Barnard-Columbia International Socialist Organization

September 14, 2011

And we’re back for Fall 2011

Filed under: Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 4:58 pm

Greetings from the Barnard-Columbia International Socialist Organization.

This blog is back!

Sometime last February, we stopped updating this events blog because, honestly, the world was too damn exciting a place to be living in. Between the strike and occupation of the state house in Madison, Wisconsin, to the revolutionary wave of uprisings that are still bringing regimes to their knees across North Africa and the Middle East, to protests on Wall St., to a re-emergent women’s rights movement, and trying to keep ROTC off of Columbia’s campus, we became so busy that we forgot to keep this blog updated. But we’re back and we’re ready for a new year of activism and radical education at Columbia, so please check back often, whether you’re a first year or a post-doc and get involved whenever you like – or rather, as soon as you can.

December 9, 2009

Interview: Selling out health care reform

Filed under: Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 5:39 pm

New article from Socialistworker.org provides an important update and analysis for this week’s Barnard/Columbia ISO meeting:

http://socialistworker.org/2009/12/09/selling-out-health-care-reform

Selling out health care reform

December 9, 2009

The battle for health care reform is heating up in Congress. The House has already passed one bill, and the Senate is debating another version. But as Dr. Andy Coates explains, both bills will fail in solving the health care crisis–and, in fact, place a greater financial burden than ever on working people.

Coates is a member of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), co-chair of Single Payer New York and a steward in the Public Employees Federation in New York. He talked to Ashley Smith about what’s wrong with the health care proposals in Washington.

WE’VE HEARD lots of hype from the Democrats about the House and Senate bills. What’s in these two bills, and what will they mean for workers?

THE CRUX of each bill is compulsory private health insurance. The government will use its power to compel every individual to purchase private health insurance, or enroll in Medicaid. The bills don’t make private health insurance affordable; they propose to subsidize private insurance premiums for those who live on modest means.

For example, the House bill will subsidize the premiums of those whose income is 400 percent of the federal poverty level and below. Taxpayers would pay for this. But it would still mean that people who earn 200 percent to 400 percent of the federal poverty level would have to pay 8 to 12 percent of their income for private insurance premiums, or pay a fine and stay uninsured.

That would be the so-called “choice.” For the uninsured, paying for expensive insurance would amount to an enormous wage cut. And then they’ll get skimpy coverage, with high co-pays, high deductibles and all those other onerous and unworkable measures that come with very expensive private insurance.

ONE OF the justifications that Obama and the Democrats used for these bills is that they will control the cost of health care. Are they telling the truth?

TOTAL HEALTH care spending will not be brought under control by either of these bills. It will not bend the cost curve. As health care costs continue to increase dramatically, the crisis of unaffordable health care will continue, for ourselves and our families, with increased out-of-pocket costs, new mandatory premium payments and ongoing medical bankruptcies, will remain acute.

WHAT ABOUT the so-called public option? What impact will it have on the health care system?

THE PROPOSALS for the public option as they stand are meaningless from the point of view of reform, and ridiculous as a way to influence the insurance market. There are so many compromises, it might be renamed the incredible shrinking public option. And also, as a TV talking point, it has often eclipsed a focus on what’s really in the bill.

But I think that there’s more fundamental point. The public option was never a proposal for workable reform. It’s actually a neoliberal concept. Marie Gottschalk, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has written an article in the new Socialist Register 2010 entitled “U.S. Health Reform and the Stockholm Syndrome.”

She argues that when it comes to health reform, American reformers are like hostages who identify with, and even defend, their captors. I heard her speak in New York, where she said it seemed that if a window opened to permit real health reform, many “reformers” wouldn’t even try to climb out.

WHAT DO you mean that the public option is in fact a neoliberal proposal?

THE PUBLIC option idea is basically that the insurance market will will magically meet our needs, as long as there is consumer choice and fair competition. This is the ideology popularized by Ronald Reagan. If only a government agency could be added alongside these giant, highly profitable insurers with their oligopoly control, then the marketplace would magically reform itself. Does that make any sense?

The insurance market rewards insurers that avoid paying for the care of sick. The public option would have to play by the same rules and compete on the same market. So in the best-case scenario, the public option would tend to enroll the sickest patients, and, in turn, would have higher, not lower, expenses. The Congressional Budget Office recently made this very point in a report on the House bill.

So a successful public insurer next to the private companies might instead put us on the fast track to permanent two-tiered health care, a deplorable trend already well underway.

But most likely of all, if enacted, the public option would turn out nationally just as it has in Maine–a failure, not a reform. In Maine, a state-funded public insurance called DirigoChoice has been around since 2003. Since then, it has enrolled fewer than 10 percent of the uninsured, it has not done a thing to control costs, and this year, it faces a fiscal crisis that threatens its future existence

WHAT IMPACT will these bills have on the health care crisis?

IMMEDIATELY ON the passage of the bill, very little would change. There is some insurance regulation, but we should note that this is regulation the industry itself proposed.

For instance, the insurance companies will have to stop rescissions–arbitrary cancellation of policies that come usually with the “coincidence” of the patient getting sick. But they can still cancel policies if the policyholder commits “fraud”–or if you simply can’t pay your premiums. And over the decade, the insurers stand to gain tens of millions of new customers and hundreds of billions in taxpayer subsidies.

So I think that passage of the bill is virtually irrelevant to the everyday crisis. The main features in the House bill are not scheduled to start until 2013, and those in the Senate bill won’t start until 2014. Then it still won’t lessen disparities, or guarantee access to everyone, or improve the quality of care, or reduce costs. In fact, the main things in the bill have already failed at the state level, including the public option, including mandatory insurance.

FOR MOST people, health insurance will still be tied to their jobs, right?

YES. WHEN you lose your job, you will still lose your health insurance. Even worse, illness can lead to job loss and loss of insurance. Not just for the patient. If someone in your family gets very sick, the illness can cause you to miss work, too–going to appointments, to chemotherapy, waiting after surgery, coming home from the hospital, going to the pharmacy, going back to the hospital.

In such situations, people often lose their jobs in the United States. That’s the purpose of the Family Medical Leave Act. But even so, in our insane system, people lose their health insurance because they have no paycheck. These cruelties will remain a fact of life. Can we swallow such a bitter pill with a bit of tonic that more of the people who lose their jobs will now be eligible for Medicaid? I don’t think so.

WOULD IT be better if no bill passes than one of the proposals in Congress today?

SINGLE PAYER New York, the coalition that I am a co-chair of, had a steering committee discussion a few months back. It was our opinion at that time that it would be better to keep arguing for singe payer, and not take a position on a bill that hadn’t come out. More recently, Single Payer New York put out an unequivocal statement that recommends a “no” vote. We have also applauded Rep. Eric Massa of western New York for his principled vote against the House bill.

Personally, I think we should embrace any dialogue that advances the grassroots, kitchen-table debate about health care in this country.

The costs and hassles of health care are breaking working-class families. Prescriptions are not affordable, appointments can’t be had, our insurance is tied to our job or our spouse, millions of people are impacted by bankruptcy and Medicaid is a disaster. Too often, a personal crisis, health care amounts to an accumulating social crisis. The Democratic bills now in the Congress are no solution.

THE SINGLE-PAYER movement had attracted Democratic support in the House for a bill known as HR 676 that would have established a single-payer system. Leaders among these Democrats promised that there would at least be votes on single payer. Why didn’t they deliver?

FORGIVE ME for the long story here, but what happened this year was really remarkable and very positive. How many people are on full-time paid staff for single payer in the whole country? Less than a dozen or so, if that? Yet, there was a year of sustained mobilization, starting before Obama’s election, that grew and grew, from local, volunteer organizing.

The AFL-CIO convention passed a resolution this fall that endorsed single payer and the broader concept of social insurance, building on support for HR 676 within the unions. And then the Democratic Party leadership had to maneuver and spin all year long, trying to keep single payer off the table. These are a testament to the strength and energy of the grassroots inside and outside the AFL-CIO.

Back at the end of July, New York Congressman Anthony Weiner and six other HR 676 co-sponsors, brought into the Energy and Commerce Committee an amendment to substitute the text of HR 676 for the House bill. The leadership needed to get the main bill out of committee that day, the day before the summer recess. One day earlier, about a thousand people visited Congress and rallied outside the Capitol for single payer.

So while Nancy Pelosi and Henry Waxman, the committee chair, didn’t want to have a debate on single payer in the committee, neither could they simply push it aside. So Pelosi offered Weiner a deal. If he withdrew the amendment in committee, she would let him put it on the floor of the House for a debate and vote.

Weiner took the deal, but it was the single-payer grassroots who really called Nancy Pelosi’s bluff. We recognized that a floor vote–a losing vote–would be a historic precedent, not just that single payer would get to the floor of the House for the first time, but that the grassroots movement would be the force to put it there. Plus we hoped to see members of the House of Representatives stand for single payer and be counted. We wanted to know who our true friends were, with an eye on the 2010 elections.

So a campaign of lobbying, picketing and protesting commenced, from dozens of local organizations and a handful of national organizations. It brought to Congress hundreds of thousands of phone calls and faxes and e-mails, maybe millions–far more than anyone would have predicted. Protests grew vigorous. In fact, over 150 people were arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience actions at insurance companies and at congressional offices, including Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco office.

Weiner, an ambitious guy, jumped in with a bit of pizzazz. He got on television, and at one point turned the tables on the interviewer by asking what it was that insurance companies added to health care. Single payer helped his stature. But the week that the House bill came up, Weiner published a piece on the Huffington Post that was all about the public option, with no mention of single payer.

Earlier, we had expressed our dismay because he wanted to change some of the HR 676 language to leave out the undocumented immigrants–changing “residents” to “citizens” in the amendment. On the other hand, to his credit, he worked to get his single-payer amendment to the floor up to the very end. And Pelosi never would have negotiated with Weiner without the grassroots heat, charming though Weiner might be.

In fact, the day before the vote, there was a full-page ad by the AFL-CIO and eight unions, including the California Nurses Association, in Roll Call calling for a “yes” vote on the Weiner Amendment. By this point, the Democratic Party leadership must have been surprised and frustrated that they had to keep finding new ways to keep single payer off the table. We heard rumors that even the White House had helped squelch the amendment vote.

In a curlicue twist, late on the Thursday before the Saturday House vote, Congressmen Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers together issued a letter saying that the Weiner amendment would be “tantamount to driving the movement over a cliff.” A losing vote for single payer on the House floor would hurt the cause, they said.

Their opinion stood in direct contradiction to the single-payer advocates who saw the efforts demanding the amendment as historic and imperative. Nancy Pelosi must have been overjoyed, for the letter gave her a new excuse to knock single payer off the table.

Pelosi also made an argument that in retrospect seems like pure chutzpah. She said that if a single-payer amendment came to the floor, she might also have to allow an amendment to restrict abortion rights to the floor. So we were to be mollified by the thought that if the single-payer amendment was withdrawn, at least women’s rights would be protected.

But we know how that turned out. We asked for health reform, and they gave us an abortion ban. Is that the true state of the Democratic Party today? To get the Democrats own “Blue Dog” right wing to vote for “health reform,” largely conceived and written by the insurance companies, they had to trade away women’s rights? Good grief.

Meanwhile, Kucinich had another amendment that would make it slightly easier for single payer to be enacted state by state. The Kucinich amendment came through the Education and Labor committee, where Kucinich got it passed with help from Republicans, but it wasn’t included in the bill. This amendment, too, was the focus of grassroots action–and is still.

He has since been fighting to get the state-by-state amendment back into the final legislation, with some success, getting the Progressive Caucus to endorse the idea. After Kucinich voted against bill, he issued a clear and powerful statement explaining his vote by saying the private insurance companies are the problem, not the solution.

WHAT’S THE lesson of this experience?

WE JUST found out that Bernie Sanders will put a substitute single-payer amendment before the Senate, with at least two other senators promising to vote for it. But when the dust settled in the House, only two representatives, Dennis Kucinich and Eric Massa, voted against the bill because it wasn’t single payer. Two. The rest went with the Democratic Party leadership and voted for the bill–abortion ban and all. Evidently, this is what it means to be a progressive Democrat in Congress today.

It also tells us that we need to build a bigger grassroots movement. We are learning that the Democratic Representatives–and I daresay the Republicans, too–will respond to a grassroots mass movement, but we have to build that movement. No one will do it for us. As we do so, we must maintain our independence from elected officials. We have to continue to pressure them, sure–but our eyes should be on the grassroots, not the Democratic Party. I think that’s the most important lesson.

We might also remember that single payer will be won when it becomes a mainstream demand. So the goal of the movement should be to make our proposal the litmus test for the entire nation–left, right and center. The whole country simply must have a health system built upon the principle of solidarity. What other kind of society would we want to live in?

WHAT’S THE way forward for the single-payer movement?

WHAT WE need above all else is confidence. Our demand is popular, workable and just. We learned this year that there really is a social movement for single payer coming into being. We should be telling our advocates this: if you keep doing what you have been doing, we will win single payer. All year long, we have had the attention of the Congress and the White House. Much as they wanted to, they could not shake us.

It’s really up to us. We can build this movement. The health care crisis will persist in spite of the Democrats’ 10-year plan. With unemployment still rising and possibilities for a frank political crisis emerging, we might soon find a situation in which something has simply got to give. We need to learn to articulate broader benefits of single-payer reform as an economic rescue and as personal liberation for working people.

Our grassroots single-payer movement will also grow by learning to fight on related issues. For example, in Braddock, Pa., the western Pennsylvania single-payer activists have gotten involved in defending a community hospital from closing. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center–itself an insurance company by the way, and a massive corporation with a millionaire CEO–bought up the health care infrastructure in the area, including Braddock Hospital.

If we had single payer, we wouldn’t have this corporate medicine, building a new hospital in the wealthy suburb and closing the hospital in the old city. If we had single payer, health care priorities would be planned to meet the needs of the community, not the corporate bottom line.

The single-payer movement needs to join local struggles like this one and articulate how single payer would help solve these problems. That’s how we will be able to forge out of a nascent movement a force that can overwhelm the opposition to single payer in Washington, D.C.

October 2, 2009

Statement of solidarity with the UCSC occupation

Filed under: Solidarity, Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 12:52 am

Columbia University Statement of Solidarity with UCSC Occupation and UC Walk-Outs

Click above to read the joint statement of solidarity sent by Columbia student groups, including the ISO, to U of California students who walked-out of classes to protest budget cuts, and the UC Santa Cruz students who occupied a building on their campus!

February 20, 2009

NYU students suspended for occupation – email & call the administration now!

Filed under: Solidarity, Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 9:08 pm

See Socialist Worker coverage of the NYU occupation HERE.
See video footage of last night’s amazing solidarity rally HERE.
See photos from the past two nights HERE.

The occupation has ended – due to the disgusting NYU administration, who sent in security guards today to remove all of students occupying the Kimmel Center cafeteria. The administration never negotiatied with the students and when they said they would do so, they simply detained and suspended the four student negotiators who came out in good faith. (See below). Students were driven to their dorms and told to remove their belongings and were removed from their campus housing immediately and placed in ‘temporary’ housing. The students who were removed today are all facing suspension! Mass support is necessary to demand that these students be granted amnesty.  Please get as many people to email NYU as possible and show that we will stand together with the students and not be turned back.

Email & Call NYU Administrators. Sample Email after the break, click ‘MORE’ to see it. Demand amnesty and no suspensions:

NYU President John Sexton: john.sexton@nyu.edu & CALL 212-998-2345
John Beckman, NYU Spokesperson: jhb5@nyu.edu
Office of the Provost: provost@nyu.edu
Office of the Vice President: evp@nyu.edu

Today New York University has shown its true face more than ever. Claiming to be a “private university in the public service,” it is clearly not even in the service of those students whose tuitions allow it to exist.

Earlier today, NYU cut power to all outlets in the occupied space and turned off the wireless internet.  Obviously this was an attempt to silence and intimidate the occupiers who have broad-based support.

Then, NYU said it would negotiate and instead detained and suspended the student negotiators when they showed up.  Security has now broken through the barricade and people are being detained and suspended.

Instead of dialog and negotiation, the NYU administration has shown they prefer the authoritarian, dissent-quashing, dictator route. It is a true reflection of how they run their university. Nothing but thugs with suits on, interested in getting rich under the guise of “education.”

Be prepared to defend any individual or group that is targeted academically or legally for their role in the occupation. Widespread support for the occupation and its demands will not be extinguished by NYU’s hypocritical, tyrannical behavior.

(more…)

February 6, 2009

U of R Students to Occupy Academic Building for Peace and in Solidarity with Gaza

Filed under: Solidarity, Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 11:14 am
Amazing – students in the UK have been sitting-in to demand divestement from Israel for weeks now, and now the US occupations begin! Our members in Rochester are part of the action…


This is the blog that will be updated as the occupation continues today:
http://prometheus.scp.rochester.edu/ursds/blog
Forward widely!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

University of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS)

University of Rochester

Rochester, NY 14627

U of R Students to Occupy Academic Building for Peace and in Solidarity with Gaza

Rochester, NY02/05/09— Students from the University of Rochester and members of the local Rochester community will be occupying an academic building on campus tomorrow for peace and in solidarity with the people Gaza and in opposition to U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the recent atrocities in Gaza. The action, organized by U of R Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS), will begin on the afternoon of Friday, February 6 and will last until the University of Rochester administration meets the demands put forward.

The demands are:

1. Divestment: We demand the University of Rochester to adopt the “UR-Peaceful Investing Initiative” which institutes a peaceful investment policy to the university’s endowment which includes divestment from corporations that manufacturer weapons and profit from war.  (For example, the U of R invests in General Dynamics which manufactures weapons to maintain a 41-year occupation of the Palestinian territories and wars which slaughter Palestinian civilians by the 100s)

2. Humanitarian aid: We demand that the University of Rochester commit to a day of fundraising for humanitarian aid in Gaza within the next two weeks, as part of an ongoing commitment to provide financial support for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

3. Academic aid: We demand that the University of Rochester twin with the devastated Gaza University and provide the necessary academic aid (e.g., recycled computers, books, etc. ).

4. Scholarships: We demand that the University of Rochester grant a minimum of five scholarships to Palestinian students every year.

The recent war on Gaza has devastated Gazan society, taken hundreds of innocent lives, and has escalated the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Given the United States’ central role in supporting the war in Gaza and a harsh 41-year military occupation of the Palestinian territories, the students’ actions are to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and their struggle for life and peace.

The student occupation will feature a number of informational and peaceful consciousness raising events such as public talks, teach-ins, and sit-ins. The action was inspired by a wave of student occupations that occurred in 16 universities in England following the Israeli assault on Gaza.

This event is organized by the University of Rochester Students for a Democratic Society (UR-SDS), a local chapter of the national Students for a Democratic Society. UR-SDS was founded in the Fall 2008 semester and seeks to effect progressive social change on campus through educational events and direct actions.

For Regular Updates on events see: http://prometheus.scp.rochester.edu/ursds/blog

Confact Information

e-mail: uofr.sds@gmail.com

phone: 917-595-9317 or 917-757-1181

February 1, 2009

10 Arrested at Protest of NYC AIPAC Fundraiser

Filed under: Solidarity, Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 3:45 am

(UPDATE: JOIN THE FACEBOOK SUPPORT PAGE HERE.)

One of our Columbia members was arrested, along with 9 other local student activists on Thursday night for peacefully blocking the entrance to a major fund-raising dinner of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which calls proudly deems itself: “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby.” That of course, can be translated right now into “America’s biggest supporter of genocide in Gaza.”  We hoped to spoil the appetite of guests like mayor Michael Bloomberg, so in addition to blocking the doors,  about 250 people  chanted loudly across the street from the dinner.  The arrested activists were each arraigned on five charges and finally released from prison early Friday evening. All had serious bruises from police abuse, but were okay.

Although the cops did not allow any press to document the arrests, (you could only hear people screaming) here are some PHOTOS of both the civil disobedience and the protest.

We will post more information on their defense soon – and more actions!

Or, as always, you can write us at columbia.iso@gmail.com if you’d like to get involved.

*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*

CONTACT:
Colin Dillon
973 214 0916
colinjdillon@ gmail.com

Blockade Protest of AIPAC Fundraiser at Times Square Marriott Hotel

At 6:30 PM on Thursday, January 29, ten young activists peacefully blocked the two main entrances to the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square to protest the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Fundraising Gala. The action, which lasted just under two hours, coincided with a 250-person protest rally in front of the hotel, separately organized by the Break the Siege On Gaza Coalition—Student Committee.  All ten activists were arrested, spurring the formation of a campaign for their defense and for the conscious escalation of pro-Gaza activism.

More than a month after Israel began its massive assault on Gaza and amidst international protests, AIPAC held a $1500-a-plate fundraising dinner, its largest event of the year.  The event was attended by prominent business people, lobbyists and U.S. politicians, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.  The blockade disrupted what the participating activists considered a disgraceful gathering.

The Marriot blockade comes on the heels of several similar actions opposing Israel’s recent conduct that have occurred in cities around the world such as Toronto and San Francisco and at over a dozen universities in England.    In its scope, tactics, and goals, the movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine recalls the movement that arose in opposition to Apartheid in South Africa.  Campaign participant Conor Tomás Reed said, “the blockade is a contribution to this international struggle and can serve as a catalyst for future actions.”

September 22, 2008

Barnard-Columbia ISO Election Editorial for the Columbia Spectator

Filed under: Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 12:05 am

The Columbia Spectator solicited, and we submitted, an editorial on what issue (or issues) we thought were most important in the presidential elections. It ran in today’s issue of the campus paper and we appreciate the Spectator’s offer to allow us a voice in their publication and hope to contribute again in the future. You may read it here. Despite the fact that our work ran as an opinion piece, the editors decided to edit or remove a couple of our statements, over our objection. There was one line in particular that the Spectator editors insisted on eliminating: “We…oppose the slew of racist slander directed at Obama.”

We were told that this would be removed for two reasons: it was patently partisan, (or “anti-Republican”) and “It comes out of nowhere” in our editorial. We rejected both of these rationales, but received only an ultimatum: either the line would be cut or the piece would not run at all.

Since when did being anti-racist become tantamount to a partisan endorsement? Our editorial makes it clear that we don’t believe that either candidate has a plan to remove all troops from Iraq or Afghanistan and that grassroots organizing is the most important factor in changing this. We are not endorsing McCain or Obama, but does that mean we can’t challenge racism when we see it? From the “terrorist fist jab” and “uppity” comments, to the Obama Waffle Mix, the New Yorker magazine cover and more, it’s clear that this election is sullied by bigotry. If Republicans happen to be the ones making racist comments, as Congresswoman Lynn Westmoreland did, it doesn’t surprise us. However, it was a Democrat, Hillary Clinton, who claimed only she could gain the support of “hard-working Americans, white Americans.” Likewise, the Democrats used to be the defenders of slavery and Jim Crow in the south, so clearly, opposition to racism is not an endorsement of either party.

Adding insult to injury, in the editorial printed right next to ours, Landon Tucker of the College Republicans made an unabashed endorsement of McCain and Palin. Clearly, he didn’t have to abide by the same “non-partisan” standards.

Lastly, we don’t agree with the idea that our talk of racism in the campaign “comes out of nowhere” in our editorial (even if it was the Spectator’s place to alter the content of our opinion!) The questions of the war and the economy, which we focus on in the piece, have been talked about in racist terms not simply in this election season, but for much longer. The demonizing of all Arabs and Muslims has been used to justify the continuation of war on Iraq and Afghanistan, and immigrant workers, or workers abroad, are blamed for “stealing” native-born workers’ jobs.

Hence, organizing to stop the war and demand economic relief are crucially linked to standing up against racism in all of its forms. Apparently, the Spectator thinks that its readers aren’t savvy enough to pick up on these connections, but we think more highly of you. Here is the original, unedited version:


Opinion Piece on the elections from the International Socialist Organization

By Akua Gyamerah and Matt Swagler

Polls indicate that a vast majority of Americans are now in favor of an end to the war on Iraq and a full 82 percent of people think the government needs to increase spending on social services and public works projects to create jobs – not more bailouts for Wall Street. As socialists, we see these two interconnected demands as central to the election.

Despite the deaths of over a million Iraqis, the displacement of over 4 million more, and despite the fact that a majority of US troops polled wanted to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2006, neither presidential candidate is talking about a complete or immediate end to the occupation of Iraq. Certainly McCain is committed to continuing the war, but even Obama’s position for withdrawal is tenuous, would take many years, and will leave behind tens of thousands of troops and countless private mercenaries such as Blackwater. Both candidates are united on escalating the Afghanistan war, and we’ve already seen a rise in US bombing runs and Afghan civilian deaths, alongside a monthly casualty toll for US soldiers now surpassing that of Iraq.

This week, the Wall Street Journal declared that the economy is at the brink of the worst crisis since the great depression of the 1930s, and things will only get worse. Unfortunately, as the economy deteriorates, working class people are expected to pay for this disaster, something we see already with higher prices for commodities like food, education, housing, millions of foreclosures and evictions, growing poverty and unemployment, and cutbacks in social programs. Despite bailing out Corporate America with billions of our tax dollars, the federal government claims that it cannot afford to help homeowners with their debt, provide free healthcare for children, or restore cuts to public schools. The excuses are plenty, but the evidence to justify each is meager, especially as all of this past week’s disgraced CEO’s are getting exorbitant departure packages-Richard Syron, the former head of Freddie Mac, will likely get $14.1 million simply to walk out the door.

The most important issues for this election year are not what is discussed during the campaigning period, but what happens before and after a new president takes office. As history has shown, the US government does little for working class people without pressure from below. In light of the billions spent this past month to rescue for-profit financial institutions, it is essential and absolutely justified for working class people, including immigrants, to protest the priorities of this government and to pressure them by demanding forgiveness of mortgages, affordable housing, universal healthcare, and an increase in financial aid for education. An end to the failing wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, which would free up $340 million a week, is central to these demands. While we follow the elections attentively and oppose the slew of racist slander directed at Obama, we feel that it is ultimately through grassroots, independent, and mass organizing that we can begin to see real change.

November 13, 2007

Statement of Solidarity with Hunger Strikers

Filed under: Solidarity, Statements — Barnard-Columbia ISO @ 12:45 am

The Barnard/Columbia International Socialist Organization applauds the courage of the hunger strikers and stands with them in demanding change from the Columbia administration. All students who believe that we ought to have a say in the running of our University should actively support the strikers and their demands.

We should not accept a Core Curriculum that presents a top-down view of the development of “Western civilization” as a story of the evolution of the ideas of the ruling class, which misinforms us regarding the driving forces of history and the ability of ordinary people to affect it. We should not accept an Ethnic Studies program without the ability to hire its own professors, which cannot defend them from the attacks of the neo-McCarthyite right. We should not accept a University without a systematic or centralized way of responding to hate crimes on campus. And we should certainly not accept an expansion plan that places the costs of Columbia’s growth on the shoulders of the working people of Harlem, a community already under assault by the neoliberalization of New York City policies on housing, crime, and education.

Columbia is a profit-seeking corporation, and substantive change will not come by rational argument or moral suasion alone. A hunger strike is a desperate tactic but a product of necessity. It is past time that progressive students at Columbia unite to force the administration to act.

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