Remembering a Dutch Communist Partisan: Menger-Oversteegen Dies at 92

On Saturday, July 2, Truus Menger-Oversteegen, sculptress and member of the anti-Nazi Dutch armed resistance, died at the age of ninety-two. Her life reminds us of the crucial role communists and socialists played in the fight against fascism. Further, the fact that the Dutch state did not fully recognize her role in the resistance until 2014 tells us something important about the politics of World War II commemorations.

Truus Menger-Oversteegen was part of a generation that sacrificed everything to fight Nazism and build a better world.

Truus Menger-Oversteegen was part of a generation that sacrificed everything to fight Nazism and build a better world.

I knew Truus through my grandmother, Mirjam Ohringer, who died just three weeks before her at the age of ninety-one. They described themselves — and a third long-time friend and Communist Party member Els Schalker-Kastanje — as the “three musketeers.”

All three were militant left-wing women. Their “red families” instilled radical politics in them well before the outbreak of World War II.

Each suffered great personal losses as a result of Nazi occupation and persecution. In 1941, Mirjam’s first love — a Jewish-German Communist refugee — was swept up in the first wave of anti-Jewish arrests in Amsterdam. Shortly after, he was murdered in the concentration camp Mauthausen.

Almost all of Mirjam’s family in Germany and Eastern Europe were also killed as part of the Nazi persecution of Jews. Els’s father was murdered in Dachau. Truus lost three members of her resistance group, including Hannie Schaft — “the girl with red hair,” who became an icon of the Dutch antifascist resistance.

After World War II ended, they promoted an unapologetically political form of commemoration, under the slogan that became the title of Truus’s memoir — Not Then, Not Now, Never — to highlight the real history of radical Dutch resistance.

The Teenage Militants

Mainstream stories about anti-Nazi activities in occupied Western Europe tend to start with Germany’s 1940 conquest. But Truus emphasized that her antifascist resistance started much earlier.

She grew up in the Zaan’s “red belt,” the industrial zone north of Amsterdam. Like my grandmother’s parents, her family participated in the Communist-led International Red Aid, which helped Jewish and political refugees illegally cross the border between Germany and the Netherlands.

In an eerie foreshadowing of today’s Fortress Europe, the Dutch police routinely handed the refugees they caught directly over to the Gestapo. At an early age, both Truus and Mirjam learned to be silent about the strangers that were hidden in their bedrooms. They proudly recalled that they learned the ropes of illegal action in the 1930s, when the Dutch conservative party held power.

In the first year of the Nazi occupation, these young women from red families — Truus was sixteen in 1940, her sister Freddie fourteen, and Mirjam fifteen — handed out leaflets, distributed illegal newspapers, and helped procure aid for refugees. Their success depended on what they learned working with International Red Aid. Their activities at that point might still have had a hint of frivolity to them.

All this changed in February 1941 when Communists and radical socialists called for a general strike in Amsterdam and the Zaan region. The action quickly transformed into a spontaneous protest against the first deportations of young Jewish men. Mirjam’s father hid one of the printing presses producing the leaflets in his tailor shop, while Truus and her sister Freddie leafletted factories.

The strike was a success, unparalleled in Nazi-occupied Europe. Tens of thousands of workers walked out and demonstrated. But the repression that followed was brutal, fundamentally changing the nature of the movement.

It became much more dangerous for Jews to participate in the organized resistance. Most, like Mirjam, went into hiding. Deportations mounted, supported by the mostly compliant Dutch police and officials, and those who earned generous “head-sums” for reporting Jews.

At the time of this mounting repression, a local militant approached Truus and her sister — both still in their teens — to join the partisans. Their small cell, which grew to eight fighters, was connected to similar groups through their commander Frans van der Wiel and became one of the most famous Dutch resistance groups.

When the student Hannie Schaft joined them in 1943, they considered her the “intellectual” because all the initial members came from working-class backgrounds. Together, the three women and five men sabotaged railway lines, rescued Jewish children, and killed Nazi collaborators who had betrayed Jews.

When I interviewed Truus ten years ago, she described these events with the same directness and aversion to hero-worship that characterizes her memoir: “We were ordinary girls; we did not like aggression.”

But behind her matter-of-fact presentation, there were deep motivations. She grieved over a failed transport of Jewish children: caught in the searchlight in a remote area, all but one of the kids were mowed down by machine-guns. She courageously carried on after her comrades were arrested and shot, a fate that befell Hannie Schaft. And finally, she remembered the rising tensions within the resistance movement itself during the final phases of the war.

When the nationalist forces led by Prince Bernhard — a one-time Nazi sympathizer — finally joined the fight, they rolled back the Community Party’s influence in favor of a conservative-led “national front.”

There are still rumors that members of Truus’s fighting unit were deliberately turned over to the Nazis. Even though definitive proof of this has never been provided, the Menger-Oversteegen sisters experienced firsthand how Bernhard’s men would send Communist operatives on life-threatening missions that were actually smuggling operations that benefited the new resistance’s rich commanders.

These tensions were carefully washed away in the official postwar commemoration culture, which celebrates a unified struggle — led by the monarchy — against “the German invaders.” Communist Party leaders had their own, popular-front reasons to collude with the nationalists and smooth out these contradictions.

But for rank-and-file militants like Truus and her comrades, the struggle extended beyond national liberation. They hoped that the defeat of fascism would usher in a left-wing reconstruction of Europe.

The Cold War quickly dashed their hopes and further ratcheted up the tension between Communists and nationalists. In 1952, when the Communist Party organized the first commemoration for Hannie Schaft, the government banned the demonstration and a police force — backed by tanks — was sent in to disperse the crowd.

For years, the Dutch left organized its own World War II commemorations, separate from the official ones. It is no surprise that it took the Dutch state until 2014 to give Truus and her sister the highest distinction for participating in the resistance.

The Wrong Lessons

Even this long-overdue recognition is not void of irony. Welcoming old Communist fighters back into the nation’s fold is the final stage of a strategy designed to ritualize the European memory of World War II and depoliticize resistance movements.

In this official commemoration culture, the horrors of the Nazi occupation remind us to value completely abstract notions of freedom, justice, and democracy — ostensibly embodied in the holy trinity of liberal capitalism, the rule of law, and the peaceful process of European unification.

For veteran fighters like Truus or my grandmother, commemoration was never so vacuous and conformist: it carried a completely different political message. They insisted that fascism grew up within the folds of liberal capitalism, and warned that it could do so again. And they knew their willingness to go against the forces of law and order and defy the pre-fascist state taught them how to survive the dark years that followed.

As we lose the last of this generation of resistance fighters, we must not let official culture erase their revolutionary politics. In a period of officially sponsored nationalism, persecution of refugees along the borders of the European Union, and the growing threat of fascist movements, we need to fully remember this legacy.

Pepijn Brandon is a Dutch historian who currently works at the University of Pittsburgh.

Young Workers Struggle to Find their Place in Organized Labor

By Jacob Bryant

Jacob Btyant AFSCME Local 209

Jacob Btyant
AFSCME Local 209

Today, USA 2016, 11% of the working population is unionized. A consequence of a stable job, most of these in the public sector, where information on employee right’s is easily made accessible through a particular state’s trade unions at publicly owned workplaces. Public sector jobs are reminiscent though, of the old labor environment of our ancestors; where jobs were roughly dependable and, because of the perceived long duration of employment, had social benefits to boot. Unfortunately, the bosses know this history and have been plotting to roll back the gains made by organized labor in the past and most employers these days even go without review of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), pushed into conception by a popular workers’ movement in the 30’s. Anyone working in a band today, must notice the various forms of stratification within the workplace. The most far-reaching and ancient of these strata is the commonly perceived differences between young workers and their older counterparts. The bosses have worked very hard in continuing to keep young workers running and the old workers, occupied. The bosses have legislated policy and carefully manufactured ideas to keep workers from realizing their maximum power as a solidified class; a closed gate towards consciously accepting personal differences and understanding that every worker is in the same boat and has a right to express a concern about things that directly affect their lives.

Young workers are often employed in industrial sectors that are victims of 21st century employment relations where it is the contingent benefits like “experience” that rule, rather than the previous generations’ fight for real wages and social benefits. This experience requirement can be attained for a price; a price that can only be paid by working individuals, through their employers or already established labor union programs, which require an obvious requisite of a job; hardly helpful for those seeking to use this experience to initially get a job; or training takes the form of higher education paid in part by the State and the rest, supplemented by loans. The valuable experience young workers need to remain competitive in today’s market, firstly, does not satisfy their current potential for mobility and advancement, secondly, does not meet the practical needs of the youth; most of whom are struggling to keep their head above water between rent payments and government subsidies and/or to keep food and medicine in their families’ cabinets. In addition, more desirable jobs require years of being employed in the industry to even be considered, the youth, without training, a product of their cursed birth years, are coerced into taking non-standard wage jobs and minimum wage jobs. We can trace this phenomenon back to the moments after the Vietnam War, where the greatest minds of the business elite organized themselves around the policies of micro-transactions and the expansion of market networks. These policies reduce economics to a calculus, where firms and individuals compete for contracts as opposed to an individual joining a mass-collective production line, where everyone’s salaries and benefits are known, and roughly the same, where the workers are together on the job, side-by-side, transparent, all to one end. Young workers are ordered to complete tasks in their local KFC, for example, rarely in a group context and concerted activity with other workers is usually frowned upon in the modern workplace. Breading chicken, packaging orders for takeout and doing dishes are all important and yes, there is one goal but each task is the responsibility of one crew member and are evaluated as such. The worker is particularly not evaluated on quality anymore, but it is becoming increasingly more frequent to evaluate vulnerable workers on their methods of work (praxis) and attitudes towards management. Most activities, too, do not require any specialization so young workers are bounced from one station to the next, cross-training, to assume a position of maximum value at work. This can make it easier for one worker to do the work of many for the same wage and also makes it incredibly easy to fire a young worker for, as an example, discussing paid sick days with their fellow workers or advocating together, the boss to purchase safer equipment. Young workers, because of these handicaps, are divided in their workplaces, usually in small franchises (remember those businessmen from the 80’s)? Franchises are the product of their theories; everything should be contracted for small periods to ensure there is no “waste” of funds. Franchises are often characterized as being extremely small, localized businesses therefore making it easier for employers to manage and handle restless youth. Young employees in these small scenarios can only expect changes in conditions and schedules at work, when the stars align; only at the employers’ good will and caprice. It is not more promising to hear that within the first five years half of these new small businesses will fail, leaving the owners and workers without income. The new 21st century service economy represses wages to offer more quantity of overall jobs, but has failed to raise the quality of these jobs. More people are working that are over-qualified, the majority of them new graduates, than ever before in history.

The capricious nature of modern employment for youths, take their interests in a different direction than those baby boomer unionists who push for seniority benefits and job security. Young workers still feel regularly alienated from labor unions and their place in modern industries, is ever more fleeting. 35% of the workforce is under the age of 35 and only 7.5% are unionized. The youth have been thrust into a dynamic world, a world very different from that which established America’s AFL-CIO, Change To Win (CTW), and Teamsters. The youth are often employed in the service sector, retail and construction. At these jobs, workers are typically not considered skilled so workers are encouraged to work harder for extra merits. Especially in retail and fast food, workers compete with one another for cash, hours and titles. In this highly competitive environment, the youth are not thinking about joining a union or talking with their fellow workers about banding together; the boss makes a workforce of independent contractors a reality, and independent, they shall all fall under the power of an organized wealthy owner who has the ability to reduce wages to starvation levels. As a consequence of circumstance, older workers in the same jobs, are also seeing the damage of low unionization. Their wages are at the bare minimum with hardly any benefits unlike their contemporaries that are professional or unionized; many are forced to take multiple low-status jobs just like younger workers. The more workers are separated on the job, the more they will also separate habitually in their personal lives, a discussion is not instigated where there is no room for connection and gels to impasse.

The youth are very receptive to the democratic politics of our current labor movement but wish to attach with it, the relevant questions of their generation, centering around feelings of loneliness and acceptance of their bodies into inclusive spaces. Sadly, the pleas of the youth fall not on deaf ears, but on different ones. The wealthy dangle catch words like “innovation”, “self-

employment”, “start-up” to gather the wanting youth looking for something beyond the traditional factory, family and financing paradigm of their parents. Using these ideas, the wealthy successfully have driven an even greater spike between the re-institution of the community and the union, which historically has provided support and security. The youth are told over and over that to escape the hell that the wealthy have created through short-sighted adventures, they must seize for themselves as much as what can be wrested from the hands of old wealth, and hide it under a bushel, save it for themselves and their family and friends to reinvest for a potentially more prosperous future. To dodge the hardship of a life on the run, to really feel economic independence, the youth employ their minds to serve consumer’s demands and to observe humanity from afar, pumping them products with money funnelling up the other way. They work hard to fashion gadgets but not on connecting workers to resources they need. The material wealth of the individual is the concern of those youths harboring entrepreneurial spirit because this material wealth reproduces itself; it can be reinvested and grown without laboring for the net gain. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join em’.”

It will be obvious to most, that the probability of an alternative to wage work as a youth, is low, and that such an entrepreneurial endeavor would require loads of funding, and a cornered market, but most importantly this orientates youth to understand the world in only two ways; to become an owner and win decadence and wealth, or accept being owned and try and live as if that were not the case. Very much has changed since the days before NAFTA; worker’s had a union and their jobs stayed with them in the US for as long as they saw it proper to remain employed. After the free trade agreements, business have consciously begun to provide contract work services, that offer full-time hours without the benefits but offer the “potential” of becoming a full-timer. The ol’ “foot in the door” platitude we have all heard. These agencies are a product of the new form of ways to do business and require little to no experience so these agencies become havens of youths desperate for work. On the opposite hand though, these agencies are used as surplus labor, as scabs in case of a strike. Union members are aware of this, therefore many remain skeptical of the young workers hired through these agencies, which naturally breeds conflict and separation between these groups; all the better for the boss whose devious plots against the worker’s and their union proceed un-rivaled. Furthermore, the old guard in union leadership tend to stereotype young workers as ignorant in life and administration and cannot be given legitimate authority in the union. The young workers hear this and react with their withdrawal and begin to see unions as establishment institutions that are old, and un-receptive to changing times. Youth are largely more radical than their older co-workers, which too, contributes to growing animosity and misunderstanding.

To oppose this nonsensical feud between the generations, the union must change its structures with the ever-changing working class and finally begin to wake up to the reality that labor is under a conscious attack not only by its usual arch-nemesis, the wealthy rulers and their puppet bosses, who have doubled their efforts as of recently, but too, by our establishment international unions in America. Union leaders have to understand that it is the young who are sensitive to cultural trends and the social climate. There is still a place for truths expressed by the labor movement passed but the union must muster up enough fortitude to create an autonomous space for the young worker’s needs, and allow this organ to take part in policy making with guidance

from the experienced unionists, in confidence and equality. We must teach each other and rely on the knowledge of everyone on the job and remember that where there is no union, there is no dignity and no rights. The labor movement of years passed has rightly told the toilers in American factories, schools and restaurants, that every person who works should have a vote and should have a say as to how things should run. This is at our heart as American unionists, whose nation was born out of the Democratic principle and the right of each citizen to the pursuit of happiness. The youth are homeless and need a place to be cherished. Let us not forget that they are toilers themselves and it has been our historic duty to give all workers a voice and a vote regardless of any baggage they carry. This should resonate inside the skull of every person who has used their hands to change material into something refined, or used their voice and brain to lecture. The entire mess has a few amendments but only one solution; to be in absolute unity and solidarity. Revolutionary solidarity that is so powerful that the passion of each is for the other and that “other” seems, slowly and slowly, out of place; taking the form of your union brothers and sisters.

The WFTU in solidarity with the people of Turkey

The members and friends of WFTU in Turkey, all the militant trade unions in the country are struggling under difficult conditions. They have to confront the antipeople’s and antilabour policies of the Government of AKP, they have to confront the reactionary, undemocratic practices of the bourgeoisie.

AP-APTOPIX-Turkey-Military-Coup-590x260

The vast majority of the working class in Turkey lives under conditions of poverty, unemployment, insecurity for their present and future.

This situation becomes worse today after the attempted coup and the beneficial use of it by the Government of Erdogan.

Turkey is a country that actively participates in the imperialist war in Syria. The Turkish Capitalists seek bigger share from the profits in the wide area, the capitalist class of Turkey aims for an enhanced role as a strong regional power.

In the complicated net of inter-imperialist contradictions, the ruling class of Turkey struggles to promote its own interests.

These competitions generate international and internal confrontations. The organized motion of powerful forces of the army, the large number of dead, the thousands of arrests and imprisonments, the battles on the streets and all those that are taking place, underline that the inter-imperialist conflicts are enormous. It is not known yet what is the role of the USA, the NATO in this attempted coup.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is utilizing these developments for arresting, dismissing public employees, imprisoning, organizing generalized persecutions everywhere.

The WFTU appeals to the working people in Turkey and calls them to not be trapped in the strategies and the inter-imperialist contradictions, to empower the class unity, to resist the state and employers violence, to struggle for the satisfaction of their contemporary needs and the improvement of their living and working conditions.

The WFTU demands the full respect of trade union and democratic rights, the end of imperialist wars and conflicts in the region and the dismantling of NATO.

THE SECRETARIAT

NO CUTS TO SOCIAL SECURITY!

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Tell Congress to Reject the Ribble Bill That Cuts Social Security Benefits

At a time when growing numbers of Americans are counting on their earned benefits for a secure and dignified retirement, there is a bill in Congress which would force millions of beneficiaries to continue working in their later years and reduce their monthly Social Security benefit check. Perhaps some members of Congress don’t think we’re paying attention and that’s why they’re launching this summer attack against earned benefits. We can’t let them get away with it. Help us put all lawmakers on notice that we reject any effort to cut Social Security benefits!

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Speech of the General Secretary of the C.C. of AKEL Andros Kyprianou at the 29th Pancyprian Festival of Youth and Students

8th July 2016, Famagusta Gate, Nicosia

edon festivalYet another EDON Festival, one more year when the grounds of Famagusta Gate will be filled with life, full of messages of resistance and struggle. Once again the lyrics and music of the Festival will enhance the struggle for a better future for Cyprus and the world.

However the Festival of EDON isn’t just music. It isn’t only about the great artists whom we thank from the bottom of our hearts for their presence here.

The Festival of EDON is about its every corner characterized by reflections, agitation and the movement of ideas; ideas concerning all the issues affecting school pupils, students, young workers, both on small and big issues. The Festival is the discussions, theatre, musical scenes, our folk tradition which is undergoing a revival, the performance of amateur and professional bands, the projection of documentaries and much more.

All the militants of EDON, each and every one, deserve our warm congratulations because each year they organize a better, richer in content and more mass Festival.

As the song says, “If you are rock, they should fear you” because you are and must be the generation that challenges and questions everything; the generation who wants it all.

You are and must be the generation that doesn’t yield and stands upright; the generation that gains a better future through its struggles; the generation that happened to be raised during the crisis, with limited rights and uncertainty, but you do not bow your head and give in!

You are fighting for the future, your future.

You are struggling by putting up resistance. You do not accept to consent to the government’s policies that have crushed your dreams and devastated your day to day life; policies that are little by little cutting back the years to come.

You are the ones who stand opposite and confront the monster of neo-fascism and won’t let it pass.

You are the ones who are opening up the road of unity and fraternity with our Turkish Cypriot compatriots and keep the hope for our peaceful and common future alive.

They should fear you because you are the force that can reverse, create and crush the old and the rotten.

You are the force that confirms that our future cannot be capitalism but the new world, socialism!

You are the best representation the People’s Movement of the Left has to project. You are the certainty that the future is here. You are the best honor for the 90 years of the Communist Party of Cyprus -AKEL that are being marked this year.

You are the pioneering, vanguard and popular force that shed its blood in sacrifices for the survival, dignity and democracy in this country; the force that built the hope on the ruins and destruction brought by the coup d’état and invasion; the force that revealed and opened up for the people of toil and labour, a whole new world, with the establishment of the Movement of Local Educational and Cultural Clubs in the urban neighborhoods and villages; the force that gave a platform and projected the people of culture, literature and arts and marched with them on the road of struggle; the force that has showed the way to women; the force that organized youth to assert their lives.

You are the continuation of that force, the living proof that dreams do not fade, as long as we mobilize to fulfill them in the streets, schools, universities, in life, asserting, fighting and moving forward!

We are therefore proud of this youth; proud of the youth of EDON!

As the song says, “And if you are rock, they should fear you, because you are and will every time represent the future!

Long live the 29th Festival of EDON!

Long live EDON!

Thomas Paine: A Revolutionary Light

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

 

Thomas Paine, with fiery passion and revolutionary fortitude distributed his literature throughout the first 13 colonies with the penalty of treason on his head. Agitation swept the American workers and farmers into a heap and energized them enough to take up arms in the ranks of a colonial militia against the world’s most powerful empire. Tom is mostly forgotten and only brought back to recollection with the ramblings of Glenn Beck and his knock-off co-option of Paine’s revolutionary pamphlet. Thomas Paine though, laid the foundations for American Democracy in its youngest form. In the modern USA it is obvious that the American rhetoric was owned by the landed interests and did not meet the stated assurances of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. As Communists, we are compelled to weigh the rhetoric of American Democracy against its realization in material ways. Marx explains

People cannot be liberated, as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. ‘Liberation’ is a historical and not a mental act and it is brought about by historical conditions.

Looking at the statistics of atrocities the conditions seem bleak; over 20 transwomen were murdered in 2015, the rising rate of youth homelessness and intense wealth disparities, just to name a few, are telltale signs that the American experiment was not a result of a revolution carried out to its conclusion. But what if lying inside the many sectors of American liberal thought, resides a pure Democratic-Republican that sought collective unity and welfare, the state as an instrument of People’s rule in a very simplistic majoritarian sense and a conception of justice as equal right and opportunity to the world’s resources? This would break our dogmatic slumber away from the slave owning patriarchs of Washington, Hamilton and Madison.

Thomas Paine gave passionate words to the world’s peasants and poor and prophetically proclaimed that the American Revolution as the first of its kind and will roll violently into every Monarchial state and dismantle it acting in the spirit of the people towards a point of justice; seeing the great victory of the American merchants and peasants over the King. Paine was certainly correct about Democracy spreading and toppling Monarchy; the European reforms and the French Revolution were certainly a carryover of the American revolutionary experience. Thomas Paine in Common Sense wrote to each common American, and explained the very heart of the problem of colonial tyranny. Hundreds of thousands of copies were read in coffee houses and taverns all over America, spreading the Democratic ideal to everyone and instigating a popular movement to establish a nation-wide consciousness and reveal to the people the real nature of the King and his parliament. Paine enticed the American population to take up arms and to use the power of the majority to move the hand of tyranny off their edge of the map. Marx and Engels said that the American Revolution had “initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class” and considered the American Civil War to be the continuation of the Democratic revolution of 1776. If Thomas Paine’s recommendations for a policy of human welfare and equal right had been implemented, and the Democratic revolution be felt by every citizen, maybe the contradictions between human rights and capital in the American Civil War would not have existed, and the USA could have progressed without the violent breaking point that cost so many millions of American and immigrant lives. This is all hindsight of course, but Tom Paine, long forgotten and not considered believed the American revolution had objectives and a positive responsibility to create Democratic-Republicanism in real, palpable way without the influence of Primogeniture and profit motive.

Thomas Paine then went to take on the slave-owners as a radical and claimed the issue should appeal to Justice and Humanity:

 That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising; and still persist, though it has been so often proved contrary to the light of nature, to every principle of Justice and Humanity, and even good policy, by a succession of eminent men, and several late publications.

Thomas Paine interestingly enough precluded the ideas of the Great French Revolution and was even its root. He defended in his Rights of Man the radical idea that human rights are inalienable and that a sovereign has no right to dictate the amount nor degree of their realization; realization stemming from the collective power of people’s government. Paine even goes on to refute Hereditary rule by stating, much like Marx would, that the State apparatus is created by human beings and can bend to their liking, and fit into the most efficient manner so far as the collective had the knowledge of how to do it. Paine argued that humankind began without security but to assure individual power, formed into governments for the sole purpose of preserving humanity and justice. The idealistic opinions of Paine, nonetheless grew into more concrete policy recommendations. He went as far as to recommend subsidized schooling for the nation’s poor, a guaranteed welfare standard, full emancipation of enslaved persons, maternity leave for mothers and the burden of taxation be shifted onto the capable backs of America’s merchants and land owners.

Thomas Paine also was a man of virtue, a steadfast revolutionary and American patriot. With echoes of Comrade Mao’s infamous statement “It is right to rebel”, Paine asserts the natural reaction of alienation and detachment from civil rights and welfare by saying

It is possible to exclude men from the right of voting, but it impossible to exclude them from the right of rebelling against that exclusion; and when other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made perfect.

Paine throughout his life was an oppositional force. Even though Paine was an honorary French citizen and was presented symbolically with the Key to the prison Bastille; he served prison time in France for opposing the faction that executed the King of France and for denouncing the “reign of terror” on pacifist grounds. Even in his early life, Paine began organizing a labor union in England and was eventually dismissed form his government position as tax collector for spreading and writing literature advocating better wages and conditions for his coworkers.

Thomas Paine is infamously called the Father of the American Revolution but he is peculiarly left out of the group of founders of the United States. The reason is obvious. In Thomas Paine’s day his radical ideas got overridden by the powerful bourgeois, moderate liberalism that dominated the politics of the early US period. His ideas were the very wind blowing into the forge of revolution, growing the fire and its violence and passion. He spoke the words the common American could not and this popular outcry against the King and his rich loyalists was convenient for the American Bourgeoisie who also allied against the King. But, as soon as Great Britain was driven from these colonies the interests of the rich took hold of the reins of government and established one in their own image. Paine’s ideas were forgotten and the evils of slavery and patriarchy, the hegemony of the rich over the poor, the Anglos over the natives began, and this nation’s fathers stopped the momentum of the American revolution. Thomas Paine said fight till welfare and justice are won for every citizen regardless of race or gender. Until the Democratic ideal is realized in the lives of every person; when the Republic exists on peaceful terms internally and will work as a collective to prop up each other and progress the rights of humankind. Only till then can there be a proper government and only then will the revolution be finished.

Thomas Paine will leave us today with a reminder and insight into the nature of the State and what we know about governments. He said:

Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

Engels said very much the same thing:

The state is nothing but an instrument of oppression of one class by another – no less so in a democratic republic than in a monarchy.

Once contradictions are resolved, and the antagonism and exploitation is abolished in the minds and the mechanisms of human kind, government will be relegated to the junkyard of history and Communism will be realized. The idealism of Thomas Paine still gives us hope as Americans and reminds us of the following:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness.

It seems increasingly clear that a new government must be instituted and we evoke this sacred American document as its defense. Fight for a government that secures for each a job, an income, a home, insurance, food, water and all things essential to the flourishing of a just and dignified society. For Socialism and the finalization of the Democratic-American revolution!

VICTORY AT VERIZON!

Big Gains for Striking Verizon Workers in New Agreement

Company agrees to add 1,300 new call center jobs on the East Coast; 10.9% raise over four years; First contract for wireless retail workers Verizon ThankYouWorkers_CWA_IBEW

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Nearly 40,000 Verizon workers who have been on strike since April 13 are celebrating big gains after reaching a tentative agreement with the company. After 45 days of the largest strike in recent history, Verizon will add 1,300 new east coast call center jobs, and reverse several other outsourcing initiatives that will create new field technician jobs. The four-year proposed agreement provides 10.9% in raises, a $1250 signing bonus in the Mid-Atlantic and a $1000 signing bonus plus a $250 healthcare reimbursement account in the Northeast, $2800 minimum in profit sharing, pension increases, and a first contract for Verizon Wireless retail store employees in Brooklyn, NY and Everett, MA.

“CWA appreciates the persistence and dedication of Secretary Perez, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director Allison Beck and their entire teams. The addition of good new jobs at Verizon is a huge win not just for striking workers, but for our communities and the country as a whole. This contract is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “It proves that when we stand together we can raise up working families, improve our communities and advance the interests of America’s working people.”

“Our children and our families have been depending on us to stand up for what’s right and what’s fair,” said Fitzgerald Boyce, a Verizon field technician based in New York. “Striking wasn’t an easy decision for our families, but we knew that we had to fight to save good jobs and our way of life. We fought hard and we won.”

“Because we fought together as a union, my kids will be able to see me at night. We were all so worried about the potential of transfers and more offshoring, but now Verizon is going to bring more jobs back. All American companies should be doing more to keep good jobs in the country,” said Christina Martin, a Verizon call center worker in Pennsylvania.

“For the first time, Verizon Wireless retail workers have a union and a fair contract,” said Mike Tisei, a Verizon Wireless retail worker in Everett, Massachusetts. “For the wireless retail workers who joined CWA in 2014, that means a better quality of life and meaningful economic security for our families. Today is a great day for my family and working families along the East Coast, and it’s only possible because we stood together.”

“We secured a contract our members can be proud of. It secures additional good middle class jobs for our members in the Mid-Atlantic and keeps them in our communities,” said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Ed Mooney. “We were able to push back against a number company demands and achieve a contract that includes new job growth, specifically 850 call center jobs, returns work to union members; keeps centers from being closed and job security is intact and provides improvements in retirement benefits. I am so proud of the members for standing together and standing up for themselves; our communities, the customers and their families.”

“After more than six weeks on the picket line, Verizon workers won an excellent new contract that will protect good jobs and preserve our standard of living. The members’ unity and determination defeated company proposals to outsource and contract out work, and the new agreement will create 1,500 new union jobs up and down the East Coast,” said Dennis G. Trainor, Vice President of CWA District One. “Together, we are turning the tide from cutbacks against working people to building a stronger labor movement and strengthening the power of working Americans. And, for the first time in history, Verizon Wireless retail employees in Brooklyn, NY and Everett, MA will have a union contract that improves working conditions and gives workers a united voice on the job.”

Striking workers will be back on the job on Wednesday, June 1. Those with evening shifts that go past midnight on June 1 will be back on the job at the beginning of their shifts on Tuesday, May 31.

Highlights from the proposed agreement, which will be presented to members for a ratification vote after the return to work, include:
•A 10.9 percent raise over the next 4 years with compounded interest, including 3% upon ratification, and 2.5% on each anniversary of the contract.
•$1250 signing bonus in the Mid-Atlantic and a $1000 signing bonus plus $250 healthcare reimbursement account in the Northeast, and a minimum of $700 in corporate profit sharing payments in each of the next four years.
•The first contract ever for nearly 70 Verizon Wireless retail store workers
•All call centers that had been threatened with closure in the Mid-Atlantic region will remain open. Three of the five threatened call centers in upstate New York will also remain open; the six workers affected in the other two centers will be offered jobs locally in the company.
•The new contract guarantees that an increased percentage of customer service work will be handled by unionized workers. As a result, Verizon will add 1,300 call center jobs, 850 in the Mid-Atlantic region and 450 in the Northeast.
•Several major contracting initiatives will be reversed, sustaining work for union members in their communities and returning a significant amount of pole maintenance work to the unionized workforce in New York State. There will be a 25% increase in the number of unionized crews doing pole work in New York State.
•Existing Job security language will be preserved, as will existing language on transfer and seniority protections for retirement incentives. All of the company’s proposals on forced interstate transfers of technicians were withdrawn.
•All proposed reductions of pensions were withdrawn by the company, and there will be three 1% increases in the defined benefit pensions over the life of the agreement.
•The company agreed to terminate a performance supervisory program (known as QAR) in effect in the five boroughs of New York City that workers found extremely abusive, and both parties will work with an outside consultant to develop a non-punitive program. This was a major issue for NYC-based technicians.
•Proposed cuts in accident and disability benefits were withdrawn. The parties agreed to changes to active and retiree healthcare that generate savings to the company while protecting excellent plan designs for medical care.

Press Contact:
Bob Master
(917) 657-6483
rmaster@cwa-union.org

Candice Johnson
(202) 434-1347
cjohnson@cwa-union.org

Eliza Bates
(646) 285-8491
CWAverizon@berlinrosen.com

Rob Duffey
(646) 463-3267
CWAverizon@berlinrosen.com

WFTU Youth News

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The World Federation of Trade Unions extends its class solidarity to the struggles of Ethiopian working class and youth against the foreign investments and the destruction of natural environment in Ginchi, Ethiopia.

The WFTU representing 92 million workers in 126 countries condemns the actions of the Ethiopian government which cost the lives of 75 people since the middle of November; we express our condolences to the families of the victims of the police atrocities.

We call the workers of Ethiopia to continue their struggle, we strongly believe that the natural resources and the environment belong to the working class, not the national and international capitalists. We want to remind that the workers are not alone, they have on their side the workers of the world when they fight for their rights in every country of the world.

THE SECRETARIAT

17 International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties, Contribution of CP of Sweden

 

The Communist Party of Sweden sends its greetings and solidarity to all comrades gathered here. We thank the Communist Party of Turkey for its generous hospitality
 
Dear comrades, 
 
skp-loggaThe idea that Sweden is a relatively progressive country with strong welfare where the workers have influence over the production is persistent myth. There are few countries in Europe that before the crisis of 2008 had privatized and impoverished the people as Sweden. The only country that has equaled us is England. This development began in the eighties when the then existing social democratic government started to reduce the wages, a development that is constantly ongoing. Before the attack on the wages began they consisted of seventy percent of the GDP, today they are down to an estimate of fifty percent. 
 
The victory of the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union dealt a serious blow against the worker´s movement and Sweden was no exception. But the victory came at a very auspicious moment for the Swedish capital. A financial crisis had broken out because of the deregulation of credit market in 1985, which led to a property bubble where the Swedish crown was speculated against. The crisis was exploited in full to enforce policy that with great certainty would have been impossible at another time. Between 1991 and 1994 the amount of privatizations and unbundlings were so many that Sweden was world-leading in selling off the public sector.
 
This period is characterized by dramatic increase in unemployment. From being around one to two percent whereas two was considered to be a smaller catastrophe it suddenly rose close to nine percent. The high unemployment was utilized to legitimize a referendum concerning a membership in the European Union. Even though the proponents had an enormous advantage when it came to resources the result was unclear until the treachery from the social democrats.
By claiming that they had received guaranties that the Swedish labor market policy with its collective bargaining and the principle of access to official records would remain untouched they managed to shift the opinion into their favor. These guaranties have now through the Laval judgment against the Swedish Building Workers´ Union and the changes in the principle of access to official records in connection with the upcoming TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] agreement proven to be brazen lies. 
 
Privatizations have since then been the watchword for Swedish policy regardless government constellation and they have reached such proportions that few countries can brag to be, in certain areas, deregulated as the Chile of Milton Friedman. But there combat planes, mass murder and torture was necessary to implement such policy. In Sweden it was enough with fair promises from the social democrats. 
 
In the wake of privatizations and unbundlings the union movement has been a target for fierce attacks, externally but above else internally. The social democrats strangle all attempts of grass root activism trough a bureaucratic organization were almost all the power lies with the federation boards which of course they control themselves. The support to the EU, passivity instead of struggle, the acceptance of private employment services whose sole purpose is to break the unions and the strong ties to the social democratic party has led to maybe the highest degree of organization in the world among the working class has dramatically sunk. 
 
Sweden is an imperialistic country, in other words a country where state and financial capital is interwoven and profits on capital export utilizing different methods of coercion. But unlike most imperialistic counties Sweden has abstained from participation in war and has not been tied up in any alliance.  Principles of neutrality have been an important part of Swedish foreign policy.
 
This stance changed in 1994. Sweden joined Partnership for Peace (PfP), an organization that is a prelude to a membership in NATO and in connection with the so called war on terror the country was in war for the first time in two hundred years. This development has since then only accelerated. Sweden is not only a participant in wars but is also active in conducting coup d’états as in the Ukraine. Our government sponsors different religious fundamentalist groups and terrorists and mercenaries gathers where there is money and weapons. In an effort to overthrow Al-Assad Sweden has sponsored the so called Free Syrian Army with close to 4 million euro’s a year. The money has gone directly to the Al-Nusra front, Al-Qaeda’s divisions in Syria. Our country’s foreign policy in recent years bears great responsibility for the massive flows of refuges that we now see. 
 
With the alleged Russian threat in our region imperialism has gained ground with NATO. Next year our parliament is supposed sign what is called the Host Nation Support agreement. If this happens Sweden will surely in the close future become a member in NATO. This will create an enormous instability and the risk for future conflicts with Russia will increase. The pro-NATO campaign has partly been managed thru mass media by alarmist claims that Russia soon are going to invade but also obscurely by the different parliament majorities under two decades.
 
They have attuned the armed forces and weapons systems as well as conducting exercises with NATO on a regular basis, all to prepare the army for a future membership. The military spending has also increased to nearly two percent which is a requirement for NATO members
 
Although everything seems bleak and pitch black there still are a few rays of light. During the last years several spontaneous uprisings against the plunder of the public sector, foremost regarding areas like schooling and healthcare, have taken place. These actions that have contained demonstrations and occupations were often organized by personnel that had enough. But unfortunately the opportunistic parties took, as many times before, control over management, disarmed and in the end killed the workers initiative. Other areas worth mentioning is the radical youth’s participation in the anti-fascist struggle and the occupations related to the question of housing that we have seen in recent year.  Many youths are also involved in the living conditions of the Romani and the newly arrived refuges. As for the Union movement there have also been some promising initiatives at a local level. 
 
The theme for the meeting is “The tasks of Communist and Workers’ Parties to strengthen the struggle of the working class against capitalist exploitation, imperialist wars and fascism, for workers’ and peoples’ emancipation, for socialism”. The labor movement’s collective experience, both yours and ours, shows that the traditional work procedure is the only way to ensure success. Close cooperation with the working class in the mass organizations, active participation in spontaneous manifestations, both legal and illegal, to strengthen the interests of the people, the organization of militant actions with clear class paroles and continuous disclosures in our own mass media is the cornerstone of every party. We must with all our strength clarify the deceit and the illusion that we live in a democratic society that includes all
 
In this struggle we must jointly develop a strategy to combat the opportunistic parties. These parties are probably the most important impediment that leads the class struggle to socialism.
The European opportunistic left has wandered so far out into the swamp that it has become difficult to distinguish them from the open bourgeois parties in their practical policy. This is often even stated by their own members as from officials in the unions. Their active support for imperialistic wars, regime changes, EU and their utilizations of the so called Russian threat to usher us in to NATO does that this question once again rupture the national framework.
 
Sweden faces many political challenges whereof the question regarding TTIP and the Host Nation Support agreement are among the most important because it will mean that Sweden in the future will become fully active in imperialistic wars and all of the working class´ achievements will be eradicated. To reach success in the struggle against the capitals´ tightening grip over the working people, it is required that our party executes its role as an organizer and ideological guide. Our international joint committees as the IMCWP and the Initiative will play an important role because of the information that we can get a hold of will be invaluable.
 
Comrades, 
Karl Marx phrased: 
Workers in all countries unite!
 
In the age of the so called globalization, war and destitution create flows of refugees but unwilling migration is also created by the freedoms of the monopolies. The capitals globalization and concentration makes the struggle global but must by necessity primarily proceed from a national playfield. Because of this it’s imperative that our international movement comes to an agreement that members and sympathizers from our fraternal parties that move over borders and continents have procedures to make/take contact with the party that organizes the working class in the country where they are going to reside. 
 
To be able to join and strengthen the proletariat we should begin with the communists that have moved and ha[ve] their subsistence in our respective country. They are going to be a part of the working class in the new country and they are going make the same experiences. It is important that they are not misled or bought by opportunism that is the leading and pacifying force in the labor movement today. When newly arrived comrades settle in our countries they lack fundamental knowledge of regional and national labor history and they are also unfamiliar with the political map. A communist party with another nationality cannot organize and lead the class struggle in another country. At best we can influence each other theoretically on an international level. To follow the Party principles of Lenin: the work[ing] class should be organized within the Communist Party from a national level. [T]herefore Lenin wanted that every CP should wear its national appellation. One nation – one struggle – one party! 
 
Communist parties that are not illegal in their country of origin should not keep or build new sections in other countries. It’s very clear that the members have a tendency to become passive and separated from the class struggle, political development and participation. Their vast knowledge will become lost to us all. If this maintains one must call it by its proper name, dogmatism. 
 
On the regional plane the communist parties must do what they can to gain influence in the anti-imperialistic mass organizations and the peace movement to create confidence among the masses for our political struggle, methods and ideology. Anti-imperialistic actions will thus become more continuous and sustainable. The communist and workers parties should therefore create and organize the struggle through regional initiatives or else the opportunistic forces will take over. 
 
These are ways to strengthen the international proletarian struggle and the work for peace.
 
Long live the proletarian internationalism.