Thursday, November 24, 2016

Obama and Ellen cry, but not for Standing Rock

Not Afghanistan, North Dakota
 by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

Quite a flock, or herd, or is it a “murder ”of millionaires and billionaires gathered in Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the outgoing President Barack Obama.

Most of them were quite generous in their support of Obama’s election campaign. Michael Jordan, worth over $1 billion, made off the backs of South East Asian workers but who refused to meet with them when they came to the US to protest their inhuman conditions in their factories, was one happy billionaire.  Jordan threw a $3 million fundraiser, for $20,000 per person during Obama's 2012 campaign. 

Oprah Winfrey, worth some $3 billion was another recipient as were the Gates’ pair, Bill and Melinda, the richest of them all. Bill’s net worth at around $82 billion could eliminate world hunger practically, but hey; he worked hard for that. Lorne Michaels, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Redford and others were recipients.

Obama could barely hold back the tears handing Ellen DeGeneres her medal. "It’s easy to forget now just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages 20 years ago,",  Obama said choking up, “…pushing  our country in the direction of justice".

It does take courage to come out like that but unfortunately in the US having the courage to name one’s sexual identity in public becomes the great harbinger of social progress. "Our country" when it comes to whether one can eat or put a roof over one's head is heading in a different direction.

 “Everyone on this stage has touched me in a powerful personal way. These are folks who have helped make me who I am and think about my presidency.” Obama added.

Ellen DeGeneres: Donated $35,800 in 2012 to the Obama Victory Fund and $100,000 in 2016 to the Hillary Victory Fund.  This is the freedom that matters to these people. Obama is the deporter in chief and master of the drones, and Clinton is a warmonger, a ruthless representative of the US ruling class. The recipients have all accumulated their wealth as the material conditions of most Americans have deteriorated along with our social infrastructure..

We have more people in  prison than any other country in the world, a staggeringly high percentage of the incarcerated are people of color.

I didn’t like seeing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar up there, it would have been nice if people like him and others with half a conscience refused them. After all, there’s not much “justice” being handed out up at Standing Rock. Not much Obama love there.
As some of us are aware, there is a near civil war going on in Standing Rock North Dakota as Native Americans, some 188 Canadian First Nations and American Tribes,  along with allies from many communities throughout the US, are trying to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline a 1,172 mile, $3.7 billion pipeline project that will carry oil from the Bakken to the oil tank farm in Illinois.

What we are witnessing here is a tremendous resistance to capitalism’s destruction of our environment including our land and water. Native people are also protecting land that is sacred to them.

We are also witnessing a massive show of not simply police, but a militarized police. This is the future as capitalism is forced to drive the conditions of the US working class downward. The militarization of the police, with the addition of army personnel vehicles to disperse protesters as well as corralling them or creating penned up areas where protests can take place without any possibility of disruption, is the new state of affairs.

This historic struggle in North Dakota confirms that despite a genocidal, centuries old campaign against Native Americans, they are far from a beaten people. This struggle has brought many tribes together and the support from all over the world has been considerable. On December 6th, US military veterans will be there to show their support.

The US mass media, the most censored of the advanced  capitalist countries, gives little or no air time to this historic struggle. It is social media that has been getting the word out.

Unfortunately, while President Obama and Ellen DeGeneres were choking up over a medal, there weren’t any tears or talk of bravery for the Standing Rock water defenders who have been sprayed with tear gas as well as cold water in freezing weather. One tribe member talked of their mothers and grandmothers being dragged away.

No tears from Obama and Ellen for 21 year old Sophia Wilansky who was hit by a concussion grenade and may have to have her arm amputated. She is in critical condition.

But I want to raise what we always raise on this blog. The force in society that bears the most responsibility for this, that must shoulder the blame for the fact that righteous struggles like these either end in defeat or the participants find themselves so outnumbered, is the leadership of organized labor.

I do not have a fetish about this. I do not have a vendetta against the hierarchy that sits atop the workers’ organizations. But we must not let them remain anonymous as workers and all oppressed people are being savaged by the capitalist state. We must not allow them to dodge the bullet, to hide behind this wall of silence.

They have hidden for so long may people, including their own members, the folks whose dues money pays their obscene salaries, cannot even name them, do not even consider them as a force at all. But they are. They head an organization with 14 million workers in it. Workers employed in communications, shipping, airlines., energy, transportation, public services. The LA Labor council has over 800,000 workers affiliated to it and the California Labor Federation two million, and this is the 6th largest economy in the world. US presidential candidates and state governors don't attend union conferences because there's no power there. They want that power contained ans it is the members' job to unleash it, to overcome the obstacle of our own leadership.

My former union Afscme has 4000, locals, the AFL-CIO has 1000 county councils.

We refer to them as the dog that doesn’t bark. Imagine being stranded in the desert with no water, or without food, while one person hoards it, refuses to share it. That person would have to watch their backs, they would not be allowed to remain anonymous.

The labor leadership consciously and deliberately remains silent. They support capitalism, they worship the market; they have the same world view as the bankers that caused the Great Recession and the politicians that are sending militarized forces to crush the Standing Rock water protectors.

All trade unionists must point to them, call them out, not call them names, but at all times flush them out in to the open, make them defend their criminal support of those who are taking back from American workers gains that took generations to win. The role they play has allowed the ruling class to have two political parties while workers have no voice. It is their fault that we do not speak and act as a class in this country. The wars in Iraq and the devastation that is US foreign policy is partially their fault. The US bourgeois and their ideology goes unchallenged.

They are silent on police murders, racism, the savagery that capitalism and the market has brought in to people’s lives.  Sure, they pay lip service occasionally. But they will not use the power under their control to fight back against this savagery so they are responsible for it.

Those in unions must raise this role and challenge the present leadership by building fighting opposition caucuses in the unions to replace them. But at every opportunity the leadership must be pointed to, must be identified and their role laid bare for all to see, union and non union, especially the youth. The balance of class forces can be shifted in our favor but we cannot ignore the labor hierarchy, they will not allow it and we should not do it..

Here are the unions in the AFL-CIO. These are the dogs that don’t bark, that say nothing as folks in Standing Rock are facing a military offensive from the capitalist state. These are the people who have praised our enemies as our living standards have been decimated. As education has been lifted out of the reach of working people, as a roof over our head takes three jobs to put there. As the politicians and bankers stuff their pockets at our expense. 

1 comment:

charles davenport said...