USA/Canada

A vote Kerry film

Letter from Martin Thomas, Islington

Pete Radcliff (Solidarity 3/55) is right, I think, that Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 911 is much better cinema than his previous Bowling for Columbine.

I can hardly imagine anyone seeing Fahrenheit 911 and coming out with any respect for or confidence in George W Bush and the rest of his gang at the top of the US government. That debunking of the powers that be is the beginning of all political wisdom.

But only the beginning.

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Fahrenheit 911

The target of this film is unmistakable and the film, thankfully, is remorseless. This is a demolition job on the credibility of the Bush presidency. The stupidity, the callousness, the cynicism, the dishonesty and corruption of the Bush presidential empire are all fantastically exposed.

Not surprisingly, supporters of the president have subjected the film to an equally remorseless campaign of abuse. In the US, while the film has played to capacity audiences for some weeks now, both the film and director Michael Moore have become major targets of the Bush campaign. The Bush entourage have used all their business and media power to obstruct its circulation and rubbish its content.

Despite winning the Cannes festival's best film award and being applauded by film purists like Quentin Tarantino, it has been attacked by many UK film critics, such as Mark Kermode of the Observer. The reasons for this are a little difficult to unravel. A lot is plain artistic snobbery, which finds the methods of satirical, political polemic beneath it. But probably a larger part of the explanation is because the film implicitly challenges the naivety of those in the UK who believed that a war led by Bush and Blair could ever be defendable.

The film starts with the 2000 election. This sits uneasily with the rest of the film, but it can be understood as Moore's attempt to explain his actions and the actions of other radicals and socialists in that year, when supporters of Ralph Nader, the Green/Labor presidential candidate, were subjected to fierce attacks from the failed Democrat Gore's supporters for splitting the anti-Republican vote.

Moore was probably the most visibly active and prominent supporter of Ralph Nader's campaign. As such he was the target of much of the Democrats' criticism. He defended himself essentially with two arguments:

  1. that Gore and the Democrats were incapable of mobilising working class votes because of their refusal to campaign on issues of concern to working class people; and

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The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the US/Mexico Border

The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the US/Mexico Border, David Bacon, University of California Press, £18.95.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States (US), Canada and Mexico, which came into force in 1994, has revolutionised relations of capital and labour across the continent.

This book by journalist and activist David Bacon paints a persuasive picture of the suffering and struggle that has resulted from NAFTA. It provides a valuable critique of its effects and a fascinating first-hand view of life and work on the US-Mexico border.

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US-Iraqi workers' solidarity grows

"On hearing about the firing of the Um Qasr longshoremen, San Francisco's International Longshore and Warehouse Local 10 condemned the action. 'You are not alone,' President Henry Graham told them. 'If dockworkers in the rest of the world hear about your situation, you can count on their support'."

David Bacon of US Labor Against the War reports on growing solidarity from US workers to Iraqi workers. Click here.

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Debate and discussion: Back Nader?

Jim Bywator's comments (Inside America, 10 June) on the presidential campaign seem a little wide of the mark.

True, the case against backing Nader is easy: he's not a leftist, but, rather, some sort of radical, and his campaign certainly isn't 'independent working-class politics'.

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The writing on the wall

  • Corporate America takes over the airwaves
  • Shiny new Corporate America?
  • Striking a pose
  • Striking it rich?


Corporate America takes over the airwaves

The UK radio market is about to be deregulated, making it ripe for take over by big media corporations. One company that will do well in the UK market is US conglomerate Clear Channel.

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US left debates Nader

Inside America by Jim Bywater

I think it was right to support the presidential campaign of veteran anti-corporate campaigner Ralph Nader in 2000, but not this time.

The fact that there is no Labor party and that Nader is running against the two capitalist parties is not sufficient argument to support him. There would need to be positive reasons, based on an analysis of what his campaign is and what it represents, to support him.

My impression is that the 2000 Nader campaign is very different from the 2004 Nader campaign.

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REVIEW ARTICLE: Why is the American labour movement so weak?

Paul Hampton reviews Historical Materialism 11/4 (2003) £10

Why is the American labour movement so weak, given the rapid development of capitalism in the United States over the last 150 years? Why is union density now so low (15%) and why has no workers' party developed in the US? Does this mean socialism has failed, given the Marxist argument that economic development constitutes the basis of politics?

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US left debates Nader (part 2)

More excerpts from discussion among US socialists on Ralph Nader's candidacy for the 2004 presidential election.

-----Original Message----- From: marxism-bounces@lists.econ.utah.edu [mailto:marxism-bounces@lists.econ.utah.edu] On Behalf Of Jose G. Perez Sent: Saturday, May 29, 2004 10:44 PM To: 'Marxmail' Subject: [Marxism] The ISO's "Socialist Worker" withholds support from Nader

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Unions Call for UN Sanctions against Nike

Four unions representing over three million workers in the US and Canada have called on the United Nations to review Nike's affiliation with the UN Global Compact because Nike systematically violates workers' rights.


The UN Global Compact is an initiative that corporations seeking to cast themselves as socially responsible affiliate to. In doing so, they commit to the nine Compact principles on human rights, labour rights and the environment. Nike affiliated itself to Compact in 2000.

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The writing on the wall

  • Going bust for an education
  • We don't want your vote
  • BNP's new Euro-bigots
  • 'Left-wing' xenophobia
  • Bridges to nowhere



Going bust for an education

A record number of people are expected to declare themselves bankrupt this summer. Many of them will be students trying to get rid of their credit card, student loan and other debts. According to the Department for Education and Skills, 899 students and graduates became insolvent last year, compared with 276 in 2002.

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US unionists launch Iraq solidarity fund

From US Labor Against The War

IRAQI UNIONS NEED OUR HELP!

Donate to the US Labor Against The War Iraq Labor Solidarity Fund.

IRAQI UNIONS NEED OUR HELP!

The Iraqi labor movement is emerging from decades of dictatorship and repression, twelve years of international sanctions, war and now occupation. Two democratic labor federations are actively organizing workers to defend themselves against violations of their rights, privatizations of their jobs, lack of unemployment benefits, cuts in social subsidies, wages frozen below subsistence levels, and control of their workplaces by U.S. and other multinational corporations. These new unions need support from abroad. They lack the most elementary supplies, computers and other equipment needed to serve their members.

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Guantanamo, anti-terrorism legislation - War on terror: war on rights

By Rosalind Robson

It will be a long time before the full truth emerges about the penal camps on the US military base at Guantanamo Bay - if indeed the truth ever does emerge. Despite nearly 100 releases so far, as many as 660 men are still being held in conditions of near secrecy.

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Spoofs, blogs and Google-bombs: the cyber-wars hot up

Press gang, by Lucy Clement

Getting cyber-spoofed is a hazard for any online entity. That's why all the big companies buy up every domain name that looks like their own (ba.com, ba.co.uk, britishairways.com, etc). But, damn it, there's always one you miss.

When New Labour launched its "Big Conversation" (this week's attraction: online chat with arts minister Estelle Morris) at www.bigconversation.org.uk, someone failed to notice that www.thebigconversation.org not only already existed, but had been going for eighteen months.

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Reclaiming Diego Garcia: support the ship!

By Lindsey Collen for LALIT (Struggle)

Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, is one of the biggest US military bases outside the USA itself. To clear space from it, the people of the islands were deported by the British government, the former colonial ruler. A group of socialists from Mauritius are now sailing on a ship to Diego Garcia to demand the removal of the base and the people's right to return.

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Debate & discussion: The propagandists of denial

Nick Holden's review of Michael Moore's new book, Dude Where's my Country (Solidarity 3/43) is too generous.

Here are a few lines from Moore's book: "There is no terrorist threat. There is no terrorist threat. You need to calm down, relax, listen very carefully and repeat after me: There is no terrorist threat. There is no terrorist threat! THERE...IS...NO...TERRORIST...THREAT!"

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The New Mandarins of American Power

by Alex Callinicos (Polity)

This is a book of sensational tabloid headlines, but its substance is Guardian-bland. It skips from the "rhetoric of conquest" to the "cultists of eternal war", rises to "the collision of empires" and ends with "catastrophe immanent" - though Callinicos is never so bold as to predict that Armageddon is about to happen.

However in places, Callinicos seems to believe that a fourth world war is on the agenda. The Cold War apparently counts as the third. So the US and UK on one side and Germany, France, Russia and China on the other, are currently jockeying for position, ready for a clash of the titans? The vague warnings are cast in quasi-religious overtones, warning that: "Nemesis awaits the 'democratic imperialists' in the Pentagon... The only question concerns the form that retribution will take" (p.129).

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Inside America: Miami students acquitted

by Jim Byagua

After three hours of testimony by prosecution witnesses, Judge Lyons dismissed all charges against Miami University Fair Labor Coalition activists Nicolle, Nick, Ian and Jon because of a lack of evidence.

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Inside America: Grocery workers' strike

by Jim Bywater

More than 75,000 workers in Southern California, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, have been on strike or locked out since 11 October 2003 in what has become an important test of union strength and unity. The strikers are fighting the grocers' attempt to impose a two-tier wage and benefits scale and the stocking of store shelves by vendors, as well as a 50-75% cut in health coverage. Many employers across the US are reducing health provision or forcing workers to pay higher costs and Southern Californian grocery chains are no exception, despite operating profits rising more than 10 times faster than their contributions to worker health care.

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Dude, Where's my country?

by Michael Moore

Michael Moore is angry. Someone - and he knows who - has subverted democracy in his country, and taken over the presidency. Moore's latest book is dripping with anger and rage against the powerful men in America who can do anything it seems, even go to war, without bothering to check what the people think.

Sometimes that anger is a perfect route into humour. However sometimes Dude... suffers from not quite knowing whether it's a funny book making important political points, or a polemic with a few light-hearted asides in it.

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Workers and students unite

Between 17-21 November protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations took place in Miami, with thousands traveling to the city to join local activists in demonstrating against the agreement and the consequences of free trade.

Environmentalists, anarchists, animal liberationists, trade unionists and students were among those making up the many demonstrations and teach-ins that took place.

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Julius Jacobson (1922-2003)

Barry Finger concludes his appreciation of the life and work of Julius Jacobson, who died last March. Julius was the founder and editor of the American socialist journal, New Politics.

One of the most agonising essays Julie was called upon to write was "The Two Deaths of Max Shachtman" in the Winter 1973 issue of New Politics. Shachtman had earned the admiration of a generation of radicals of previous decades by his political courage in engaging and opposing and - in Julie's estimation - besting Trotsky, whom he "loved, respected and feared", and for his intellectual and political contributions to the understanding of Stalinism.

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The Myth of JFK

By Joe Carter

The fortieth anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy, who was killed on 22 November 1963, has produced the usual flood of eulogies.

The reality was very different. Kennedy's actions in office were those of a pro-business government, with an imperial foreign policy which continued the work of the previous Republican administration.

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US student anti-war campaign: Drop the charges against the Berkeley 3

By Jim Bywater

On Monday 17 November the Dean of Students at UC Berkeley, Karen Kenney turned the clock back decades by approving sanctions against three Berkeley students for their part in a peaceful campus sit-in on 20 March. (For more details about the event and the "trial" go to www.antiwarnetwork.org)

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Debate & discussion: The betrayals of Elia Kazan

Victor Navasky, in his classic study Naming Names, reported a story about Elia Kazan. In 1955, after Arthur Miller had completed A View From The Bridge. Miller sent a copy to Elia Kazan. The play is about a Sicilian waterfront worker who in a jealous rage informs on his nephew's 'illegal' immigration status. Kazan had directed Miller's Broadway hits - All My Sons and Death of A Salesman - but had broken with him over the issue of naming 'communists' to the McCarthyite House of Unamerican Activities Committee. Kazan had named names - and destroyed lives.

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Standing Fast part 2: Julius Jacobson (1922-2003)

Julius Jacobson - Julie to his many friends and comrades - was the founder and editor of the American socialist journal, New Politics. He died in March of this year. Barry Finger continues his appreciation of his life and work.

During the 1950s Julie became editor of The New International - a journal of the Independent Socialist League/Workers' Party, the Trotskyist organisation founded by Max Schachtman. But by the middle 50s, Shachtman was shifting rapidly to the right purportedly in pursuit of new opportunities for movement-building.

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