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November 16, 2007 | Page 6

The movement needs an honest assessment
Who should pay for health care?

The movement needs an honest assessment

IN THEIR criticism of an article by Sharon Smith on the state of the antiwar movement ("Too late and too little," October 19), Khalil Iskarous and Naveen Jaganathan ("Mobilizing for October 27," October 26) make some serious mistakes, both in their facts and their analyses.

First, the facts. In contrast to their contention, the October 27 coalition in the Bay Area, which the ISO participated in, remained a very narrow organization, mostly comprised of small sectarian groups (even libertarians) and dominated by ANSWER.

United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) did join in, unlike in the past, but its organized forces in the Bay Area are very weak in terms of mobilizing for protests. One positive note was the active participation of labor, which resulted in a labor contingent of about 300 union members.

As for their charge about the timing of Smith's article, Socialist Worker has consistently analyzed and critiqued the repeated failures of UFPJ to mobilize antiwar sentiment, so the complaint that Smith should have written before the war-funding vote is unfounded (see, for example, SW's editorial in its September 7 issue, "How is Bush getting away with it?").

Now, to deal with the errors of analysis. Smith's article used events in Chicago to illustrate general conclusions about the trend of the antiwar movement, which are representative of the national picture.

If you add up the total number of protesters at the major demonstrations throughout the country (even using figures put out by UFPJ, which many activists thought were inflated), you find that October 27 was one of the weakest days of protest since the war began. And this at a time of record high antiwar sentiment!

On the charge of the ISO being "irresponsible" for not mobilizing all-out for October 27 when "activists have spent a tremendous amount of time and energy organizing for it"--the ISO should be counted among those activists, and I can speak for the Bay Area in saying that we made every effort to bring out our membership and allies.

The heart of the matter, though, is whether simply cheerleading and printing all-out calls are what's needed to make the movement and the demonstrations larger. The antiwar movement faces challenges and frustrations that require much more.

The ISO--as well as any other activist or political organization that wants to end this war--has a responsibility to provide a sober assessment of the strengths (and weaknesses) of the movement, a political explanation for why this is so, and a set of politics and tactics that can help rebuild the base of the movement.

I won't recount all the articles over the last several weeks that have addressed these issues, but I will say that Socialist Worker should be proud of its work.
Sid Patel, San Francisco

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Who should pay for health care?

AS BUSH gets ready to again veto the bill for funding children's health care in the form of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), we shouldn't let the Democrats off the hook either.

Not only does the funding for this program come from increasing cigarette and cigar taxes, a regressive tax that burdens the working class disproportionately to the rich, but it also shows who they are really concerned about in our society.

If the Democrats really cared about children's health, or anybody's health--other than their own in the political polls--they would be putting forward a plan for single-payer health care and would stop nickel-and-dime-ing the working class to death.

Many of the same people who hope to benefit from SCHIP will also be forced to pay this new cigarette and cigar tax, not to mention all the other consumption taxes we already have to pay. According the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over one-third of smokers are in families that make less then the national median income and around half of smokers are in families earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

The real solution to the shortage of money for health care, education, jobs and all other essential services for a healthy society is to stop spending over 50 percent of the U.S. budget on the military, and instead give it back to our communities. We need to be taxing the rich to fund programs for the people, but that won't happen with Corporate America's "B team" in the majority--and we've seen that clearly now.

Bush's veto of a bill to help fund health care for children shows which side he's on, but the Democrats' cynical move of making some of the lowest-paid members of the working class pay for SCHIP should not go unchallenged either.

We should not be fooled into backing a plan for children's health to be funded by other working-class people. Instead, we should demand a tax on the corporations, millionaires and billionaires to pay for a single-payer health plan for all of us!
Erik Wallenberg, Seattle

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