Saturday, April 23, 2011

MARCH MAY 1st WISCONSIN SOLIDARITY

1:30 P.M. Sunday, May 1, 2011 Gather at Voces de la Frontera, 1027 S 5th Street to march to the Milwaukee Lakefront – Veteran’s Park.

3:00 P.M. RALLY AT VETERAN’S PARK - FEATURED SPEAKER: RICH TRUMKA, President AFL-CIO

4:00 P.M. Sunday, May 1, 2011 Busses leave from Veteran’s Park for the rally at the site of the Bay View Massacre.

The goal of neo-liberalism is to negate any outside influence over capital. The destruction of the labor movement is key in this neo-liberal quest. In 2001, a World Bank report on Mexico entitled “An Integral Agenda of Development for the New Era” was presented to the Mexican government of Vicente Fox. The report had specific recommendations on labor policy stating that collective bargaining and other labor rights should be eliminated.

The devastating poverty now experienced in Mexico points to the failure of neo-liberalism. Workers who migrate to the U.S. to earn a living, face a repressive immigration system and an attempt by neo-liberal politicians to deliver a death blow to U.S. organized labor, the only hope for just wages and working conditions. In protest and to demonstrate political solidarity with organized labor, we march on May 1st.

Besides public service workers, many sectors of society are adversely affected by Governor Scott Walker’s program for Wisconsin. A racist Arizona copycat law has been proposed by a Walker supporter. Dairy farmers are well aware of the damage this law could cause to the dairy industry. Other groups such as the faith community, various labor unions, the L.G.T.B. and political advocacy groups will march on May 1st in solidarity.

Although the principle of solidarity was best articulated by John Paul II in his encyclical “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis -1987, “solidarity” has been basic to Catholic Social teaching since “Rerum Novarum” 1891 and “Quadragesimo Anno” 1931. Marquette professor, Paul Misner in 1986 noted that the first two encyclicals objected to the extreme individualism of liberal capitalism. Misner wrote, “The traditional phrase, ‘one for all and all for one’ sums up the basic ideal. A Latin expression for it is solidarity.” Long before the solidarity, “solidarnosc,” movement in Poland in the ‘80s, the term was used for cooperative action to achieve social change.

Besides demonstrating political solidarity, May 1st marches are a memorial to workers who were injured and murdered in demonstrating for the Eight Hour Day and worker rights in 1886. On May 4th Chicago Police Captain Bonfield defied an order by Mayor Harrison and sent his mounted police to break up the meeting which was about to finish. A bomb was thrown, a policeman was killed, and several were wounded. Police opened fire. At least one worker was killed and many were wounded by gunfire. Several labor leaders were rounded up and blamed for the incident. Four were condemned to death by a Chicago judge and went to the gallows the following year. William Howells, dean of American letters, called the sentences, “the greatest wrong that ever threatened our fame as a nation.” George Bernard Shaw spoke at a rally in London protesting the arrest of the labor leaders.

The next day, May 5th, in Milwaukee the German immigrant workers’ demonstration for the Eight Hour Day was attacked by police. Several workers were injured. On the south side, Polish workers were gathered at St. Stanislaus Catholic Church to march to the Bay View Rolling Mill to demand the eight hour day. They were met at the Rolling Mill with a spray of bullets from the Wisconsin National Guard. Several were killed including a young boy trailing along for the fun of it. The orders to fire were from the Wisconsin Governor. When questioned, Governor Rusk responded by saying, “I seen my duty and done it.” (This is Milwaukee, Robert W. Wells, Doubleday, New York, 1970. The Making of Milwaukee, John Gurda, Milwaukee County Historical Society, 1999.)

May 1st Memorial parades to commemorate the Bay View and Haymarket martyrs have been held since the late 1800’s. May 1st rallies in the U.S. have been suppressed as communist until the recent May 1st marches for immigrant worker rights.

To resist is to remember. Memories of the social encyclicals, the Haymarket Riot and the Bay View Massacre have been suppressed. The Zapatistas in Mexico responded to the neo-liberal North American Trade Agreement, N.A.F.T.A., by occupying several municipalities. Zapatista leader Marcos wrote, “The war begun on the first of January 1994 was a war to make us listen, a war for understanding, a war against forgetting, a war to recapture our memory.” (La Revuelta De La Memoria, Marcos, Ciach, Mexico, 1999.)

Such is the Sunday, May 1st March in Milwaukee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

LIBERALISM & NEO - LIBERALISM

The first two social encyclicals emphasized that workers had a basic right to organize and the government had the duty to intervene in the economy to establish a more just community. The encyclicals opposed “laisser-faire” capitalism or as they describe it in 19th century terms – “liberalism.” This is a source of the term neo-liberalism. What is ‘liberalism’ and what is this ‘new’ or ‘neo’- liberalism? “Liberal” in the U.S. is usually used to describe the economics of progressives, but liberal in the context of the encyclicals refers to “laisser-faire” capitalism. The term neo-liberalism is not used often in the U.S., and if it is, it refers to the policies of right wing democrats, but the strongest advocates of neo-liberalism are republican business tycoons. They promote the demise of unions, privatization of basic government services and free trade – completely contrary to Catholic Social teaching.

Of course, “laisser-faire” – “liberal” capitalists always demanded freedom to make as much money as possible without restrictions of the government or labor unions. Free trade was important unless it provided competition. A “liberal” free trade example is the Irish potato famine. Grain was shipped from Ireland while people starved, because the free market offered more money in other countries such as the U.S. The progressive movement – e.g. LaFollete of Wisconsin, T. Roosevelt, the New Deal – Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism with some modifications. The “liberal” capitalists had to tolerate a few restrictions or face full scale revolution and chaos. They were also faced with competing political/military interests from other countries.

The distinction between neo-liberalism and liberalism is that neo-liberalism is under the aegis of world financial institutions. After W.W. II, G.A.T.T. (General world Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) replaced by the W.T.O. (World Trade Organization), the I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank prepared the way for neo-liberalism. The fall of the Soviet Union meant the end of international political competition for capitalists. Worldwide financial institutions now dictate the rules. Free trade rules allow capitalists to exploit labor in all parts of the world. The I.M.F. and the World Bank insist on the reduction or elimination of government programs as a condition for loans. Resistance includes the “Battle in Seattle” and the Cochabamba, Bolivia Water War. Besides Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela; Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay show resistance when possible. Challenges over oil in the Middle East are controlled by the U.S. military.

The attempt to take away most collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin is an attack on “progressives” where the movement started. It is a direct attack on the union movement. Public service workers are the largest and most concentrated sector of the union movement, and therefore they have political power. The first two Encyclicals, Rerum Novarum – 1891 and Quadragesimo Anno – 1931 could be seen as supporting unions and other progressives against “liberalism,” but these Encyclicals focused on European problems. Despite the experience of W.W.1, international trade issues were not considered. The response to neo-liberalism as it revolves around ‘free trade,’ as defined by international financial institutions, remains to be considered in the light of later encyclicals.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

MISSION STREET, SAN FRANCISCO: A 2011 REFLECTION ON 1931 QUADRAGESIMO ANNO (Q.A.)

The key to Quadragesimo Anno – Subsidiarity: (Comunidades Autonomous o Fascismo? Autonomous Communities OR Fascism)

“The supreme authority of the State ought, therefore, to let subordinate groups handle matters and concerns of lesser importance, which would otherwise dissipate its efforts greatly. Thereby the State will more freely, powerfully, and effectively do all those things that belong to it alone because it alone can do them; directing, watching, urging, restraining, as occasion requires and necessity demands. Therefore, those in power should be sure that the more perfectly a graduated order is kept among the various associations, in observance of the principle of ‘subsidiary function,’ the stronger social authority and effectiveness will be the happier and more prosperous the condition of the State.” Para. 80

Joanne and I have been in San Francisco for three months visiting our daughter and her family. We try to make ourselves useful by babysitting, but besides having fun with the kids we visit lots of new places and reminisce with old friends who happen to live here. We have a small apartment near our daughter two blocks from Mission Street – once part of the Camino Real.

You don’t hear much English spoken on Mission Street. The district where we live is called the ‘Outer Mission’ or ‘Excelsior’, former home of Jerry Garcia. Years ago it was an Italian neighborhood, but now it is mostly Asian and Latino. The young Chinese woman who runs the bakery on the corner speaks Cantonese, Spanish and English. We take our 20 month granddaughter Monique to a play school where her playmates are Chinese and Latino. They get along fine, all learning to speak English – including the parents. Monique has no problem responding to “Monica.” There are classes for the parents on family issues such as parenting and domestic violence. Parents and staff sympathize with us concerning our Wisconsin Walker problem as they also face budget cuts sponsored by the now neoliberal collaborator Jerry Brown.

Our 11 year old grandson Liam participated in a protest by his classmates to Brown’s budget cuts. The kids also wrote protest letters to Brown.

The ‘Mission’ is known for its murals. “Conscientizacion” through art (Community organizing through mural art) – a remembering, an awareness, a motivating force – an identity. For example, St. Peter’s Church has a mural two stories high called “500 years of Resistance.” It depicts heroes of the resistance: Bartolom√© de las Casas, Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez and others.

The resistance struggled against the Spanish “Conquista” - the age of colonialism; the beginning of exploitation and ‘culture theft’ by the Spanish monarchy and its emissaries. Next, the age of liberalism, exploitation by nationalistic European and U.S. capitalists, and now we have the age of neoliberalism – exploitation by capitalists in control of world financial institutions and supported by the U.S. military. Other murals show resistance in other parts of the world such as the Philippines and Nepal. Resistance to the U.S. neoliberal policy on immigration is also depicted on a mural. One mural reminded me that some Mayans were never conquered.

1931 Q.A. on liberalism:
“…and so it happened that the teaching of Leo XIII, so noble and lofty and so utterly new to worldly ears, was held suspect by some, even among Catholics, and to certain ones it even gave offense. For it boldly attacked and overturned the idols of Liberalism…” Para. 14

We visit with friends we knew in Bolivia some 40 years ago. We remember the Bolivian struggle and our part in the resistance. Joanne and I were married in Cochabamba and our daughter Dori was born there.

The great victory over neoliberalism in the year 2000 Water War took place in Cochabamba. Che Guevara had been in the area before he was murdered in 1967 on orders from the U.S. I remember a fellow Dominican priest telling us at a community meeting of the Friars in reference to the 1971 bloody grab of power by S.O.A. trained Hugo Banzer: “Bolivia is where communism was killed and buried.” I felt the brother was lost in his own head battles. Banzer’s governments provided a transfer from liberalism to neoliberalism; he was also president during the Water War. The S.O.A. headquarters in Columbus, GA display a picture of Banzer as one its honored former students.

Bolivian president and former labor leader, Evo Morales, has an acute awareness of current political reality. He prophesized to a large crowd celebrating the new Bolivian constitution in January, 2009: “I want you to know something, the colonial state ends here. Internal colonialism and external colonialism ends here. Sisters and brothers, neoliberalism ends here too.” (Dancing with Dynamite, Benjamin Dangl, 2010, AK PRESS)

Reflection and personal experience educated Morales. Resistance continues.