The people ask 'Whose world is it?'
By Tim Wheeler
The Wall Street crowd will never forget 1999 since it is the year the high-flying stock index soared above 10,000. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates will never forget 1999 because his personal fortune zoomed near $100 billion. For the wealthy elite, the achievements of the past year, and the past century for that matter, are measured in strictly dollar terms. Things have never been so good!
But working people apply a different yardstick and they will not forget this past year either. For them, 1999 was a year of a sharp upsurge in the struggle against famine, racism, greed and war. Their anger was fueled by the growing chasm between rich and poor, with the corporate media exulting in the fortunes of the billionaires while the majority of humanity scrapes to stay alive.
These were some of the stories carried in the pages of the World that prove the people began to rise up in 1999 and demand, "Whose world? Our world!" The Wall Street crowd and their agents in government also noticed the upsurge. They ordered a crackdown by the courts and the police. In Seattle, police attacked thousands of protesters who had come to confront the World Trade Organization with gas and plastic bullets. In New York, Mayor Giuliani obtained a fascist-like injunction barring transit workers from even thinking about a strike.
What follows are some of our headline stories:
Officers of New York's Street Crimes Unit killed the African immigrant street vendor, Amadou Diallo, in a hail of 41 bullets last Feb. 5. Already enraged by the police brutalization of Haitian immigrant worker, Abner, Louima, the people of New York rose in angry revolt. Thousands joined sit-in demonstrations at the New York Police Department and more than 1,000 were arrested. There was a big rally in Wall Street. The anger was directed at Mayor Rudolph Giuliani whose racist, "zero tolerance" policies were a green light for police-use of lethal force. It became a national issue with nearly 20,000 marching on Washington Saturday, April 3, to demand that President Clinton order a Justice Department crackdown on police violence.
The Clinton Administration unleashed a nearly three-month air war against Serbia last March 24, raining tons of bombs and missiles on the country, killing and wounding many thousands in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter. Power stations, bridges, railroads, factories, hospitals and housing developments were destroyed. Innocent civilians, Serbians, ethnic Albanians and others were forced to flee.
The peace movement here in the U.S. and around the world organized millions of protesters in mass street demonstrations. The peace movement charged that this so-called "humanitarian" war was to insure U.S. control of Middle-East and Caspian oil. It was also a testing ground for an expanded NATO and for new weaponry. Yugoslavia has been left in ruins with millions facing a cold winter without shelter, fuel or food.
About 1,000 demonstrators converged on the Los Alamos nuclear weapons complex in New Mexico to protest the U.S. plan to develop a new generation of nuclear warheads. A few weeks later, the U.S. Senate voted in a majority against ratifying the nuclear test ban treaty. It touched off angry world wide protests and calls for removal from the Senate of the Republican extremists who voted against the treaty.
Last April, 9,200 shipyard workers, members of United Steelworkers Local 8888, employed by Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) walked out on strike. They had gone six years without a raise while NNS profits soared. The Steelworkers exposed a regional and racial wage, pension and health care differential during the strike against NNS: The workers at this huge Virginia shipyard are more than 60 percent African American , yet their wages and pensions are far lower than those paid mostly white workers at shipyards in Connecticut and Maine. Many of the NNS retirees were forced to subsist on pensions of $200 or less per month compared to $1,000 or more at Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut. The U.S. Navy is the sole customer at both yards. The strikers also discovered that the Pentagon offers a standard clause in its contracts to reimburse the company for the cost of "labor unrest" at taxpayer expense.
The workers staged a militant demonstration at the NNS shareholders' meeting in Richmond including confronting NNS CEO William Fricks. The workers finally ratified a new contract that raises their wages and increases pension of NNS workers to $900 per month, significantly narrowing the gap with northern shipyard workers. This battle once again placed the issue of organizing the South on labor's agenda.
The AFL-CIO got an early start on their Labor 2000 election campaign in the Nov. 2 off-year election. Mayor Giuliani's sweeping revisions to the New York City Charter went down to a two-to-one defeat. Columbus, Ohio, elected its first African-American mayor, Michael Coleman, the first Democrat to hold that post since 1971. In Indianapolis, Bart Peterson became the first Democrat elected mayor in 36 years. In Salt Lake City "Rocky" Anderson, a left-of-center candidate, who had been the leader of the American Civil Liberties Union, was elected mayor.
Labor-backed candidates, including Robert Archuleta of Salt Lake City, a candidate for the city council, ran impressive campaigns and many were elected. It sets the stage for battles in next year's election to break the majority GOP control of the House and Senate.
The year ended with the "Battle in Seattle," when 50,000 or more protesters marched in opposition to the World Trade Organization's Ministerial Meeting. The WTO had planned to open a "Millennium Round" of talks aimed at removing labor and environmental laws as "trade barriers." The AFL-CIO spearheaded the vast coalition that embraced the environmental movement, church groups, peace organizations, and youth. Joining in the march was a contingent of the Communist Party, USA and the Communist Party of Canada. Seattle police unleashed a brutal assault, firing pepper gas and plastic bullets that wounded many. More than 600 were arrested. "Whose streets? Our streets!" the protesters chanted. "Whose world? Our world!"
The protests outside created deep splits inside the WTO. Third-World delegates were angry that all the real decisions are made in a "green room" from which they are excluded. Despite President Clinton's pleas and his lip service to the demands of the protesters, the WTO meeting collapsed without even issuing a final communiqué. There is such anger at the brutal police attacks, that hearings have been convened before the King County Council. Police Chief Norm Stemper was forced to resign.
That is how this century and this millennium is ending. Millions are marching, here and around the world. As if to underline the resurgence of socialism, the BBC conducted a poll to determine the "greatest thinker of the millennium." Karl Marx won. He ends the Communist Manifesto with the words, "Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win." That is our New Year's greeting to you.
Have a happy, healthy, socialist 21st century and a great third millennium as well.
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weekly journal of the Communist Party USA
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