United States

The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has prompted a public outcry and heartfelt mourning across the country. The gunman killed 26, including 20 young children, before turning the gun on himself. The media will surely be flooded with every minute detail of the killer’s life in the coming weeks, and the issue of gun control will once again come to the fore. But what will not be seriously discussed is the root cause of shootings like this, and why they have become so commonplace. It seems that only shootings with a high death toll get national coverage at all, as dozens of smaller incidents have just become “business as usual.” 

September’s dramatic strike of 24,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union may prove to be a turning point in the struggle of public sector unions in the United States. Just months after the mass movement in Wisconsin was derailed into a recall, the teachers’ struggle should serve to galvanize organized labor and embolden unions nationwide to take more militant action in their self-defense against capitalist austerity.

$6 billion and over a year of campaigning later, and it would appear that the status quo remains. Obama is still the president; the Democrats control the Senate; and the Republicans control the House of Representatives. On the surface, "nothing has changed." Taken at face value, this is correct. As we have explained many times before, both Obama and Romney are defenders and advocates of the capitalist system. Nothing fundamental was going to change no matter who won. However, looks can be deceiving.

A watery sun cast its feeble light over New York this morning, after a week of desperation, darkness and cold. The people of this great city are awakening as in a morning after a nightmare. But the sun’s rays bring no real relief. Clear, cloudless nights herald the coming of the cold. And two and a half million people are still without heat, lighting or proper cooking facilities. Many have been without food. Everyone is without gasoline.

Just a few years ago, the world watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The richest and most powerful imperialist country in the world did nothing as people were drowning, starving, and literally dying of thirst. Now, we see the northeastern United States get hit by Hurricane Sandy. Millions are still without power. Mass transit is suspended. Whole neighborhoods were burned out. Dozens have been killed, including 24 in New York City alone.

It is hard to believe that nearly four years have already passed since the election of Barack Obama. The streets were filled with honking cars, waving flags, and shouts of excitement. Tears of unbridled joy and relief streamed down the faces of many. After eight long years of Bush, change had come at last! Or had it? As the months—and the crisis—wore on, it became increasingly clear that in all essentials, Obama’s presidency was more like Bush 2.0 than a new dawn of peace and prosperity.

In December 2010, a 26-year-old street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, lit himself on fire in protest against repeated harassment by police in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. This marked the beginning of the Arab Revolution. Bouazizi’s self-immolation was simply the catalyzing event that connected with the anger and frustration of a large layer of society—anger and frustration that had been building up for years.

For over 30 years, American workers have been under assault. For decades, there were very few fight backs, and even fewer successes. Between 1973 and 2007, private sector unionization decreased by over 75 per cent and wealth inequality increased by 40 per cent. Strike levels fell to record lows. Politically, things shifted ever-further to the right as the Democrats and Republicans fell over each other to carry out the wishes of the capitalists. The labor leaders offered nothing but the failed policy of “partnership with the bosses” on the shop floor and at the polls. Despite the heroic traditions of the past, this led many—even on the Left—to believe that Americans “have it too good,”

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"The U.S. is increasingly polarized to the right and to the left. Although the media plays up the Tea Party and the right wing, the general trend among the working class will be toward the left. Poll after poll confirms this. The youth in particular are suffering the brunt of the crisis, and they are far more free from the prejudices and inertia of the past. They know nothing but a world of crisis, war, mass unemployment, and discrimination, and are increasingly willing to do something about it. Even more important and powerful than the right-left polarization is the intensifying polarization between the rich and the poor. Wealth disparity has reached unprecedented levels, and there

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One year ago, Occupy Wall Street burst into the public consciousness. Similar actions had been tried just months earlier, but failed to take root. Up until its second week, OWS itself seemed to be yet another localized action that would fail to make a real splash. But when images of the NYPD’s netting and pepper spraying of a number of Occupy protesters found their way onto televisions and Facebook feeds across the country, the “straw broke the camel’s back.” The occupation of Zuccotti Park showed millions of Americans that they were not alone in their frustration at the stagnation and decay of the country’s economy, political setup, and society generally.

On April 23, 3,650 employees of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, and members of the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 776, went on strike. The union had entered into negotiations to renew their 3-year contract a month earlier. Management’s “last, best, final” offer was an insult. The contract would introduce two-tier retirement, abolishing pensions for new hires and replacing them with a market-based 401(k) scheme. It would also increase health care costs for all workers.

24,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union are set to strike against the dictates of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his corporate backers. In June, 90 percent of the membership voted to authorize a strike at the beginning of the school year, and contract negotiations have been at a near-standstill all summer. Emanuel unilaterally canceled a planned pay raise for the teachers this year, blatantly disregarded the union contract by lengthening the school day to seven hours, and has long advocated an expansion of for-profit charter schools in the City of Chicago, the country’s third-largest school district. This strike will be the first by the CTU in 25 years, and marks a new chapter in the

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Exactly seven years to the day, hurricane Isaac charted the same path as Katrina, slamming into the U.S. Gulf Coast. While most levees in the New Orleans area have so far survived Isaac's Category One winds and 20 inches of rain, hundreds of thousands are without power, and thousands have had to be evacuated from flooded homes in surrounding communities. Memories of Katrina still haunt the region, which has still not recovered from the devastation. Seven years later, the poverty, racism, and exploitation continue to hammer the workers of Louisiana. On this occasion, we republish two articles written in the aftermath of Katrina, the storm which blew off the hypocritical façade

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With the long-running Republican Party primaries finally winding down, it looks like millionaire front-runner Mitt Romney will face President Obama in the November elections. Not surprisingly, the topic that will likely dominate the elections is the economy. One area where Obama and Romney have already begun debating is over the auto industry. But are the two parties’ policies really that different?

The information that has leaked regarding the NYPD and CIA’s secret monitoring of Muslim stores, student organizations, and mosques in New Jersey, New York, and Long Island has elicited feelings of outrage. The NYPD has even recorded conversations between Muslim individuals, making extensive reports of the activities of Muslim-related stores, businesses and organizations, and closely observed the operations of these groups/establishments. All of these covert operations are being conducted unbeknownst to the “subjects” of observation and without their consent.

In early 2011, the eyes of the world were focused on two very different places: hot and arid Egypt, and cold and snowy Wisconsin. What was it that linked these two places? Nothing more and nothing less than the class struggle which, like the capitalist crisis, is worldwide in nature.

Public sector workers in New York State and City continue to be attacked by Governor Cuomo and Mayor “1%” Bloomberg. These attacks are part of a nationwide effort, in fact, as part of an international strategy, to make the workers both in the public and private sector pay for the continuing crisis of capitalism. The working class can stop these attacks and go on to the offensive, but for this to happen we need a different policy from the labor leaders.

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask

Here we go again. Four more years have passed since the last presidential election cycle, and once again, organized labor finds itself with no real options. It is clear that if he were elected president, Mitt Romney would unleash an all-out “Scott Walker on steroids” assault on the working class. But does that mean workers have no option but to vote for the Democrats? Are “political and economic death by hanging” or “political and economic death by drowning” really the only options?

We’ve come a long way since the Workers International League was founded 10 years ago. From our humble beginnings in Fargo, North Dakota, to a dozen modest but growing branches around the country, we have worked hard to begin establishing roots in our unions, workplaces, schools, and communities. These have been tumultuous years of war, revolution, and counter-revolution, and Socialist Appeal has consistently provided news, theory, and analysis from a working class and Marxist perspective.