Saturday, May 5, 2018

AFL-CIO leaders abandon Puerto Rican workers.

by Sean O'Torain

As teachers leader Mercedes Martinez predicted in a previous post, on April 28th,  workers and teacher protests to stop the austerity measures being imposed on them by the undemocratic federally appointed control board, would be met with more police violence and she was right.  The cuts include layoffs and a 10% reduction to the pension system. More details on the austerity package here.

The violent assault on workers and youth, including teachers opposing privatization of education, shifted up a notch earlier this week as protesters took to the  "Golden Mile" banking sector of the island to protest the US Federal oversight board and the Local Government.

What is important to note is the sheer hypocrisy of the US capitalism and its mass media. It is non stop these past weeks in both the right wing and liberal capitalist media about the gassing of people in Syria. The US capitalist media alleges it is the government of Syria gassing and attacking its own people. Well here the government of the US is gassing and attacking people whom they claim are their own people, the people of Puerto Rico. That this violent assault on the Puerto Rican working class comes in the wake of a devastating hurricane that the island has yet to recover from lays bare the racist colonial attitude the US ruling class has when it comes to Puerto Rico.

As this is happening, the leadership of the AFL-CIO union federation does what they always do, keeps their mouths shut. It is worse than a scandal, it is a crime that these union leaders are abandoning the Puerto Rican workers as they are being beaten and gassed. The struggles of the Puerto Rican workers, many of them teachers, must not be left isolated from the general offensive that is beginning to emerge around education in particular.  Puerto Rico's teachers' struggles can join with and get help from the Arizona teachers and those in other states in their battles with the state governments.

In this way,  these battles for a decent education and a future for our children, can spread to every state. These beginnings of a more than localized offensive against capitalist austerity and the trade union hierarchy that supports it, can be made in to a national and international struggle. It is hard when engaged in the middle of battle to think of the big pie rather than our slice of it, but what would help all these struggles, would strengthen them and make them more effective, would be a call for an immediate conference of all these teachers and educators struggles to organize for this. 

Such a conference could also be the platform for reaching out to the numerous movements across the United States that are fighting back against the capitalist offensive, from the rising movement of women and sexual harassment in the workplace and those marginalized communities demanding equal rights and freedom from discrimination, to the forces that have risen to combat racism, environmental destruction and the pollution of our land and water.

Such a conference could also be a first step in building a new fighting, democratic rank and file opposition in the unions to the present leaderships collaboration with the bosses in driving down workers' living standards.  Through this process new union leadership would emerge.  It is inevitable that the question of electoral politics would be raised by such a conference and the idea of challenging the dictatorship of our political process by the two capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans can be raised. Running candidates out of, and rooted in the movement on the ground  and in opposition to the two capitalist parties will get a very positive response.

The sectarianism and or opportunism of the many self styled revolutionary groups makes it impossible for these groups to build such a movement or even assist struggling workers to do so in a serious way. A new movement, a new network of opposition to the bosses' offensive has to be built and as part of this process,  a revolutionary socialist current can be worked for in a non sectarian manner and with a democratic culture.

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