Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Flint and beyond. Build a broad direct action movement against the 1%

Third world country?  No, a residents water pipe in Flint. Source, WSJ
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

In response to the poisoning of the city’s water supply in order to pay for US capitalism’s corporate wars, Flint’s city officials have added a chemical in order to stop the lead from leaking through pipes and in to the drinking water. What chemical and the effect it has on the human or any other organism, this writer cannot say. It’s sort of like spraying oil spills with chemicals to make us safe. Does it though?

One of the motivations for this exercise is that lead levels in the water supply have to fall below 15 parts per billion that water systems must test at or the federal government is compelled to take further steps it wants to avoid, the worst being installing a completely new system and removing contaminated lines.

The tests which are “not scientific” according to reports in the media, were samples local residents handed over to the state. Last month there were “More than 30 test results above 150 parts per billion..” according to the Wall Street Journal.  But there were some that came in at thousands of parts per billion, says Mona Hanna Attisha the Pediatrician that helped expose this catastrophe. More here  and here.  Like all environmental disasters, we will not know the extent of the damage to the children of Flint until it manifests itself, much like the affects of the BP spill in the gulf.

As I write this, I read in a three by inch and a half column in the Wall Street Journal, that one of the criminals responsible for another market driven environmental catastrophe in West Virginia has received 3 years probation and been fined $10,000. Robert Reynolds was an environmental consultant at Freedom Industries and was in charge of environmental compliance when the chemical agent MCHM, used for cleaning coal, was leaked in to the Elk River. Residents in nine counties could not drink, bathe in or wash anything in tap water for almost two weeks.

We need to remind ourselves that here in the US there are literally hundreds of thousands of working class and poor people, a disproportionate number of them people of color, languishing in US prisons for petty crime, offenses like smoking and possessing pot, stealing a car or perhaps some items form Macy’s, some even stole food. These are overwhelmingly people that capitalism has abandoned and who would undoubtedly choose other paths were the options open to them. They never poisoned and entire river or city.

Some time ago, a major US journal of the 1% described the dilapidated US social structure as the “Third Deficit”.  It is worse today.  But as it continues to decline, total debt in the US hits $17 trillion, $12 trillion of that private debt. And today I read the Pentagon is seeking more funding for our military presence in Europe. It is not unlikely that at some time we will witness a revolt among the European working class against US capitalism’s destabilizing role on that continent, supporting Fascists in the Ukraine, provoking the Russians and other activity. The US driven Middle East wars has forced millions to flee north to escape the carnage and most European workers are aware of this, that this is at the root of the refugee problem.  Even the staunchly pro-Zionist French are getting impatient with the Zionist regime and its US backers.

Back home, we will be asked to sacrifice more for this aggression that the corporate controlled media in the US refers to as spreading freedom and defending the American way of life. And what freedoms and way of life are they talking about defending? The right to pollute our rivers or the Gulf of Mexico and get away with it?  The right to drive wages and working conditions down to third world levels? The right to imprison two million people because capitalism refuses to provide fruitful work and a secure existence for more and more people?  The social and economic conditions that prevail in the urban ghettos, the Native American Reservations and places like West Virginia?  For those of us still with jobs and homes, keeping what we have is becoming more difficult and more stressful as the crisis of capitalism intensifies.

We can charter a different course.  We have the resources and the money.  Billions is being spent electing candidates for office from one of the two Wall Street Parties.  The trillions spent in the predatory wars and aggressive foreign policy to defend corporate profits abroad is not under threat from these candidates.  Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders talks of billionaires and raising taxes on them, but never talks about changing the system that perpetuates this. He refuses to point to the trillions of dollars spent on aggressive and hostile wars that have nothing to do with defending the US and our way of life because he supports US foreign policy and as a Zionist does not condemn Israel’s racist policies and ethnic cleansing. The US is armed to the teeth. Any country with thoughts of invading the US would be committing mass suicide and all countries know it.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are funded and backed by Wall Street.  The answer to Flint’s problems is a massive social infrastructure spending program to rebuild our cities, our parks, our transportation system ( a mass transit system has to be the alternative to autos). Millions of jobs can be created through this investment which can be paid for by taxes on the rich and by ending all wars and occupations. I remember my dad telling me how the US built a liberty ship a day during the war. He was in prison camp with Americans and loved had great respect for America and its productive power. Well, we're at war now only it against others who call themselves Americans, the few thousand billionaires and their system. Conditions that exist in Flint and throughout the US are a product of an economic system in decay.

Dominant industries that produce the necessities of life in any civilized society must be taken in to public ownership and run by the workers in these industries in combination with the communities that they serve and in which they are situated. Food production, education, health care, transportation, energy, all these industries are vital to our survival and cannot be run by a gang of hedge fund managers and billionaires whose sole goal is to accumulate wealth, to ensure and maximize shareholder value, human need and the environment is an obstacle to this.  

We are held hostage by the media that is owned by the same gang that owns the other industries. They produce garbage, 200 channels of it on TV and more crap films in Hollywood. They produce violent video games in partnership with the US military that damage our children as it prepares them for war,  and we have no say in any of this. They all sit on each other’s boards or are connected through numerous networks. They meet in Jackson Hole Wyoming, the Bohemian Grove in CA and other places we will never be allowed to enter where they discuss strategy and how they can best govern society in their own interests and the environment be damned.

While they have differences among themselves over how best to govern, over what is the most efficient and stable means by which to reap profits, they are united in their war against the working people of this country and the world.  The US became a world power on the backs of the auto industry in and around Flint and Detroit. It became a wealthy country, after its genocidal war against the Native population and through the importation of Europe’s poor that filled the textile factories of New England and the coalmines of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and the South. Through one of the most barbaric systems in modern history, US capitalism paid no wages to some 4 million Africans for 300 years and on the backs of the exploited it entered the world stage and replaced the once great British Empire as the world’s most powerful economic and military power.

These are the forces and system we are dealing with.  We are taught to be patriotic, to love our country. All nation states do this but it is a trick. The America of Rick Snyder, Warren Buffet, Michael Bloomberg the former mayor of NYC worth some $30 billion and others like them is not our America.  We love our home turf, our back yard in a different way.  For the 1%, they’d live anywhere if the profits demanded it; they do live everywhere.

There are activists throughout the country being forced to fight back by necessity, from the folks in Flint to Lafayette Colorado and Oklahoma where people are fighting Fracking, to Chicago and other cities where residents are fighting back against gentrification. There are indigenous struggles against poverty and destruction of Native lands. In Porter Ranch California, the residents of this more affluent community have been driven from their homes due to a gas leak that has forced the governor to declare a state of Emergency. Black youth and their allies are fighting back against police brutality, women against gender discrimination. There are struggles everywhere taking place in isolation in the main.

Activists in these communities must connect to each other, must link up as part of the process of building an alliance against 1% and their austerity agenda. Part of this activity must be appealing to the rank and file in the unions in their effort to throw out their present pro business leadership. A wider movement must be built and out of this movement on the ground, a movement armed with direct action tactics, political candidates independent of the two Wall Street parties can emerge and begin the process of building a party of working people and the middle class that can challenge the dictatorship the Republicans and Democrats have over political life. Those of us on this blog would like to be part of this, would support such a movement but at this point our greatest resource is this blog.

This in not that period in history that gave rise to the idea of the American Dream; it is the period of the American Nightmare for all but a few billionaires. We will be forced to liberate ourselves form the distractions their media places before us but better not to wait until we are forced by necessity to act, we owe it to our children to act before that point and their future is denied them.

We can't rely on lawyers or the courts to defend us. The people in this nation of ours need to raise our expectations.

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