‘A legalised form of slavery’- US guest worker proposal

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.’

An immigration reform proposal gaining ground in the United States would embrace the words inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty – provided that the masses remain poor and tired and do not huddle in the country for long.

The Border Security and Immigration Reform Act of 2003, proposed to the US Congress in July by Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, would create what is euphemistically being called a ‘guest worker’ programme: undocumented immigrants would be permitted three one-year stints of low-wage servitude in the United States, before being forced back to their countries of origin.

The proposal contains no general amnesty for current resident immigrants, as President George W Bush promised during his campaign for the presidency. Guest workers will have no opportunity for naturalisation or permanent residency.


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US imperialists make poor pay for crisis and war

FRFI 174 August / September 2003

As US imperialism continues its war against the Iraqi people, back at home it is waging a war against workers, the unemployed and those in poverty. The unemployment rate is 6.4%, the highest since 1994. The Federal Reserve Bank has lowered the federal funds rate to 1% – the lowest for 45 years. At the same time borrowing is at extraordinary levels. It is estimated that the federal government deficit will climb to $455 billion, compared with a forecast surplus of $334 billion, just two years ago. STEVE PALMER reports.

This is the hopeless unpredictability and anarchy of a crisis-ridden capitalism. Budget priorities are to pay for imperialist war and repression and to line the pockets of the wealthy. The cost of terrorising legislation was $37 billion in 2002, and estimated at $92 billion for 2003. Some $400 billion in expected revenue evaporated due to the recession which cut tax receipts. The other $375 billion went to the wealthy and to pay for imperialist adventures: $200 billion handed out in tax cuts to the rich – about $35,000 each; some $90 billion to pay for the attack on Iraq, with the remaining $85 billion divided between increased budget for the Pentagon, some crumbs of temporary unemployment benefits and assistance to the states.


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US anti-war movement faces important test

FRFI 177 February / March 2004

The anti-war movement in the United States is facing an important test in a struggle between its reformist and anti-imperialist wings. The reformist wing is led by United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ), an alliance of environmentalists, professional activists, NGOs, various ‘progressive’ organisations and various trade unions at the national level. The anti-imperialist wing is represented by the International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) coalition.

The division in the anti-war movement began immediately following 11 September. Anti-globalisation demonstrations had been planned in Washington DC at the end of September. Following the attacks on 11 September, the globalisation coalition cancelled them, but a number of anti-imperialist organizations decided to go ahead and founded the ANSWER coalition to express widespread opposition to war and to racist attacks. The demonstrations were re-oriented to oppose jingoism and the anti-Muslim attacks. Some 25,000 demonstrated on 29 September 2001 in Washington, another 15,000 in San Francisco. Since then ANSWER has played the leading role in all the large demonstrations


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Bush plans racist immigration reform in the US

FRFI 177 February / March 2004

It is a presidential election year in the United States, which means the spectre of false immigration reform is once again on the horizon.

On 7 January President George W Bush, acting ‘out of common sense and fairness’ and flanked by anointed leaders of the Latino community, introduced his version of a guest-worker programme.

The proposal is similar in many respects to an earlier US guest-worker proposal profiled in FRFI 174. Undocumented workers, for a fee, would win the opportunity to spend short stints of low-wage servitude in the United States, before being forced back to their countries of origin. The plan satisfies with comparable grace those two important forces of reaction, capital and racism. The plan caters to capital, on the one side, by ensuring the workers will be uprooted every three years, thereby guaranteeing the continued existence of a permanently disorganised source of inexpensive labour. As Bush intoned, ‘Our nation needs an immigration system that serves the American economy’ – ‘the economy’ referring, as usual, to profit margins inflated by forcing down the price of labour.

The plan equally satisfies the unnamed but pervasive coalition to Keep America White, by explicitly rejecting any path to citizenship or permanent legal residency for ‘guest workers’.

The ‘immigration reform plan’ is a central part of Bush’s re-election bid – to put on a ‘compassionate conservative’ face and bamboozle the fast-growing Latino voting population into thinking there’s something positive about this sort of immigration reform.


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Torture: the imperialist way of war

On 28 April US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld met with US Senators to discuss the war in Iraq. What he failed to tell them was that both an army review of conditions in Abu Ghraib prison, Baghdad (the Taguba review), and confidential International Red Cross reports, had revealed systematic, sadistic abuse of detainees tantamount to torture. Hours later the first of the obscene photos which are now familiar appeared on CBS’s 60 minutes programme, and the following day details of the Taguba review were published in New Yorker magazine.

Revelations and photos of the torture came thick and fast as the Red Cross and Amnesty International confirmed that they had been advising the Coalition of abuse of detainees by both the US and Britain since May 2003. President Bush claimed that he did not know and admonished Rumsfeld (who, despite this, ‘was doing a great job’) for not telling him. Rumsfeld could not avoid the scandal: it was clear that he had known of the abuse throughout and he warned Congress that worse images were to come, including video film.


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'Ronald Reagan – Madman, imbecile and bum’

'Ronald Reagan – Madman, imbecile and bum’ [1]

On 5 June 2004, former US president Ronald Wilson Reagan died aged 93 years. George W Bush has evoked Reagan’s name consistently during his time in power and the media coverage of this death brought out paeans of praise from Democrat and Republican alike as well as from old allies like Britain’s Margaret Thatcher.

Reagan’s eight years in office represented one of the most bloody periods in the history of the western hemisphere as his administration funnelled weapons, money and other aid to right wing death-squads in Latin America. More than 70,000 died in El Salvador, 50,000 in Nicaragua and 100,000 in Guatemala. He called these terrorists ‘freedom fighters’ and described them as ‘our brothers, these freedom fighters and we owe them our help. They are the moral equivalent of our founding fathers’.


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Torture: Bush and Blair try to cover their tracks

In the wake of publicity at the end of May detailing torture of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the US and British governments continue to pretend that this was the work of depraved individuals. Seven US soldiers and four British soldiers are facing courts martial as a result. The true situation, however, has little to do with the reckless or sadistic behaviour of prison guards or squaddies. The necessity for the torture and barbaric ill-treatment of prisoners results from the desperate need of imperialism to protect its privileges and its super-profits. In this war to maintain global dominance, anything goes.

‘The Blessings of Liberty’
Ever since ‘neo-cons’ assumed power with GW Bush’s election as US President they have been bolstering US global domination by expressly refuting international treaties and obligations on the environment, on the World Criminal Court, on mutual extradition, etc. Repudiation of the Geneva Conventions and Human Rights laws are simply following a pattern already set. With the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre and the subsequent declaration of the War on Terrorism and invasion of Afghanistan, the US administration has adjusted its legal niceties to include indefinite detention without trial and torture for the opponents of US imperialism.


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Human rights: US Supreme Court ditches liberty

‘The practice of arbitrary imprisonments is, in all ages, the favourite and most formidable instrument of tyranny.’
Alexander Hamilton, 1788

In June 2004 the United States Supreme Court handed down three landmark decisions. In each case prisoners being held indefinitely by the US government as ‘enemy combatants’ were challenging the legality of their imprisonment before the nation’s highest court. The rulings, which placed only the most superficial limitations on the US government’s practice of arbitrary imprisonment, were heralded in the bourgeois US press as a ‘reaffirmation of the rule of law’ (New York Times) and ‘a stinging rebuke’ of the Bush administration (Washington Post). In fact, the decisions represent a toothless concession to the Bush administration’s lawless practice of indefinite detention and undermine due process to an extent unseen since the Supreme Court permitted the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.


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US anti-war movement at the crossroads

The US anti-war movement is currently facing a serious test with the build-up to the presidential elections in November. The main test will be in its ability to maintain an anti-imperialist standpoint and thus a principled position in regard to the elections. September saw a week of protest centred around the ruling Republican Party’s National Convention (RNC) in New York. An examination of the forces involved is necessary to measure their effectiveness in building a genuine movement against imperialism.

New York has a history of militant protests. In 1964 Harlem was the scene of the first post-1945 mass urban uprising against racism and police repression. 40 years on, the RNC began on 26 August and marked the beginning of a week that would see dozens of different protests. On the evening of 27 August the monthly ‘critical mass’ bike ride grew into hundreds. As a taste of things to come the protest was attacked by police and over 260 were arrested. Another protest centred around an 8,000-strong unemployment line.


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US Presidential elections Coke or Pepsi?

coca vs pepsi

Every four years the United States holds its Presidential Elections. This time everybody knows what the Republican Party Presidential candidate George Bush stands for: arrogant naked imperialist aggression. Some in the United States left are so shocked by Bush and his Neo-Conservative backers, that they argue that Bush is so extreme, so terrible for America and the World, that everyone should close ranks, rally behind another candidate who can defeat him: ‘Anyone Is Better Than Bush’. Noam Chomsky, the left intellectual takes this position. So does Michael Moore, the radical filmmaker. So does The Nation, a left-liberal magazine similar to the British New Statesman.

‘Anybody but Bush’: the politics of the lesser evil
But will voting for the alternative defend and advance the interests of the working class and oppressed? What are American workers getting if they follow the advice of Moore, the Nation and their friends and vote for John Kerry? Where do Kerry and John Edwards, his Vice-Presidential running mate, stand on the important issues? What is the supposed vital difference that justifies support for Kerry?


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The US election was irrelevant to the needs of the poor and working people in the United States. Questions of poverty, hunger, health, education and work were swept under the carpet by both presidential candidates, as JIM CRAVEN reports.

Poor and homeless
There are in the United States three and a half million homeless people either living on the streets or in shelters. The numbers increased by 13% in 2002 and 19% in 2003. President Bush plans to cut housing subsidies. (All statistics in this article are taken from official figures. The reality is undoubtedly far bleaker.)

One in eight of the US population (12.5%) lives in poverty. That’s nearly 36 million people and includes over 12 million children. An extra 4.3 million people have fallen into poverty since Bush arrived. The average earnings for the poorest 20% are $12,000 a year; equivalent to a rate of £3.30 an hour for a 40 hour week. Included in the poorest 20% of the population are more than half of all black and Hispanic children and their old people over 65 years. The income tax cuts made by the Bush administration accelerated the widening gap between rich and poor. For those in the poorest 20% the cuts were worth about $2 a week. For those in the richest 20% they were worth $800 a week. The tax benefit to the top 1% alone would have been enough to ensure two years’ health care for every US citizen.


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2 November 2004 will be remembered as the day the petit-bourgeois intellectual, middle-class and celebrity Left in the United States pathetically, finally and completely exhausted its bankrupt political strategy. It will take some years for it to become apparent but this Presidential election marked the exhaustion of the political strategy which the Democratic Party has been following for the last half-century, as STEVE PALMER reports from the US.

Under the rallying cry ‘Anybody but Bush’, anyone who dared advance a radical alternative was smacked down. An army of Democratic lawyers – who today are bleating and whining about ‘Republican electoral fraud’! – chased third-party candidate Ralph Nader across the United States to prevent his name appearing on the ballot. The AFL-CIO trade union federation ordered its affiliates to withdraw support from the Million Worker March against unemployment, racism and the crisis of US imperialism. They rallied their efforts behind John Kerry, their ideal representative, a liberal intellectual, conveniently a simultaneous war resister and a war hero. Although a millionaire, Kerry was the ideal candidate: the political personification of the petit-bourgeoisie, trapped between the two major classes of capitalist society and all the time, clinging to the coat-tails of the ruling class, terrified of falling into the working class. A leader ready to follow wherever he thought the electorate was moving, who stood by his principles while repeatedly changing them, someone who was consistently inconsistent:


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State of the Empire report: brutal but brittle

With Emperor George Bush entering his second term, what is the state of his empire? What are his policies likely to be? What can the rest of the world expect from US imperialism? From the United States, STEVE PALMER reports.

‘Freedom’ – for capital
When, in his inauguration speech, Bush spoke of bringing freedom to the world, he means freedom for capital to exploit the world, freedom for US imperialism to oppress nations and peoples, freedom for the US military machine to impose US policy anywhere that refuses to pay obeisance to the Empire. Bush has no intention of supporting political freedom in the United States, never mind in the puppet regimes in Pakistan, Uzbekhistan, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. He is putting in place a team that will repress at home and aggress abroad.


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What’s the matter with the USA?

‘ When you inquire into the causes of the counter-revolutionary successes, there you are met on every hand with the ready reply that it was Mr This or Citizen That who “betrayed” the people. Which reply may be very true or not, according to circumstances, but under no circumstances does it explain anything – not even show how it came to pass that the “people” allowed themselves to be thus betrayed. And what a poor chance stands a political party whose entire stock-in-trade consists in a knowledge of the solitary fact that Citizen So-and-so is not to be trusted?’
Engels, ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany’, Marx Engels Selected Works (Progress, Moscow, 1983), I, p301

In Britain a ‘liberal’ generally means someone who doesn’t have extreme opinions, while a ‘conservative’ means someone who is something of a political fossil, wrapping themselves in the Union Jack. Yet it is possible for a liberal and a conservative to sit down and discuss without disputing reality and without name-calling. In the United States, by contrast, ‘liberals’ (Democratic Party leftwards) are in a vitriolic confrontation with ‘conservatives’ (Republicans and further right), where there is not even agreement on basic facts. In the US it is as if conservatives are a political Flat Earth society, backed by a vast choir of commentators, TV networks, bloggers, and talk-radio hosts who ridicule any suggestion that the world is round. The energy, anger, hatred and contempt they spew are symptomatic of something far deeper than individual psychology: these are the seismic symptoms of deep class tensions of tectonic proportions.


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An unnatural disaster

Before Katrina hit the US three hurricanes had already reached Category 4 or 5 across the Gulf of Mexico*, a total which is unprecedented for so early in the season. Katrina was initially a weak Category 1 hurricane when it crossed Florida. It wasn’t until it passed over the warm Gulf waters that it picked up strength, peaking at Category 5 with winds of over 100 miles per hour when it struck New Orleans. A lot of fingers are pointing to global warming.

The main factor in the formation of a hurricane is sea surface temperature. Warm water, and the subsequent instability in the lower atmosphere, is the energy source of hurricanes. According to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, in the past 35 years the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes worldwide has almost doubled. The change occurred as global sea-surface temperatures rose over the same period. Peter Webster, one of the researchers at the centre, said that ‘in the 1970s, there was an average of about 10 Category 4 and 5 hurricanes per year globally. Since 1990, the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has almost doubled, averaging 18 per year globally.’ These intense storms made up about 20% of all hurricanes in the 1970s, but over the past decade they have accounted for around 35%.


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Katrina survivors organise

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Houston Astrodome, long a symbol of public sector obedience to the interests of private capital, became the scene of something else: a successful effort among the displaced poor and working class of New Orleans to organize themselves to confront the power structures that left them stranded. DALTON HILLIARD, a New Orleans native living in Houston, reports.

The contrast was telling.
On the first Saturday at the mass shelter in the Houston Astrodome, tens of thousands of New Orleans residents, having spent the better part of a week facing polluted flood waters, government neglect and racism, now were treated to a circus of political opportunism and condescension. Liberal politicians like Reverend Jesse Jackson and Bill and Hillary Clinton, moths to the flame of the international media presence, brought entourages intrusively through the rows of cots lining the stadium floor. Loudest of all, Oprah Winfrey and a host of multi-millionaire black celebrities took to the PA system to let ‘their people’ know that everything was going to be alright.
At the same time that Saturday, in one section of the stadium’s bleachers, something very different was going on. A group of 40 evacuees were meeting to discuss an agenda of demands and develop an organizing strategy to get them met.


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Imperialism flattens hurricane survivors

Hurricane Katrina ripped the mask off the face of US imperialism, exposing the ugly, cruel, vicious, racist, exploitative nature of capitalism. The hurricane was an appalling destructive natural disaster. But for millions of Americans, overwhelmingly poor, US imperialism has turned it into a catastrophe. It shows the utter futility of capitalism, which, planless, riddled with corruption, putting private property before people, reacting after the event instead of preparing in advance, has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer the poor and oppressed. US capitalism failed to evacuate everybody from the area in time, failed to rescue everyone afterwards, failed to bring relief in any kind of adequate and organised way and is preparing to turn reconstruction efforts into one big trough awash in billions of dollars for big corporations to guzzle down. Steve Palmer reports from the US.

A much-trumpeted evacuation plan for New Orleans turned out to be just hot air. The middle class fled in their SUVs. The hurricane hit, the levees (dykes) protecting the city burst, flooding the city. The city’s poor, who are overwhelmingly black, were without transport and were left behind to fend for themselves. The huge fleet of 700 school and transit buses, which might have evacuated thousands of people, were not used– and became flooded and useless.

Dramatic scenes were splashed across primetime television for days, with unceasing exposure of the plight of poor, predominantly black, New Orleaners trying to survive. The media quickly depicted black people the way they find most endearing: as helpless victims or congenital criminals, a pathetic yet anarchic mass. Wild unsubstantiated rumours of rape and murder were repeated as if fact, feeding racist fantasies. The madness reached its apogee when supposed ‘civil rights veteran’ Randall Robinson claimed that ‘black hurricane victims in New Orleans have begun eating corpses to survive’. Inevitably, conservative commentators were soon repeating Robinson’s stupid fabrication, describing the tired and hungry masses as ‘savages’, ‘animals’ and ‘cannibals’.

Two paramedics, Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Slonsky, who are shop stewards from San Francisco, recounted what really happened.
Far from being a passive begging mass:


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US: nadir of the bourgeoisie

‘By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.’
Communist Manifesto

The US bourgeoisie is not sure what to do about the mess it has got itself into. The Clinton Administration of 1992-2000 laid the groundwork: destroyed almost the entire welfare system in the US, helped organize the brutal and rapacious process of primitive accumulation in the ex-socialist countries, consolidated various important trade measures, slimmed down the US military, initiated the reactionary ‘peace process’ in the Middle East and modernized infrastructure needed for the ‘globalisation’ undertaken by US imperialism. Clinton sowed the seeds, but the ruling class needed a more aggressive crew to do the reaping and harvesting. Our US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports.

What it got is the present gang of liars, swindlers, cut-throats, bullies and thieves. Sworn to defend the US Constitution, they shred it clause by clause. Professing patriotism, they betray the mass of the US people day after day. In the name of ‘democracy’, ‘peace’ and ‘freedom’, they spread tyranny, torture and repression wherever they strut.


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Moribund US imperialism

It has been said that in the moribund patient, deepening stupor and coma are the preludes to death. If we go by these signs, US imperialism is certainly preparing itself for the grave. What are missing are the gravediggers. While the rest of the world was being horrified by the release of more pictures of US torture at Abu Ghraib, the US media spent days debating whether a Vice-President had shot up one of his buddies by accident, incompetence or because he was drunk.

This preoccupation with microscopic marginalia while anything substantial is ignored has eaten to the heart of bourgeois politics. While approval of Bush and the Republicans has declined to an all-time low, approval of the Democrats has fallen even further. Week after week, the administration offers fat juicy targets that the Democrats insist on ignoring or missing. Easy opportunities to cut deep into the jugular present themselves every few days. Yet if any individual Democrat is aggressive enough to so much as stick their head over the parapet and fire a few squirts at the administration from a water pistol, their colleagues recoil in horror and their condemnation rivals that of the Republicans.


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USA: Enough is enough!

Millions of immigrant undocumented workers all across the US took to the streets to protest against proposed racist immigration laws.

Following the immigrant-led Haymarket Riots in Chicago in May 1886 that led to the eight-hour day and adoption of 1 May as international workers’ day, Engels enthused:

‘The way in which they have made their appearance on the scene is quite extraordinary: six months ago nobody suspected anything, and now they appear all of a sudden in such organised masses as to strike terror into the whole capitalist class.’

He was talking about the first explosion of the working class into US politics. ‘I only wish Marx could have lived to see it!’ he said.*

What has happened?
Again as if from nowhere, on another May Day, the working class in the US has leapt dramatically onto the political stage in the form of a mass movement led by undocumented workers. Five million workers and their families poured onto the streets of more than 150 US cities and countless smaller towns in almost every state. In Los Angeles, two marches totalling one million; 700,000 marched through Chicago’s forest of sky scrapers; 100,000 stretched 15 blocks of San Francisco’s Market Street; in New York, between half a million and a million working people swelled through Manhattan; in Atlanta, in Seattle, in San Jose, in Washington DC, in Denver in Boston…The vast tide rolled on and on and on. From Anchorage and Juneau in frozen Alaska, to the southern desert border crossing at Tijuana; from Honolulu, on the Pacific island of Hawaii to Miami, Florida, ‘from Sea to Shining Sea’, workers proudly stood up to oppose racist immigration legislation.


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Mr Parasite goes to Washington

‘The credit system, which has its focus in the so-called national banks and the big money-lenders and usurers surrounding them, constitutes enormous centralisation, and gives to this class of parasites the fabulous power, not only to periodically despoil industrial capitalists, but also to interfere in actual production in a most dangerous manner – and this gang knows nothing about production and has nothing to do with it.’ (Karl Marx, Marx and Engels Collected Works, 37, 541-2)

On 10 July, Henry Paulson was sworn in as the United States’ 74th Treasury Secretary. At the ceremony, Bush emphasized that ‘Hank Paulson will be my leading policy advisor on a broad range of domestic and international economic issues, and he will be the principal spokesman for my administration’s economic policies’.

Although there are divisions within the US ruling class over foreign policy and the war, Paulson’s nomination won unanimous consent in the US Senate. Despite the tensions, there is fundamental unity within the US ruling class over the direction of US imperialist economic policy. This is unsurprising: under the Bush regime, the US ruling class has been raking in enormous profits. On 4 June the Financial Times reported that:


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US admits torture charter

On 6 September, US President Bush shamelessly confirmed what has long been known – that for the past five years the CIA has been operating a network of secret torture camps across Europe and the Middle East. At the same time he announced that 14 ‘top level Al Qaida terrorists’, having been subjected to ‘tough’ interrogation, would now face military commissions at Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. These commissions are simply a new name for the military tribunals banned by the Supreme Court in July 2006 and will continue to deny rights to the defendant and permit evidence obtained by torture. Far from being closed down, Guantanamo is being revamped.

The Supreme Court also ruled that Article III of the Geneva Convention, which prohibits ‘outrages upon personal dignity’ and ‘humiliating and degrading treatment’ applies to Taliban and Al Qaida suspects. In 2002 Bush had stated that they were exempt. With the risk that CIA operatives could now face prosecution as war criminals, Bush brokered a deal whereby he would nominally accept Article III, while retaining the right, as Commander in Chief, to breach it if ‘necessary’. In the same vein, the Pentagon issued a watered-down version of its field manual for interrogation techniques. For example, water boarding (partial drowning), included in earlier drafts, no longer appears.


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The condition of the working class in the United States

An organizational split in the trade union movement; a brutal, predatory, imperialist war; a massive and systematic assault on civil rights; the largest mass mobilization of workers ever on a directly political issue; a steady erosion of abortion availability; a vicious onslaught on workers’ rights and conditions; and, underneath it all, deepening economic contradictions – these developments beg, demand, nay scream for an anti-imperialist analysis of the condition of the working class in the US and the way forward for it. So, when Monthly Review (MR)1, the influential US socialist magazine, devotes its July-August 2006 issue to ‘Aspects of Class in the United States’,2 we are entitled to expect some insights. After all, as editor John Bellamy Foster writes: ‘By focusing on class and class struggle our underlying purpose is clear: not simply to interpret the world but to change it.’


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US elections: the changing of the guard

‘The object of our policy has to be to get our little white asses out of there as soon as possible.’ Anonymous Iraq Study Group participant

The November 2006 mid-term elections have resulted in the Democrats winning a majority of seats in both Houses of Congress. How did this happen and what does it mean?

Past issues of FRFI have covered the growing disenchantment of the US ruling class with its Neoconservative functionaries in the Bush administration. While very satisfied with the economic fruits of the Bush administration – tax cuts and the record rise in profitability – the ruling class is deeply concerned about foreign, domestic and immigration policy.

The Bush regime has alienated most major allies, fostered hostility to the US and made it difficult for the US to intervene elsewhere – in Latin America, for example. Its policies of torture and detention have made US pontifications on human rights a sick joke. The war in Iraq, which lies behind this, has exhausted its army, drained the economy and become an internal political liability.


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As safe as houses

In past issues of FRFI we have shown how capitalism has been staving off its inevitable crisis in part by propping itself up through a massive expansion of credit and loans. This has taken a wide variety of forms: the US state has been financing itself by borrowing from foreign lenders and US consumers have kept spending by taking out loans against their houses for example. This credit has helped sustain the expansion of US capital, despite its inherent tendency toward crisis, by financing production beyond the limits which would normally be set by profitability. Steve Palmer reports

Credit and speculation
This expansion of credit has sharply increased in the last two years. The US ‘money supply’, the sum of the most liquid forms of money: cash, checking and saving accounts, money market accounts etc, has grown by some 12.6% since January 2005, about the same rate as production. But other, slightly less liquid forms of money, such as eurodollars, ‘Repos’ (repurchase agreements) and large time deposits, have been growing much faster than the basic money supply: by 31.8%, 44.1% and 67.6% respectively over the same period. This is a symptom of a sharp credit expansion, largely outside the normal banking system.


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State of Oklahoma celebrates a centenary of ethnic cleansing

The US state of Oklahoma was born in 1907 from a final frenzy of ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. Now, with the blessing of the Bush administration, Oklahoma is celebrating its centenary year with a fresh wave of ethnic cleansing, this time by driving some 20,000 Latinos out of the state.

How the West was really won
The first phase of the European invasion of North America led to the settlement of the eastern seaboard. Rivalry during the 18th century between capitalist Britain, France and Spain, in continental power and colonial conquest, culminated in British victory in the Seven Years War in 1763. By Crown Proclamation, the British declared that that lands formerly occupied by France in North America (‘New France’) would be incorporated into a vast swathe of inland territory, stretching through present day Canada to the tip of Florida – the ‘Indian Reserve’.


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US presidential elections

Clinton plays race card against Obama

When the race opened for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton was the clear favourite. She’s very visibly right-wing: supports the war; is in the pocket of AIPAC, the Zionist lobbying organisation; supports nuclear proliferation to US proxy regimes like Israel and Pakistan and has even fought attempts by the Bush administration to cut some military programmes.

When Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy, the sense of entitlement, complacency and arrogance of the Clinton camp dismissed his chances: after all, just how much bother could this young, inexperienced upstart black candidate be? Then Obama won Iowa, which is 94% white … and has gone on to win many States and more delegates than Clinton to the nominating convention.


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US political prisoners’ long struggle for justice

In 2007 the US prison population rose to an all-time high of 2.3 million.  More than one in every 100 adults in the US is now a prisoner. One in 106 white men one in 36 Hispanic and a staggering one in 15 black men are behind bars.  Among black men aged 20-34, the figure rises still further to one in nine.

Buried deep in the bowels of this massive prison system are political prisoners whom the US govern-ment has tried unsuccessfully to silence. The most internationally well known is Mumia Abu Jamal but there are many others. Fol­lowing the article in the last FRFI about the Lucasville Five (see Letters page in this issue) we have heard from Siddique Abdullah Hasan and publish below an edited version of his article on Mumia. We have also received letters from Ana Lucia Gelabert, who has been incarcerated for 24 years in the Texas prison system and who has written many times to FRFI, and for the first time from Ruchell Cinque Magee. FRFI also continues to campaign for the freedom of the Cuban Five (see page 12).


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US credit crisis: passing the buck

Since the last issue of FRFI the Bank of England has tossed $100bn onto the roulette table of finance capital – secured against almost whatever manure the banks want to get off their books. Banks and financial institutions continue to announce write-downs: AIG, the world’s largest insurance insurer, announced a further $9.11bn write-down; bond insurer MBIA revealed a $3.6bn write-down and Fannie Mae announced losses of $4.4bn. All managed to sweeten the pill by announcing plans to raise more credit. Citibank announced it would get rid of $400bn of ‘non-core’ assets. Wall Street loves optimism, so looked on relatively tolerantly as the billions were tossed onto the bonfire. Since the Fed’s sponsored buy-out of Bear Stearns, dealers have begun to assume that it both will step in and can bail them out of any mess. US correspondent STEVE PALMER reports

Some questions
Q: Will it all be over next month?

A: No, this has several years to run – for the reasons why, read on …


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US and Britain: partners in torture

‘It is a long-standing principle of common law that confessions obtained by torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment cannot be used as evidence in any trial’ (Lord Justice Thomas and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, 22 August 2008).

The case of Binyam Mohamed has exposed yet again the collusion of British security services in torture, as well as the willingness of the British government to ride rough-shod over its legal and moral obligations in the interests of preserving its ‘special relationship’ with the United States.
Binyam Mohamed, the only British resident still held at the US Guantanamo concentration camp, faces trial on terrorism charges carrying a possible death penalty at a kangaroo court ‘military commission’. All the evidence is based on confessions extracted through torture. Mohamed was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002, where he was held without access to a lawyer until July; he was then the subject of extraordinary rendition to Morocco, where he was brutally tortured for 18 months – including having his penis slashed with a scalpel – at the behest of the US, before being flown back to Afghanistan, where he spent another nine months in the CIA’s ‘Dark Prison’ near Kabul and the US military prison at Bagram airbase. He arrived in Guantanamo in June 2004 where he has been kept almost permanently in isolation.


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US political prisoners’ long struggle for justice

In 2007 the US prison population rose to an all-time high of 2.3 million.  More than one in every 100 adults in the US is now a prisoner. One in 106 white men one in 36 Hispanic and a staggering one in 15 black men are behind bars.  Among black men aged 20-34, the figure rises still further to one in nine.

Buried deep in the bowels of this massive prison system are political prisoners whom the US govern-ment has tried unsuccessfully to silence. The most internationally well known is Mumia Abu Jamal but there are many others. Fol­lowing the article in the last FRFI about the Lucasville Five (see Letters page in this issue) we have heard from Siddique Abdullah Hasan and publish below an edited version of his article on Mumia. We have also received letters from Ana Lucia Gelabert, who has been incarcerated for 24 years in the Texas prison system and who has written many times to FRFI, and for the first time from Ruchell Cinque Magee. FRFI also continues to campaign for the freedom of the Cuban Five (see page 12).


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