March 17, 2010
Copyright © 2010
by Marc Norton
It is long past time for the antiwar movement to get back into the streets in a big way. It is also long past time for us to see the links between our permanent war economy -- regardless of the party or President in office -- and the growing economic, political and social crisis that we confront daily. The massive March 4 demonstrations
around the country against education cuts and fee hikes are a clear manifestation of a serious break, especially among youth, with the business-as-usual political elite that constantly strives to contain and diminish our righteous anger. It is time to take the
fightback to the next level.
The March 20 demonstrations started out as an antiwar protest, organized by a broad coalition fed up with the years of war in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere the US military machine arrives to impose its version of "law and order." But this protest has grown into a movement against not only the quagmire abroad, but also the quagmire at home.
Here in San Francisco, the March 20 rally and march will
focus on the struggle of hotel workers, thousands of whom, including myself, have been working without a union contract since last August. Mike Casey, President of UNITE HERE Local 2, will be speaking at the rally before the march. The march itself will target the Hilton and the Westin St. Francis, two hotels on the union's boycott list. The hotel bosses want
to junk our health care plan and drive us into the poorhouse, even though the hotel industry has raked in over $200 billion in profits in the last ten years. Despite the current economic turmoil, every major hotel corporation continues to be profitable. The war economy works quite well for them.
Despite the obscene profits of the hotel bosses, the corporate media tries to turn hotel workers, who average around $30,000 a year, and are overwhelmingly people of color, into the villains. We are the ones who cook the food, make the beds, and clean the toilets for the tourist industry on which San Francisco thrives, but the corporate media twists the story into one about uppity hotel workers who have the temerity to demand a decent living for the hard work we do.
Like hotel workers, MUNI drivers are also under attack, here in Baghdad by the Bay. Also like hotel workers, MUNI drivers are overwhelmingly people of color. Many are African-American. Unlike hotel workers, MUNI workers make real money. More power to them. It galls the downtown crowd no end to see a few Black workers finally getting a piece of the pie. So the drivers become the scapegoat for MUNI's problems, in a thinly-concealed racist campaign orchestrated by the corporate media. Look for a speaker from the Transport Workers Union (TWU) at the March 20 rally.
Just as the March 4 demonstrations roiled the political waters on the education front, the large and rowdy February 26 protest against against the Municipal Transportation Authority (MTA) and its draconian MUNI service cuts and fare hikes made waves. San Franciscans showed up by the hundreds to oppose the attempt to by the MTA to solve their budget problems on the backs of MUNI riders and drivers. "I've never seen anything like this," complained Judson True, the spokesperson for the MTA. Mr. True, you haven't seen anything yet.
The war at home and abroad goes on and on. Even as the Pentagon's war budget grows by leaps and bounds, thousands of layoff notices have gone out in recent days to San Francisco teachers and city health workers, among others. Just days ago we reached the grim milestone of 1,000 US troops dead in Afghanistan. Add to this the thousands of US soldiers wounded, plus untold thousands of Afghans killed, crippled and turned into refugees -- just one front in this never-ending world of war.
A few days ago, I saw Matt Damon's
Green Zone. Unlike the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker, which won plaudits for NOT taking a clear stand against the US invasion of Iraq, Green Zone graphically portrays the criminal campaign of lies and deceit that brought so much devastation to that land -- one of the birthplaces of human civilization. Damon's movie brings back the story that the political and corporate elite wants us all to forget. We must never forget.
Just as the powers-that-be target poor and working class people of color like hotel workers and MUNI drivers in their never-ending drive for profits, they target poor and working class people of color to fight their wars. That is one reason Arne Duncan, the former head of Chicago schools -- the most militarized school district in the country -- is now the Secretary of Education. That is why, nationally, enrollment in JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps) among high school and middle school students is up 5% in the last year, from 488,000 to 513,000.
It is long past time that we focus on our real enemies: the tiny class of rich bankers, corporate titans, industrial magnates and financial speculators who profit from war and the maintenance of the US empire on this increasingly distressed planet.
Just rhetoric, you say? Sure this is rhetoric, in the original sense of speaking truth to power. To the ancient Greeks, rhetoric was the logical ordering of speech and argumentation. Today the word rhetoric itself has been corrupted and denigrated by those very forces who fear the truth more than anything else. The ruling class watchwords of today are straight from George Orwell. Ignorance is Strength. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery.
That ruling class mouthpiece, Forbes Magazine, just published its annual list of billionaires. The war economy is good to billionaires. The number of billionaires climbed in the last year from 793 to 1,011. Their cumulative net worth jumped from $2.4 trillion to $3.6 trillion. Their average net worth ballooned $500 million each to $3.5 billion. The list includes billionaires from 55 countries. The US has the most with 403, nearly 40% of the total. Hard times indeed.
Just the average $500 million increase in the net worth of ONE of those billionaires would plug San Francisco's budget deficit.
--> Saturday, March 20. San Francisco. 11am. Civic Center Into the Streets!