliberately causing world hunger and that we must fight for a future where science and technology--used democratically by the people of the world--can ensure that not one human being goes hungry.

You don't need a degree in physics to understand this or to fight for it! We must not forget that environmentalists and leftists who mistakenly blame science for pollution, war, and hunger, nonetheless share with us a sense of outrage about these horrors and a desire to do something about it. We would do better to patiently explain and debate the analysis and alternative offered by socialist politics, rather than lecture fellow activists about their "ignorance."
Randy Childs, Los Angeles

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We can't afford Wal-Mart anymore

Dear Socialist Worker,
How sad. After reading your article on the most recent strike and the "solidarity" of supporting unions for the grocery workers' strike, I have to ask, where is the outrage and solidarity as Wal-Mart continues to grow and dominate our country? With low wages and ridiculous health coverage, they continue to march across this country simply wiping out competitors.

Where are those picket lines? Where are the headlines? Where is the outrage from the union leadership? I can tell you where they are. They are all inside the store, shopping with their friends and family, taking advantage of the "lower prices" that Wal-Mart offers.

These low prices will come to all of us at a very high cost someday. Until this country wakes up and stops allowing this gorilla to grow, sad situations like the one that just occurred in Southern California will only continue to happen.
Randy Hoffner, From the Internet

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