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Views in brief

April 29, 2005 | Page 12

OTHER VIEWS BELOW:
Alternative to the occupation
Antigay bigots target schools
Our world is not for sale

Tom DeLay's corporate pals

TOM DELAY (R-Texas), the current House majority leader, has once again come under fire for his dubious campaign fundraising practices. While this is par for the course for politicians of both the Democratic and Republican parties, for those of us who are Teamsters at United Parcel Service (UPS), DeLay holds a special place in the rogue's gallery of political hacks financed by UPS.

DeLay and his allies have made every effort to prevent us from having a safer workplace. The most notorious example is DeLay's role in gutting the ergonomic standards implemented in the final days of the Clinton administration.

Ergonomics is the study of the mechanics of the human body in the workplace. Ergonomic standards are an attempt at cutting down on workplace injuries--specifically, "repetitive motion" injuries that plague UPSers. It took 12 years of research and lobbying to finally get the Clinton Labor department to post the new workplace standards that could have helped prevent 1.8 million workplace injuries every year.

After Bush took office in January 2001, DeLay went into action to rescind the ergonomic standards. He and his Republican allies in the Senate used a little-known law that allowed the Congress to overturn new regulations. After the ergonomics standards were overturned, DeLay told the Washington Post, "I can't get this grin off my face. I go to sleep and wake up with it."

DeLay has been handsomely rewarded by UPS. He has received over $35,000 in campaign contributions from the UPS political action committee from 1998 to 2004. The sooner that DeLay is gone from Congress, the better for Teamsters at UPS.
Joe Allen, Teamsters Local 705, Chicago

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Alternative to the occupation

IT'S GREAT that SW is taking on the left-chauvinism that is such a presence in antiwar circles and publications. Too many people on the left are falling for all the deceit about the resistance that the Pentagon and the media are throwing out there. It should be obvious that the resistance is mostly homegrown militias and union and protest movements, not religious fanatics led by the bogeyman Zarqawi.

What should also be obvious is that Zarqawi, if he is actually a real person, cannot rule Iraq. By all accounts, his following is very small, and that's why they rely on spectacular bombings and kidnappings.

On the other hand SW's coverage of the recent mass anti-occupation demonstration in Baghdad shows that another resistance leader, Moktada al-Sadr, is increasing his popularity. Although he is not an immaculate character, I think socialists can and should argue that he is a serious alternative to the occupation and puppet government.

On every issue that makes the "we can't abandon Iraq" crowd squirm, al-Sadr shines. His following is primarily the Shia poor, which is impressive in its own right, but he also calls for a government of all Iraqis, consistently opposes sectarian violence and has organized solidarity with Sunni residents of Falluja when that city has been under siege.

His name is synonymous with opposition to the Baath regime, as his father was murdered by Saddam's men. And although he is high on the clerical hierarchy, he sees the need to build national unity, and therefore opposes institutionalizing religious law.

It's not for activists in the U.S. to pick out which leaders are best for the Iraqis, nor should we blind ourselves to problems with movements led by Islamic clergy. But it is a concrete and powerful argument to be able to point at someone like al-Sadr and say that he is a viable and much better alternative to the occupation.
Chuck Stemke, San Diego

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Antigay bigots target schools

WITH THE passage of constitutional bans on same-sex marriage in states across the country, the religious right has become more confident in stepping up its efforts to extend discriminatory legislation to other states.

California is now an important battleground, as it has recently seen progress towards the possibility of legalizing same-sex marriages. A recent confrontation at a California high school demonstrates the religious right's willingness to organize to push through its homophobic agenda and the need for a strong, organized left opposition to fight back.

On April 7, in Rohnert Park, a small, suburban town in California, trucks decorated with signs displaying antigay slogans circled outside Rancho Cotati High School. The messages "Homosexuality is a sin" and "Stop gay marriage" were presented in response to a "Day of Silence" organized by the school's Gay-Straight Alliance club.

The bigotry drew a substantial group of counter-protesters, two of whom were arrested for vandalism for trying to tear down a sign and for throwing eggs at the trucks. That didn't discourage progressive activists from returning the next day to protest the hatred and discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The antigay event was organized as a joint effort between the right-wing groups GayMarriageNo.com and the High School Conservative Clubs of America (HSCCA). GayMarriageNo.com provides the materials for the "Truth Trucks" that are now driven by bigots across California.

The Rancho Cotati incident was part of a statewide campaign to "raise public awareness regarding what is at stake in the Sodomite war on marriage and gender." The organization focuses its gay-bashing project on public schools, with plans for similar Day of Silence protests at other high schools.

The HSCCA is a national organization that forms conservative clubs on high school campuses to "stand up against the liberal bias that pervades government-run schools" and "restore American values--God, guns and country." The organization, which has formed high school clubs in seven states, calls for closed borders, denial of immigrant rights, elimination of abortion and a Christian state. HSCCA President Tim Bueler, who gained media attention last year for his comments about "liberal indoctrination" in classrooms, is a student at Rancho Cotati and was a key organizer of the event that he called "a day to stand up for God's truth."

The incident highlights the need for a unified, grassroots movement to defeat an increasingly confident right. To be most effective, progressive activists need to align their efforts and engage in an uncompromising struggle against discrimination, exploitation and imperialism.
Jocelyn Blake, San Diego

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Our world is not for sale

THE ANNUAL spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently took place at their headquarters in Washington, D.C., and demonstrators gathered to voice their demands for change.

A small but energetic crowd of about 1,000 demonstrators rallied in front of the Bank, and then marched to nearby Dupont Circle, chanting their demands for canceling Third World debt and creating an economic system that prioritizes human needs over corporate greed.
Once they arrived at Dupont Circle, they rallied again, with speakers from across the globe and politically conscious musicians, ranging from hip-hop to folk.

Speakers from Venezuela, Argentina, South Africa and Zimbabwe spoke out about the impact of neoliberalism and the fight against it in their countries. A number local activists spoke on the similarities between economic exploitation in the Third World and the injustices taking place here in the U.S.

Organizers of this year's protest chose to emphasize the successes of movements in the developing world against privatization and neoliberalism. In Bolivia, massive protests have twice defeated the attempts of the IMF to privatize valuable resources in that country. Across the global South, from Argentina to South Africa to the Philippines, there are mass movements fighting for social and economic justice.

Standing in solidarity with those movements and raising consciousness about these issues here in the U.S. are the tasks of the American global justice movement. This is a movement that, with all its quirks, is still profoundly internationalist and largely anti-capitalist.

The World Bank and IMF have been responsible for many of the most devastating economic disasters in recent history. The World Bank loans money to impoverished countries, and when the country is unable to repay the debt on time, the IMF imposes economic "structural adjustments" to cut "wasteful" spending and attract foreign investment.

This translates into massive cuts in social spending like health care and education, and privatizing of national resources. The result is huge profits for corporations and drastically lower standards of living for poor people across the world. Africa spends more each year on debt repayment than on all social services combined.

The global justice movement gained momentum in the U.S. in late 1990s, culminating in the 50,000-strong protest in Seattle against the World Trade Organization in 1999 and the protest of more than 20,000 against the World Bank and IMF in April 2000.

The movement was essentially derailed by the events of September 11, 2001. Many activists weren't able to reorient themselves to the new and highly volatile political climate. Liberals in the movement retreated from activism altogether for fear of being "unpatriotic." Many of the global justice activists who wanted to keep the movement alive weren't able to relate to the new situation--specifically, American aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In the context of the war in Iraq, the global justice movement needs to effectively relate the issues of globalization to the military aggression now being seen throughout the Middle East. We must put forward the argument that economic and military aggression are two sides of the same coin. There is a word that describes this dynamic--it's imperialism.

The U.S. and other world powers attempt to dominate world markets and access to natural resources through any means at their disposal. Putting economic pressure on weaker countries is the preferred method, but when that fails, they will not hesitate to deploy their military forces to impose their agenda.

The global justice and antiwar movements must both adopt a clear anti-imperialist analysis. Without this understanding, we will never be able to adjust our movements accordingly to the actions of imperialist forces, whether they take the form the IMF or the U.S. military.
Zach Mason, Washington, D.C.

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