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Letters to the editor

December 10, 2004 | Page 4

Behind the gung-ho image
FBI targets N.C. students
Voting Nader hurt the left

Xmas message from Kmart

Dear Socialist Worker,
Kmart Holding Corp.'s recent $11 billion surprise acquisition of Sears, Roebuck & Co. had economic analysts tripping over themselves in tossing accolades at Kmart's senior leadership. Just less than three years after falling into bankruptcy, Kmart had managed to rise from the ashes and take the lead in one of the largest mergers of 2004.

What those talking heads failed to explore, of course, was how Kmart was able to turn itself around in such a short time: by screwing its workers. What happened should serve as a valuable reminder to socialists and the labor movement of how capitalism gets itself out of crisis.

In the case of Kmart, after the company filed for bankruptcy, it closed 600 stores and engaged in other "cost-cutting" measures that included laying off 57,000 workers, while making those left work longer and harder for less. The firm also rode the real estate bubble, cashing in on the stores it closed while seeing the value of the property it retained skyrocket.

By squeezing more out of existing workers and selling off its excess capital, Kmart was sitting on a $3 billion mountain of cash that enabled it to acquire Sears.

To make matters worse, the deal will likely result in another round of store closures for both Kmart and Sears, sending hundreds or thousands more workers back into the streets. Happy holidays.

Kmart's story should serve as a stark example to workers in other industries that are under fire--like the airline industry. One day, you're told that you have to accept job cuts, givebacks, wage freezes and production speedups--all so the company can save itself. But after the company has "miraculously" turned around, where's the payoff? What do the 57,000 laid off Kmart workers get today?

It's another example of how a bonanza on Wall Street does nothing for ordinary workers. And it's examples like this that show why we need strong union contracts with job security.
Petrino DiLeo, New York City

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Behind the gung-ho image

Dear Socialist Worker,
In early November, Lance Cpl. James Miller was on the front page of major newspapers. The photograph represented him as the ordinary, tough, battle-weary man, a Marlboro dangling from his mouth.

In short, he is the most recent attempt to put a "human" face on the inhuman U.S. war and occupation in Iraq. Rupert Murdoch's New York Post posted the photo with the disgusting caption: "Marlboro men kick butt in Falluja."

But the November 13 Los Angeles Times tells a different story. "If you want to write something, tell Marlboro I'm down to four packs and I'm here in Falluja until who knows when," Miller told the Times. "Maybe they can send some. And they can bring down the price a bit."

Miller's reaction is saner than all the articles about him put together. While hardly ready to refuse orders, Miller is no "reporting-for-duty" war enthusiast. He enlisted in the military after meeting a Marine recruiter at a high school football game. "What I really wanted to do was auto body repair," he said. "But before I knew it, I was in boot camp."

And his current perspective on the Marines? "I already signed the papers, so I got no choice but to do what we're doing." Compare that to the rhetoric of Bush or Kerry during the recent campaign.

Upon seeing the photo, people from his hometown in Kentucky, including his father, didn't recognize him. His high school basketball coach, Rodney Rowe, said: "He had that stuff on his face. And the expression, that look. Those are not the eyes I'm used to seeing in his face."

It's the look of killing, and risking one's own life, for no other reason than the U.S. desire to control Iraqi oil and reshape the Middle East.

If our side builds a strong movement against war and occupation and against recruitment of working-class people in our schools here in the U.S., Miller and others like him would be less susceptible to Marine recruitment. Or, if they do go, they might turn their powerless feelings of "no choice" into the powerful refusal: "No."
Keith Danner, Riverside, Calif.

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FBI targets N.C. students

Dear Socialist Worker,
On November 5, a group of over 200 protesters marched in Raleigh, N.C., to Republican Party headquarters just before midnight to demonstrate against war and the corrupt nature of the American political system. After the crowd passed the headquarters, a group of about 20 demonstrators stayed behind and reportedly burned effigies of both George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry, and smashed windows of the building.

Three of the protestors were later arrested and charged with the felony of "causing malicious damage to property by use of an incendiary device," even though there was no evidence linking them to the petty vandalism. The protestors' bail was set at $50,000 each, and since the incident, support for the "Raleigh 3" has brought in over $15,000 in online donations.

The arrests set off a spark in activity in the Triangle area. The sheer hypocrisy of jailing three young people for petty vandalism when bombs have destroyed thousands of lives in Iraq with no legal consequence has infuriated many local and state activists, students and community members--and resulted in action.

A forum was held at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill soon after the protest in support of the three people arrested. And the weekly "Honk For Peace" vigil in Raleigh, organized by the local chapter of the Student Peace Action Network, swelled from five regulars to 60 people that week, in a show of solidarity with the "Raleigh 3."

The event was also organized to protest the recent intimidation of antiwar activists at North Carolina State University by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). Agents in the JTTF had been going around campus knocking on doors and questioning students and activists about the vandalizing of the Republican headquarters.

When local FBI officials were questioned about why they were snooping around the campus, they explained that it was just the routine thing to do. The supervisory special agent in Raleigh's office, Michael Saylor, said, "It's just like any other crime or any other type of investigation: You have to interview people who were at the scene. That's simply what the interviews were about."

But this was no routine "investigation." It was an attempt to intimidate and crack down on antiwar activism. FBI and police department intimidation of those who dissent has become all too common on college campuses since September 11.

In the name of "homeland security" and the "war on terrorism," activists and youth are being harassed into silence. The time is now to get out in the streets and demand protection of our right to free speech and demand an end to the occupation of Iraq. Show the FBI that we will not be intimidated by attempts to harass and silence dissent.
Julie Southerland, Greensboro, N.C.

Call the Raleigh, N.C., office of the FBI at 919-233-7701 and demand an end to the intimidation of antiwar activists and students.

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Voting Nader hurt the left

Dear Socialist Worker,
Radicals should not have voted for Nader. With the Bush win, we have four more years of right wing attacks on human rights. We get an escalation of war and a sinking feeling in the stomach of everyone on the left. Neither the International Socialist Organization (ISO) nor any other left grouping can fix this now.

The endorsement of Nader was, in reality, an attempt to gain favor with the left that has failed. Here's why: In 2000, there was a mass mobilization on the left for a third party alternative. In 2004, that alternative vanished because a mass mobilization did not occur.

A vote for Nader was an incorrect stance for a revolutionary organization to take. A correct stance for the radical left was to vote for Kerry.

Of course, we all know that Kerry is a billionaire and would have continued the war in Iraq as well as the "war on terror." That isn't the issue. As a tactic, a vote for Kerry prevented the opening for liberals to blame the loss to Bush on the radical left--namely socialists.

Who will reinvigorate the left now? Socialist groups? No. They will again fall in line as demoralization takes a firm hold. The openings provided by Nader's progressive platform are cancelled out by the fissure created on the left by voting for him.

Those of us who are really for a better world have to articulate a stance that unites on the basis of truth, rather than one that divides on the basis of morals. In effect, the endorsement of Nader was a moral stance.

If the ISO and other organized left groups wanted workers to follow them, they would have cast the vote for Kerry. It was imperative for radicals to stand with the rest of the left in order to lead after the election.
Anonymous, grom the Internet

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