Monday, January 22, 2018

Faults Aside, the Women's March Was a Good Thing

We reprint this article from the Guardian for the interest of our readers. There are some important points made in it.  It is nauseating to see the Scarlet Johanson's and Whoopi Goldberg's speaking and billionaires like Tom Steyer. I didn't see it but surely Oprah spoke somewhere she is eying the White House. The movement is clearly influenced strongly by the Democratic Party and the liberals, it's organizers perhaps did not link the issue of racism or jobs and such to the general attack on women as strongly as they should which would have gotten the ear of the black community and other communities of color. The trade union hierarchy makes no serious attempt to bring union members out as there is nothing they are more terrified of than their own members moving in to struggle.

Despite all these negative influences and the hypocrisy of Democratic Party hacks and celebrities that couldn't give a damn about women and young girls or anyone else that have been the victims of Obama's drones, Hilary Clinton's warmongering, Bush's wars, Trumps missiles or Israels brutality, that millions turned out is a huge positive. Movements do not come ready made, and even so, out of the hundreds of thousands there will be many that feel the same way, that wished things were different, but these and others like them will be the changing presence. The marches are a slap in the face to the present administration of the the predator Trump and that is a good thing. Imagine if they had been very small, it would have cast a sombre mood over society.  We will see much more in the future as the crisis of capitalism deepens and the trade unions will not be exempt. At some point there will be a breach in the dam and the obstacle of the trade union leadership and its relationship it has built with bosses based on labor peace (at the expense of the rank and file members of course) will begin to unravel.RM


Think the Women's March wasn't radical enough? Do something about it

It might not have been as black, brown or working class as many might have liked. But criticizing it from the sidelines doesn’t help anyone
The scale of the attack is as deep as it is wide, and this means that we will need a mass movement to confront it. To organize such a movement necessarily means that it will involve the previously uninitiated – those who are new to activism and organizing. We have to welcome those people and stop the arrogant and moralistic chastising of anyone who is not as “woke”.

The women’s marches in Washington DC and around the country were stunning, inspiring and the first of a million steps that will be needed to build the resistance to Trump.

But look around social media, and you can read critiques and even denunciations of the marchers: where were all of these people before? Why are they only getting involved now? Why doesn’t the march have more radical demands? Why did march organizers, who are politically liberal, allow only ... liberals to speak?

All this is a sign of a political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left.


Were liberals on the march? Yes! And thank God. The movement to resist Trump will have to be a mass movement, and mass movements aren’t homogeneous – they are, pretty much by definition, politically heterogeneous. And there is not a single radical or revolutionary on Earth who did not begin their political journey holding liberal ideas.
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Liberals become radicals through their own frustrating experiences with the system, but also through becoming engaged with people who became radical before them. So when radicals who have already come to some important conclusions about the shortcomings of existing systems mock, deride or dismiss those who have not achieved the same level of consciousness, they are helping no one.
This isn’t leadership, it’s infantile. It’s also a recipe for how to keep a movement tiny and irrelevant. If you want a movement of the politically pure and already committed, then you and your select friends should go right ahead and be the resistance to Trump.
 
Should the marches have been more multiracial and working class? Yes! But you are not a serious organizer if that’s where your answer to the question ends. The issue for the left is how we get from where we are today to where we want to be in terms of making our marches blacker, browner and more working class. Simply complaining about it changes nothing.

There will no effective movement against Trump that doesn’t directly confront the issue of racism. It has to be front and center, and it seemed to me that the march organizers took that question seriously and made genuine efforts to shift shortcomings in their original approach.

The organized turnout of unions for the Washington DC demonstration was much smaller than it should have been. But at least some sections of the labor movement did feel the pressure from their own membership to devote greater resources to mobilization in the final weeks, and plenty of union members got themselves to the march as individuals and with rank-and-file members. That’s something for the left to build on in making labor central to the anti-Trump resistance.

The women’s marches were the beginning, not the end. What happens next will be decided by what we do. Movements do not come to us from heaven, fully formed and organized. They are built by actual people, with all their political questions, weaknesses and strengths.
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If the left doesn’t engage with the aim of contending for leadership and influence, we just concede these forces to the Democrats and liberals, who will certainly try to confine the new upsurge of opposition to the political limits they want to define.

The point isn’t to bury our arguments. If we want to win people to more radical politics, we must learn how to make our arguments while operating in political arenas that aren’t just our own. Revolutionary socialists have a long and rich tradition of building united fronts, which seems more real now that 3 million people were in the streets.

We must do a better job at facilitating debate, discussion and argument so that we talk about how to build the kind of movement we want. But endless social media critiques with no commitment to diving into that struggle for the kind of movement we want is not a serious approach.

There are literally millions of people in this country who are now questioning everything. We need to open up our organizations, planning meetings, marches and much more to them. We need to read together, learn together, be in the streets together and stand up to this assault together.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

SEIU's David Rolf: A New Savior For Labor?

David Rolf. Source: American Prospect
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

David Rolf is the president of SEIU 775. He has been influential in the struggles around a higher minimum wage, the Fight For $15 campaign and for organizing new members. Increasing dues payers means more revenue which is the goal of any business.  He has been called the most successful union organizer in the US in the last 15 years by the American Prospect Magazine.

I read a piece about Rolf in Capital and Main an online publication that has on its Board of Directors members of the trade union hierarchy and free market (a friendly free market of course) gurus like Robert Reich, the economist Jared Bernstein and Barbara Ehrenreich as its advisors. Not too many shop stewards. The podcast included here at the end of this post, is an interview with him and I listened to about half an hour of it.

One might think the employers have Rolf on their most wanted list having referred to the $15 minimum wage as “bold and morally compelling demand” Rolf has a new model for organizing, or that’s what he calls it, and no doubt some owners of capital will not be receptive, but the new age types, the more astute far thinking sectors of the capitalist class like what he has to say.

Rolf condemns the present system of bargaining in the US as a failure. Perhaps it worked in the industrial 1930’s when a few major corporations set the standard he suggests, when one unionized corporation could set a wage rate for all and “IBM could pay a nickel more and keep the union out.” Either way, that old adversarial system of bargaining does not work in the present information and service economy.

Rolf goes in to a lot of detail about the failures of present day organizing, what he calls the “enterprise” system and talks of designing new systems, even social scientists have a role, the more “experts” the better; Intel CEO, Andy Grove has been a useful source of knowledge for Rolf. Like Andy Stern, the former university educated head of SEIU (Rolf will be there soon)  and Rolf’s mentor and co-thinker, their fondness for tech gurus and Silicon Valley is well known.

The old system of adversarial bargaining presents problems in that it puts so many obstacles in the way and in short “pits capital and worker against each other,.” That comment alone should be a sure sign that Rolf’s future is not a good one for working folk. Capital and labor are naturally antagonistic as one lives, parasite like, off the other.

Rolf thinks that the European model is grand and wants to emulate the Germans and have “representatives of the employees”  (experts like him) the employers and the government, “set standards for wages and benefits throughout an entire industry or across a geographic area.” Rolf promotes worker ownership and introducing “ethical workplace certification and labeling programs designed to appeal to socially conscious consumers.” Capital and Main:1-11-18

Rolf wants to partner with the state and business to centralize bargaining power and cover million of workers even those not in unions. Rolf’s Team Concept philosophy, which opposes the “adversarial” approach that would have unions acting independently, means the bosses’ have demands too. And relying on the employers’ courts, a friendly city council at the moment, or business as so-called “equal partners,” rather than on the conscious, mobilized power of organized workers acting in our own self-interest is weak. Negotiating as joint partners with the state and business does not strengthen workers. As one critic put it, “SEIU is making a huge investment with no clear sense that it will ever be able to claim a fast-food worker as a member. How long can that be a sustainable model?”

Rolf has had major success increasing SEIU’s membership and organizing low paid often marginalized sectors. He was a major force in the campaign for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle. But while the $15 wage campaigns have made a difference for many workers, $15 is still poverty wages in most cases.  Over the last 40 years or so the minimum wage had less and less purchasing power while profits have increased and the capitalists share of the nation wealth pie has increased. So $15 at this point in time after massive wealth accumulation is not exactly a sacrifice on the part of capital.  We are all familiar with the inequality situation.

When I went up to Seattle for a conference around the $15 an hour minimum wage campaign I stopped to pick up by rental car at the airport and the young guy at the counter was a Teamster. He earned below $15 an hour and I happened to mention that he must be happy that he was getting a raise. He was not. Rolf and other union officials. As well as socialist council member Kshama Sawant, struck a deal that allowed some employers, who already had a unionized workforce, to avoid paying the $15. It was called the collective bargaining opt-out. This would allow some unionized hotel industry bosses and others to keep wages at a competitive level and the argument was made to me that they had health care which sort of countered it.  One Fight for $15 activist told me that if they pushed the unionized bosses to pay the $15 they would eliminate health benefits----this was a fight they didn’t want and didn’t believe they could win. They couldn’t win it without building a movement based on workers and our communities, instead, the result was an employer supported deal backed by the unions.

At no time does Rolf stress the crucial role of the rank and file membership of the unions in the struggle for improved conditions.  There is no talk of the need for rank and file control of our organizations or of the power of the working class to be brought to the table at all.  Like Stern before him, he has consolidated locals and has no real interest in rank and file democratic control. He is a compromiser: “He kept saying, ‘Let’s not have our desires for the perfect get in the way of success.’ He was practical, less ideological than other members of the task force. If the labor movement had more David Rolfs, it would hold its own for a very long time.”, says one corporate head of Rolf’s negotiating style.

Rolf is the most recent of a number of pro-management gurus and Democratic Party agents in the workers’ movement. I am afraid I am going to be too long winded here but I feel the need to share some recent history with younger workers in unions or interested in them and our history

Many young union members might not be aware of it but 1995 was a historic year for US trade unionism. It was the first contested election for president in the history of the national body of organized labor in the US that was formed in 1955 through the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO.) The victor was John Sweeney of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Sweeney and his slate included former mineworkers union head, now AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka and Afscme’s Linda Chavez Thompson in a position created to win support from women and ethnic minorities.

There was much militant rhetoric flying around at the time. Labor could not continue to fight "...only defensive battles.", the platform of the new voices claimed and promised to make the AFL-CIO the , "....fulcrum of a vibrant movement, not simply a Federation of constituent organizations."  The reformers made it clear, "...we cannot wait for change in the political climate to provide us with the opportunities to grow.  We must first organize despite the law if we are ever to organize with the law." (1) Fighting talk from the progressives. 

In the included podcast Rolf talks of the giant HMO Kaiser and its joint relationship with the bosses after a contentious adversarial relationship that Rolf seems to feel is just about bad bargaining methods.  Not long after Sweeney’s election, the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Department’s Kaiser Coordinating Committee produced a glossy fold out aimed at union members at Kaiser Permanente. It was a proposal to the rank and file of Kaiser’s unions urging them to vote yes for a new “labor management partnership”. There had been some major disputes at Kaiser and what was then SEIU Local 250 led by Sal Rosselli and the California Nurses Association led by RoseAnne DeMoro were among the more aggressive union officials in the area. 

The brochure was carefully worded to overcome the inherent resistance among the rank and file and the average worker to management/labor teams: “I urge you to vote “yes”, Sweeney writes, and points to all the reasons explained in the brochure; it gives the unions a “real voice” and Kaiser has the incentive because the new program “commits the labor movement” to helping Kaiser be competitive and win market share.   In the interests of fairness the Kaiser Coordinating Committee does mention a no vote. “The worst that could happen? The worst that could happen would be for us to not give this ambitious and groundbreaking partnership a try, because things are bad and getting worse”, the brochure says. That’s inspiring isn’t it!

Having nothing else on the table from the heads of organized labor other than vote yes or things will be terrible, the rank and file went against their gut instincts and voted yes.  The Team Concept, that disastrous philosophy that argues workers and bosses have the same economic interests was in full swing at Kaiser.

Unfortunately Sal Rosselli of SEIU 250 was on the committee and supported the Team Concept which caused some division between SEIU and CNA (registered nurses) members on the job. CNA was not in the AFL-CIO at that time and opposed the measure as far as I recall. The AFL-CIO leadership was eager to place their members’ livelihoods in the hands of executives from the Health Care industry and the CNA members at Kaiser were thrown to the wolves. This now meant that AFL-CIO and SEIU members would be crossing CNA’s picket lines in support of their new friends at corporate.

So John Sweeney, who once talked of blocking bridges like Martin Luther King, quickly went from blocking bridges to building them.  Building them not between the leadership of the Federation and its members but between the leadership of the Federation and the employers.

But wait! Another labor superman arises to save the day. Andrew (Andy Stern. Stern became president of SEIU in 1996 after John Sweeney was elected head of the AFL-CIO. Stern, the son of a lawyer, was one of the “Young Turks” of the changing labor movement. He was educated, smart. He was the youngest ever member of the SEIU executive board when he was elected to it in 1980. The capitalist media loved him and lauded him with praise, Business Week, Time, CNN, CBS, he had it all; they weren’t afraid of him, he was their new shining star, a visionary. "We like to say: We use the power of persuasion first. If it doesn't work, we try the persuasion of power" he told the WSJ in 2008.

Stern was one of the Democratic Party’s most prominent agents in the organized workers’ movement at the time and rewarded the party handsomely supporting John Kerry, Barack Obama and handing over millions of union members’ dollars to Democratic Party candidates.

In 2005 Stern, along with James P Hoffa of the Teamsters, another lawyer, led a breakaway group from the AFL-CIO called the Change To Win Coalition. There was no significant difference of opinion between the two groups in what the media described as a “raucous debate” at the time. It was mostly over political activity which amounts to getting Democrats elected, “In our view, we must have more union members in order to change the political climate that is undermining workers rights in this country.” Hoffa wrote in an AFL-CIO press release in 2005. The rank and file of the unions involved didn’t get to participate in the “raucous” debates of course and many workers were confused by the whole affair. 

Stern's friends, Perelman and Bloomberg. Source
Stern was a Senior Fellow at the Richard Paul Richman Center for Business Law and Public Policy at Columbia form 2011to 2016 and has gone on to write a number of books. He’s done well out of the labor movement and is acceptable to those whose policies devastate workers’ lives.He has since been on the boards of major hedge funds and also Eli Broads's "Broad Center". Broad is an avid supporter of privatizing education and hostile to teachers' unions.

About the same time there was much chatter here in the San Francisco Bay Area about another “firebrand” emerging at the South Bay Labor council that is in the heart of Silicon Valley. Her name is Amy Dean. She was young, smart, techie oriented. She could save the working class and our organizations. She was the head of the South Bay Labor Council from  1993-2004. Much was made about her youth and the fact that she was the first woman to head such body. What’s more important than a person’s gender in the struggle against capitalism and the bosses’. Who cares what their program is?

What makes union leaders like Dean, Stern , Rolf and other proponents of Labor/Management joint teams popular with the mass media is not their militancy, but their willingness to tap in to the resources the worker has to increase efficiency and make capitalism more competitive. They are a breed of educated middle-class leaders that fit the bill. They are modern, well versed in the terms of left academia and are posed as the alternative to the male dominated moribund old leadership that has its roots in the past.

Like Stern, Dean, described as one of the “young Turks” and the Mother Jones of Silicon Valley, has found a nice niche for herself since her days at the South Bay Labor Council. I have written many times that the heads of organized labor, including this trendy crowd, see the unions as employment agencies and themselves as the CEO’s.  Dean says it clearly:  “Labor must become proficient at being able to broker the supply and demand of labor within a labor market.  Yet, I am suggesting nothing different from the ways in which a temporary agency functions. Temporary agencies were created to fill an important niche that client firms needed but are not filling, the niche that the employee side needs.  Thus, we have determined that marrying training with job development and placement is an absolute critical core capacity unions of the future must have.”
 
Amy Dean. Source
Ms. Dean has written numerous books and her “passion” as a senior consultantfor the Management Assistant Group is working at the intersection of labor, faith and community based organizations in order to build a fair and just world; how nice. Intersection is a favored term of the left left-petit bourgeois in academia these days.  I just happened to read, or skim through a transcript of an interview with Amy Dean, Richard Bensinger, and some other expert who will save the workers of the world, not from capitalism but unfair capitlaism. It’s quite sickening. Bensinger, is an organizer for the UAW and consultant to international unions apparently, how is that going one might ask? He was also an advisor to AFL-CIO president Sweeney at one time. Any conscious worker or activist in the workplace knows damn well you don’t get to be an advisor to the head of the AFL-CIO or a major union in this climate unless you are completely safe, no threat at all.

This is the game plan that the new star of labor for the employers, David Rolf, is following. 

The goal of organizing workers in to unions for Rolf and those like him is more power at the ballot box and increased pressure on the Democratic Party on the one hand and labor peace, an attractive appeal to liberal capitalists on the other. Like Stern and Dean, Rolf is another agent of the Democratic Party in the workers’ movement. The workers’ are not organized to act on our own behalf on the job or in the building of a working class/labor political party that can break the dictatorship the two capitalist parties have over political life. Instead, we must rely on the “experts” and on good capitalists and their theoreticians.

This new breed of trendy labor officials, educated, liberal minded, using all the right trendy formulations and supporting all the right social issues, have a liberal attitude to capital and the employers as well. We must not be fooled by their attacks on the old guard in the labor movement as while they differ in method their goals are the same. They can “work” with the bosses’, help them stay competitive and increase efficiency though involving workers in some decision making and forming workplace committees with them in order to tap in to the knowledge those who actually do the work possess.

They attend the universities where they soak up bourgeois economics like a sponge, and participate in forums and think tanks of the liberal bourgeois like the Council on Competitiveness and the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Rolf’s studied labor history at university and wrote his, “….senior thesis on the “Protocols of Peace”—the 1910 agreement between New York’s clothing manufacturers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, hammered out by Louis Brandeis, Lincoln Filene, and John Dewey.”  (American Prospect).  Rolf has known where he was headed for a long time and we don’t need to follow him. This does not mean we would oppose organizing people in to unions, and he has done that. But what we do beyond that is just as important.

I recommend both the Capital and Main interview and podcast to those reading this and also the article in the American Prospect; there is more in them that I can include here. Behind these publications are the same forces, the economists, academics and labor officials who look to them for intellectual guidance and who can legitimize their pro-business view of the world. The idea that workers can govern society or control our own organizations or that there is an alternative to capitalism does not exist for them. Their path is a disastrous one for workers.

No one can oppose any rise in the minimum wage but it is not only inadequate, as an integral part of the team, the employers have had their input to the point that by the time some workers get it wages have improved very little if at all. The bosses’ have not been forced to pay, they have agreed to a figure as a working partner, some cases even with MacDonald’s, a global corporation, the increase takes four years to reach that level. Then there’s the costs of housing, transportation, child care. We must not lose sight of the big picture.

Rolf offers nothing new. Absent from his view of the world and of  organizing workers, is the immense potential power of the working class and the need for workers to rely on our own strength in politics and in the workplace. The legislation that arose in the 1930’s simply codified what was already won in the streets and through the mass occupation of workplaces. Much of that legislation bypassed agricultural, domestic workers and others who were mainly workers of color due to racism on the part of the state and the trade unions. We can learn from these mistakes and not make them as we learn from the methods that built the trade unions in the first place, mass action, occupations etc. and the need to challenge anti union, anti-worker laws.

It is not from saviors like Rolf that organized labor can change in a real way, but through rank and mile militancy, rejecting the Team Concept and fighting for what we and society needs as opposed to what is acceptable to the bosses, and the Democratic Party. Building opposition groups in the workplaces and where we can, the union halls, based on such an approach and doing so publicly, challenging the present leadership’s policies and offering new leadership based on them, is what will work. Linking and helping build similar organizations in our communities and using our organized power to support community struggles ensuring reciprocation will help to spread organization beyond the workplace.

Social issues such as police brutality, racism, sexism, and certainly environmental catastrophe, and all forms of discrimination, these are issues that affect all of us and must be an integral part of the movement to transform our organizations and society; capitalism is a system of war and there is no future unless we end it and build a genuine democratic socialist world. As we have stated before, the best protection against sexism and sexual abuse at work is organizing in to fighting, democratic unions that take this issue seriously as a divisive issue that harms all workers.

In the process of building a living, breathing democratic movement, political representatives rooted in this movement and expressing its demands and desires can arise as an alternative to the twin parties of capital and the dictatorship that capital has over political life.

The “new model” that union leaders like Rolf espouses is not internationalist and in the era of capitalist globalization we cannot win without worker globalization, without a program that includes a partnership with workers in other countries, many working for the same global employers we do. (Safeway, Apple, WalMart).  The team building with US bosses, leads us in to a race to the bottom with workers in other countries as each group of workers competes in order to help our own capitalists win market share form their foreign rivals, much like the relationship at Kaiser, helping one health maintenance organization corner market share.

Rolf has a good future ahead of him. I am sure his $200,000 a year salary will not remain that low for too long. The next step should be president of SEIU nationally then perhaps politics as a new shining light in the Democratic Party, and a few book deals. After all, he’s been described as arrogant, brilliant and egotistical by his critics and supporters alike. He will go a long way in the capitalist world.

  (1) New Voice For American Workers: A Summary of Proposals From The Unions supporting John Sweeney, Richard Trumka and Linda Chavez Thompson June 28, 1995  

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Canadian Railroad Workers Acquitted in Lac-Mégantic Crash


                                                               Press Release


Friday, January 19th, 2018 at 2:40 PM Central Time

For Immediate Release

For more information Contact: Ron Kaminkow, RWU General Secretary
phone:608-358-5771 or 202-798-3327
email: secretary@railroadworkersunited.org

RWU Statement Upon the Acquittal of Canadian Railroad Workers

Railroad workers – together with all citizens concerned with worker justice - across the continent are celebrating the acquittal of Canadian railroaders who were wrongly accused by the Crown for the tragedy at Lac-Mégantic in which 47 people were killed when a long and heavy oil train crashed and exploded in the middle of that small town in July of 2013.

At the time of the wreck, Railroad Workers United (RWU) had spoken out quickly, releasing a statement within a week condemning the reckless practices on the rail carrier – the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MM&A) - and its renegade CEO Ed Burkhart. Since then, RWU has defended the railroad workers, denying that they in any way should be charged with a criminal offense, demanding that the charges be dropped, and that the Crown charge the real criminals – the MM&A bosses and the government regulators who had turned a blind eye to their irresponsible actions regarding safety.

Once the workers were arrested, RWU took part in protest actions, assisted with organizing a defense committee, began raising funds for the defense, and attempted to raise awareness of the issue on both sides of the border. Despite the overwhelming evidence of company recklessness and irresponsibility, the Crown refused to drop the charges, and proceeded onward to the trial which finally commenced – more than four years after the event – in September 2017.

While the prosecution focused largely on a single event – the alleged failure of the locomotive engineer to tie enough handbrakes, they were tripped up at every turn by their own witnesses – government, company, “expert” and otherwise – who, by their testimony, incriminated the company and the government regulators rather than the defendants.

Some of the highlights that were revealed at the trial include:

1 – The implementation of single employee train crews just months earlier, had played a key role in the wreck. One other railroad that had been operating trains in this fashion for years (QNSL) had provided 10 days of training and made 69 safety accommodations prior to the implementation of such operations. The MM&A did none of these, while the government stood idly by. After the wreck however, Transport Canada outlawed the further implementation of the practice.

2 – The MM&A had allocated practically no funding for safety or emergency training, nor standardization of rules compliance, and had a terrible safety record compared to most rail carriers.

3 – The train in question was thousands of tons over limit. Significantly, the company had no set policy for the number of handbrakes that were necessary to secure such trains. That number remains in question, but experts now agree that the number for such a train on such a grade is well more than had been considered at the time.

4 – The train – by company policy - was left unattended on the mainline on a steep grade with no derail or other means of protection against runaway.

5 – The train’s lead locomotive was defective, and ultimately this fact would catalyze the runaway. Despite awareness of this fact, the company had failed to make necessary repairs to it, nor utilize it as a trailing unit in the consist. In addition, the mainline trackage was in a dilapidated state because of deferred maintenance by the carrier.

6 – Company policy was to leave the train’s automatic brake in the release position, even though the generally accepted practice by railroad policy and law is to leave unattended trains with the automatic brake in the “full-service” (fully applied) position. Every car of the train could have had its air brakes fully applied, but the company – against general rule and wisdom of a hundred years - insisted that engineers not set the air brakes on the train when leaving the train alone. Had this reckless and bizarre policy not been insisted upon by MM&A, the train almost certainly could not have rolled away.

All told over the course of four months, the jury gained a picture of a railroad company that was oblivious to safety concerns, one far more interested in making money than in the safety of its workers or trackside communities. While RWU applauds the jury’s verdict and sees the acquittal as a victory – not just for the MM&A railroad workers but for all railroad workers – we must remain vigilant. Railroad carriers in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere are intent on criminalizing employees, pointing the finger at them when something goes wrong, as a means of deflecting attention away from their own failures, whether it be inadequate training, lack of qualifying time, chronic crew fatigue, deferred maintenance, dangerously long and heavy trains, inadequate staffing and more. Railroad workers must be ready, willing and able to come to one another’s defense to prevent the rail carriers and the state from criminalizing our behavior while they – the real criminals – get off Scott free.

Railroad Workers United
Solidarity -- Unity -- Democracy

Friday, January 19, 2018

Iran: Haft Tappeh Workers Threaten Occupation

On Monday January 15th Esmail Bakhshi, a representative of the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane complex’s workers, made a speech announcing the continuation of their strike until management have met their demands. He warned management that if their demands have not been met by Friday then they will occupy the sugar cane complex on Saturday.

Over 500 day-labourers at Haft Tappeh, a sugar cane complex with plantations and refineries in Khuzestan province, are demanding the payment of unpaid wages and permanent contracts. They also object to a retired manager being brought back to the company.

The following is the transcript of parts of Esmail Bakhshi’s speech, distributed by the Haft Tappeh workers as a video clip. The full video clip is 11 minutes long.

“What we want to say today is different from before. Today we are saying something different. If by the end of this week [Friday, January 19th], listen up, if by the end of this week our demands and the situation of our contracts have not been dealt with, then we give up our demands. We will take Haft Tappeh back. [The workers cheer.]

“Today, today we have come to say that you can’t manage Haft Tappeh anymore, we no longer have any confidence in your lies. If by the end of this week the situation, the situation of the demands and contracts, has not been dealt with, then we will sit in the management ourselves and we will build up Haft Tappeh ourselves, we will manage it ourselves. [The workers cheer.]

“They claim that they don’t have any money. Neither have we! But we differ from them in that we have the expertise to produce sugar, so we’ll manage it ourselves. We’ll sit there and manage until we find proper sugar cane managers who can come here and manage. The first thing that we’ll do in Haft Tappeh, in line with managing Haft Tappeh ourselves, that we will be responsible for, will be uprooting from Haft Tappeh the generation of fake and illiterate managers who have dragged Haft

Tappeh to this state – and are from Haft Tappeh themselves.  [The workers cheer.]

“The illiterate managers who have dragged Haft Tappeh to this state, have no place in Haft Tappeh anymore. These gentlemen can’t produce.”

Mr Bakhshi then talks about the managers preparing to sell off the land of Haft Tappeh. “In 1386 [2007-08] all the land deeds for Haft Tappeh were taken from here. … They can’t produce. They want to sell your land. Haft Tappeh is not theirs. … Haft Tappeh is the inheritance of our forefathers. …”

Esmail Bakhshi also talks about the legal and other authorities always taking the side of management and the company’s owners. “The Labour Law is not a labour law. It has an attractive appearance. …It is a slavery law. This Labour Law was not written by the workers. The workers of Iran did not pass this Labour Law in the Majles. The workers have not expressed their opinion about the Labour Law.”

Mr Bakhshi also says that management “… pay the wages once every four months. Then tell us to be grateful that we have a job! … You were unemployed, we gave you a job. …”

Mr Bakhshi finishes his speech warning that the workers will not stand for a retired manager being brought back and says the strike will continue, and if their demands have not been met by Friday, then they will take over the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane complex on Saturday.

Translation: Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign.

https://shahrokhzamani.com/2018/01/17/7tappeh-will-manage/
Source: Haft Tappeh workers.

Statement by the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Union
Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Strike: Thirty Workers Locked Out
Haft Tappeh Pensioners End Their Protests
Retired Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Workers Protest

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Carillion and the ‘dead end’ of privatisation

by Michael Roberts

A few weeks ago, Martin Wolf, Keynesian economics journalist for the UK’s Financial Times, wrote a piece arguing that the renationalisation of privatised state companies was a ‘dead end’ and would not solve the failures of privately owned and run public services in the UK and elsewhere.

And yet within a week or so, it was announced that one of the leading construction and service companies in the UK that has got much of the ‘outsourced’ previously publicly owned projects had gone bust.  Carillion, as it likes to call itself, employs about 20,000 people in the UK and has more staff abroad. It specialised in the construction of public roads, rail and bridges and ‘facilities management’ and ongoing maintenance for state schools, the armed forces, the rail network and the UK’s national health service.

But it seems that it had taken on too many projects from the UK public sector at prices that delivered very narrow margins.  So, as debt issuance rose and profitability disappeared, cash began to haemorrhage.  Carillion ran up a huge debt pile of £900m.  But this did not stop the Carillion board lying about their financial state, continuing to pay themselves large salaries and bonuses and fat dividends to their shareholders.  In contrast, the company did little to reduce a mounting deficit on the pensions fund of their 40,000 global staff, putting their pensions in jeopardy. Indeed, Carillion raised its dividends every year for 16 years while running up a pensions deficit of £587m.  It paid out nearly £200m in dividends in the last two years alone.  The recently sacked CEO took home £660,000 a year plus bonuses.

But eventually, the bank creditors had enough and pulled the plug on further loans and Carillion has closed.  With the liquidation of the company, thousands of jobs are likely to go, while pension benefits could be cut and the British taxpayer will have to pick up the bill of maintaining necessary services previously provided by Carillion.

Amazingly, as I write, the Official Receiver for the bankrupt company says that all the top executives are “still on the payroll” and receiving their salaries, including the recently sacked chief executive.  The government has announced it will guarantee the salaries of employees in 450 public sector contracts run by Carillion.  So the taxpayer will be covering these.  But over 60,000 employees working on private sector jobs are likely to receive no more wages from now, while up to 30,000 sub-contractors have invoices of £1bn that are unlikely ever to be met.

Carillion is a very graphic confirmation that outsourcing public services and sectors to private companies to ‘save money’ on ‘inefficient’ public sector operations is a nonsense.  The reason for privatisation and outsourcing has really been to cut the costs of labour, reduce conditions and pension rights for employees and to make a quick buck for companies and hedge funds.  But such is competition for these contracts that, increasingly, private companies cannot sustain services or projects even when they have cut costs to the bone.  So they just pull out or go bust, leaving the taxpayer with the mess. It’s a microcosm of capitalist economic collapse.

Carillion is not the first example in the UK.  The 2007 failure of Metronet, which had been contracted to maintain and upgrade the London Underground cost the taxpayer at least £170m.  In the UK, outsourcing of public sector operations has reached 15% of public spending or about £100bn.  So more may be under threat.  Indeed, half a million UK businesses have started 2018 in significant financial distress, according to insolvency specialist Begbies Traynor, as the UK economy felt the effects of higher inflation, rising interest rates, growing business uncertainty and weaker consumer spending.

A total of 493,296 businesses were experiencing significant financial distress in the final quarter of 2017 according to Begbies’ latest “red flag alert”, which monitors the health of UK companies. That was 36% higher than at the same point in 2016 and 10% higher than in the third quarter of 2017.  And the worst situation was to be found in the services sector. A total of 121,095 businesses in the sector were showing signs of financial difficulty, up 43% on a year earlier.

Martin Wolf’s claim that privatisation has been a success because it is more efficient is just nonsense.  For the last 25 years, the UK government, starting with Thatcher and continued by right-wing Blair and Brown Labour governments, has resorted to ‘private finance initiatives’ to fund public sector building of schools, hospitals, rail and roads.  Under the PFI, banks and hedge funds fund the projects in return for interest and income paid by the operators of the projects, with payments spread over 25 years.  The idea was to keep down ‘public debt’ levels.  But of course, this was at the expense of future generations of taxpayers.

According to the UK’s National Audit Office in a new report, taxpayers will be forced to hand over nearly £200bn to contractors under PFI deals for at least the next 25 years.  And there was little evidence that there were any financial savings in doing PFI – indeed the cost of privately financing public projects can be 40% higher than relying solely upon government bonds, auditors found.  Annual charges for these deals amounted to £10.3bn in 2016-17. Even if no new deals are entered into, future charges that continue until the 2040s amount to £199bn, it.  “After 25 years of PFI, there is still little evidence that it delivers enough benefit to offset the additional costs of borrowing money privately,” … many local bodies are now shackled to inflexible PFI contracts that are exorbitantly expensive to change.”

And yet Martin Wolf reckons that it does not make sense to renationalise privatised state operations.  He makes the usual claim that state companies were huge inefficient behemoths that were not accountable to the public, “chronically overmanned and heavily politicised. They either underinvested or made poor investment decisions”.  Oh, unlike the private profit monopolies that now run Britain’s utilities, rail and energy and broadband.

Wolf digs up some research from the 1980s and 1990s by William Megginson of the University of Oklahoma who argues that public companies were more inefficient than the private counterparts.  Wolf also cites research from 2002 that British railways have been more efficient under the nightmarish private franchise experiment that rail travellers have experienced since 1997 along with the disastrous collapse of RailTrack, the private company that took over the maintenance of the track.  Tell this to rail travellers and staff.

There is, however, a pile of research that reaches opposite conclusions from Wolf’s sources.  I quote from the recent PSIRU report: “there is now extensive experience of all forms of privatisation and researchers have published many studies of the empirical evidence on comparative technical efficiency. The results are remarkably consistent across all sectors and all forms of privatisation and outsourcing: there is no empirical evidence that the private sector is intrinsically more efficient. The same results emerge consistently from sectors and services which are subject to outsourcing, such as waste management, and in sectors privatised by sale, such as telecoms.”

Detailed studies of the UK privatisations of electricity, gas, telecoms, water and rail have also found no evidence that privatisation has caused a significant improvement in productivity.  A comprehensive analysis in 2004 of all the UK privatisations concluded: “These results confirm the overall conclusion of previous studies that …privatisation per se has no visible impact …. I have been unable to find sufficient statistical macro or micro evidence that output, labour, capital and TFP productivity in the UK increased substantially as a consequence of ownership change at privatisation compared to the long-term trend.”

Evidence from developing countries points to the same conclusion. A global review of water, electricity, rail and telecoms by the World Bank in 2005 concluded: “the econometric evidence on the relevance of ownership suggests that in general, there is no statistically significant difference between the efficiency performance of public and private operators” (Estache et al 2005).

The largest study of the efficiency of privatized companies looked at all European companies privatized during 1980-2009. It compared their performance with companies that remained public and with their own past performance as public companies. The result? The privatized companies performed worse than those that remained public and continued to do so for up to 10 years after privatization.

Wolf’s answer to the failures of privatisation and outsourcing is to “reform the structure and purposes of regulation”.  As if regulation ever worked; indeed, current thought among government elites and big business is that economies need to loosen up regulation again in order to get things going.  To quote Wolf himself from his book on the lessons of the banking crash: “notwithstanding all the regulatory reforms, the system is bound to fail again,”

Public ownership is not of “totemic significance” to the left, as Wolf harps.  It is based on clear evidence that delivering services that people need is best done within a plan and not based on the level of profitability for the likes of Carillion. Yes, public ownership and state companies that become just milk cows for the profits of the private sector without any democratic control are not what we require.  But democratically run public companies as part of a plan for production for need are not “a dead end”, but the future.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Why Taxing the Rich is a Temporary Tactic

This is a perfect example of why you can't make capitalism humane by taxing the rich, or regulating it in to decency. Not that democratic workers' ownership and control of the means of food production would produce something like Coca Cola. This does not mean in the struggle to make the lives of people better in the capitalist mode of production that we can't shift the share of the wealth we create from them to us; we can.   If the market doesn't take this price rise and folks go buy more Pepsi's or drink less soda, the owners of capital that have invested it in Coca Cola may suffer a loss.

Socialists support the fight for such reforms like taxing the rich because we believe we should struggle to improve the material conditions of the workers of the world and defend the natural world in which we live.   But we must recognize that as long as a tiny minority do own the means of production (including the production of ideas through their universities and other such institutions) any victory is a very temporary one. Not only that, but in this epoch, victories are harder to come by and shorter lived.  It is also through the struggle for reforms that we learn lessons about the nature of society. Socialists fight for them not because we think they are a gateway to socialism, we fight for them as part of our struggle to overthrow capitalism and build a democratic socialist society and world.  Richard Mellor

Reprinted from the Independent UK

Coca-Cola blames sugar tax as it cuts coke bottle size and puts prices up

A 1.75l bottle of Coke will shrink to 1.5l as price goes up 20p



Coca-Cola said it will cut the size of its 1.75l bottle of Coke to 1.5l while putting up the price by 20p in the UK.

The price of a 500ml bottle will also go up from £1.09 to £1.25, Coca-Cola confirmed on Monday.
The global drinks maker said the changes were in response to Britain’s sugar tax which comes into force in April.
The levy will be set at 18p on drinks containing 5g of sugar or more per 100ml and a higher 24p rate on those with more than 8g per 100ml.

Coke contains more than 10g of sugar per 100ml with a 1.75l bottle containing 186g.

“We have no plans to change the recipe of Coca-Cola Classic so it will be impacted by the government’s soft drinks tax,” said a spokesperson for Coca-Cola European Partners.
The Soft Drinks Industry Levy, or sugar tax, was announced by former Chancellor George Osborne in 2016 as an attempt to combat spiralling levels of type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity.
The Treasury estimates the tax will raise £520m a year – money that it says will go towards funding sport in primary schools.

The tax has prompted some drinks makers to replace sugar in their recipes with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame.

An online petition titled “Hands off our Irn Bru” attracted thousands of signatures this month. It called on the soft drink’s maker, AG Barr, to rethink its decision to change the ingredients of the Scottish “national treasure”.

AG Barr earlier announced plans to cut Irn Bru’s sugar content by more than half

CLR James, Socialism, Racism and Revolution


We share this commentary as a contribution to the discussions FFWP is having on the strategy and tactics of the struggle against racism and the approach of socialists in general. Admin

by Joel Schor Sailors Union of the Pacific, also affiliated ILWU

CLR James has been recognized by many from different political tendencies and outlooks as a profound thinker and fierce fighter on behalf of black people and the oppressed the world over.  Born in Trinidad under British rule as a Crown Colony, he was a teenage Cricket star, was active in the British Trotskyist movement up to the mid 1930's, before he emigrated to the United States and becoming part of the Socialist Workers Party SWP up to WWII. He lived his last thirty years in Britain from the 1950's forming what he termed an independent Marxist grouping. 


Like Franz Fannon, James came from the tradition of radical black West Indians inspired by the revolutions against despotism in the 18th Century. Notably in San Domingo - Haiti 1804- and in general the era of uprisings, naval mutinies, and slave rebellions in the Atlantic and Caribbean of the latter part of that century preceding the Industrial Revolution in Britain and the imperialist scramble for Africa, and the British colonization of India. This era of mercantile and naval war amongst the imperialist powers - Britain, France, Spain, and Holland -  was fought over trade routes and colonial territory for spices, sugar, and slave trading. 
 
Active in the Socialist and Labor movement of the 1930‘s in the United States, James emphasized the strong symbiosis between the black and proletarian revolutions. Under the pen name J. R. Johnson, James met with Trotsky in 1939 in Mexico and developed a program which was accepted by the SWP on the Black or Negro question in the United States. Basically the program had already been laid out by Lenin in 1917 writing on the National Question in relation to the 1905 revolution against the Tsar and the 1916 Irish uprising. However, CLR James felt the Trotskyists in the United States to have been reluctant to put this program into practice.

While the Communist Party's characterization of the Trotskyists as "Social Fascists" was extreme and possibly ultra-left, the Trotskyists were in fact shying away from involving themselves in a more pro-active manner with the struggles of black people in many instances. It was his assessment that while the SWP was not actively doing harm, they were also not taking up the opportunities available to bring about a more powerful black and general workers fight back to racism and capitalist exploitation. As an example, on the West Coast in the maritime industry the Trotskysists, then a faction inside the Socialist Party USA, took up the position of craft union “autonomy”  advocated by the Sailors Union in its fight with the Longshore Union in their joint struggles and jurisdictional squabbles.

While the Trotskyists saw themselves as upholding the principle of rank and file democracy, in many ways they ended playing left cover for a union leadership which looked the other way to racist practices within their organization. What CLR James proposed to the newly formed SWP in 1939 was that independent black struggles for democratic rights, for economic equality, self determination should all be considered as important to Socialists as the proletarian struggle itself, and also that the rank and file workers movements then coming about in maritime, steel, auto, and transport which all involved increasing numbers of blacks migrating into industrial areas from the South, were  themselves dependent on the independent black movements. 

In a document titled Revolution and the Negro, James looks at several key historical revolutions in European and American history and the involvement of black people. In the American Civil War, there was the underground railroad which defied the fugitive slave law of 1850, and at the same time the British working class demanding an end to slavery the world over just as it had been abolished entirely in the colonies and trade by 1807.An interesting account of the British workers and the American Civil War can be found in Philip Foner's British Labor and the American Civil War

The combined anti-war and slavery position of Gladstone and Karl Marx in Britain pressured Lincoln to make this demand to end slavery prescient in order to keep Europe out, despite the fact the position of Lincoln and the British Torry PM on the war were merely to appease the protectionist Northern Industrial class against the free trade Southern Agriculturalists. In the French Revolution where the ideals of  "Liberty, Fraternity, Equality" were proclaimed in 1792, a slave revolt had just ocured a year before on the island of San Domingo. In 1798 four years after France had banned slavery in its colonies the mulattos of the French West Indies overcame recent British invasions of those islands, and in San Domingo an independent nation was established which fought off an attempt of Napoleon to re-take the island and becoming Haiti in 1804. James pointed out that anti-colonial movements throughout the world sought the aid of the black revolutionaries from the West Indies including Simon Bolivar who traveled to Haiti several times. Also the role of blacks in the American colonies war of independence who's first casualty was a black man by the name of Crispus Attucks.
 
A few years after the formation of the SWP in America, James along with Max Schactman formed the Workers Party which proposed that the Soviet Union should not even be given critical support after the invasion of Finland and the division of Poland in 1941. While Schactman proclaimed the Soviet Union as bureaucratic collectivist, James had characterized it as "state capitalist" at that time. They continued as two factions within the Workers Party until after WWII when James split from Schactman and lead his group back into the SWP. After the series of betrayals by New Deal Democrats in the US and Labour politicians in Britain after WWII as well as the failed predictions of Trotsky for workers revolutions to come about in the European Countries, James re-newed his call on the SWP to consider the independent struggles of blacks as symbiotic and part of the proletarian struggle. James states at that time;

Those who believe that the Negro question is in reality, purely and simply, or to a decisive extent, merely a class question, they pointed out with glee to the tremendous growth of the Negro personnel in the organized labor movement. It grew in a few years from three hundred thousand to one million; it is now one and a half million. But to their surprise, instead of this lessening and weakening the struggle of the independent Negro movement, the more the Negroes went into the labor movement, the more capitalism incorporated them into industry, the more they were accepted in the union movement, it is during that period, since 1940, that the independent mass movement has broken out with a force greater than it has ever been before. ( Report to the 13th Convention of the SWP The Revolutionary Answer to the Negro Problem in the US in 1948 given by comrade J. Meyers).

James writes of how the strikes at Ford's Rouge River assembly plant in 1941 consisted of a great number of blacks despite the fact that Ford had been trying to paternalistically appease blacks, proclaiming that at least he hired them and gave them a chance out of poverty. He writes of subsequent housing struggles in Detroit lead by black women in 1943, and how a local CIO leader running for office was forced to take up their cause in order to save losing face to reactionaries who accused him of being a "Negro Lover".  

Whatever this CIO labor leader's attitude was towards this fight for public housing, he had to recognize this struggle as blacks were a growing part of his constituency and he could not seem to be weak against the accusatory whip of the counter-revolution. These were times, of course when the labor movement was on the rise and it could have a more direct effect on struggles like this. In the early 1950's the SWP had internal splits, CLR James left that organization, returned to London and proclaimed himself and a group of friends to be an independent Marxist current. The labor movement in the United States had been purged of radicals over the last decade like Ferdinand Smith of the National Maritime Union who was targeted with the help of his former allies and comrades and deported back to his native Jamaica. There were the Smith Act trials of 1951 against radicals such as Al Richmond who's mother had spent time in a Czarist prison for organizing resistance before the revolution and moved to San Francisco with the family. Senator Joseph McCarthy lead the second Red Scare into many institutions of society such as Hollywood, academia, and the defense Industry. 
   
In 1967 CLR James gave a talk Black Power  to an unnamed organization in Britain where he spoke of the movement spurred on by Stokely Carmichael - also a native Trinidadian - who had been active as a leading member of the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee SNCC working alongside Martin Luther King in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. At the time of James' talk in Britain, Stokely had just become a fugitive of justice under J. Edgar Hoovers Counterintelligence program and had his passport revoked while overseas. It would just be another year until the King the assassination and the rise of the Black Panther Party would take off in the urban areas of the United States. 

In this talk James mentions several writers who he believed influenced the progress of the black struggle including Franz Fannon, Marcus Garvey, and W. E Dubois. They wrote of National Liberation against local elites in the third world, world consciousness of the African people in diaspora, and the morally destructive influence of slavery on civilization as a whole. James also spoke of his changing views and activism in the socialist movement from the 1930's to the time he was now speaking in the late1960's. In breaking with what he called "the premises of Trotskyism" in 1951, James stated that he went back to the fundamental premises of Lenin on the National Question and what Socialist Revolution therefore was. He quoted Lenin on the National Question during this point of the talk;

The socialist revolution in Europe cannot be anything else than an outburst of mass struggle on the part of all oppressed and discontented elements. Sections of the petty bourgeoise and of the backward workers will inevitably participate in it - without such participation, mass struggle is impossible, without it no revolution is possible- and just as inevitably will they bring into the movement their prejudices, their reactionary fantasies, their weakness and errors. But objectively they will attack capital, and the objective truth of a heterogeneous and discordant, motley and outwardly incohesive, mass struggle, will be able to unite and direct it, to capture power, to seize the banks, to expropriate the trusts (hated by all, though for different reasons) and introduce other bourgeoisie and the victory of socialism, which however, will by no means immediately "purge" itself of petty-bourgeois slag. (Lennin on the National Question)     

 CLR James ended that address to the British audience by stating he felt there had been no stronger voice raised for Socialism in the United States than Stokely Carmichael at that time in 1967. Whether you agree or not with this assessment, the transformation of CLR James's thought and activism in the Trotskyist movement is interesting. It is possible he intended to break with the practice of Democratic Centralism, yet I am not sure this is clear or even the intention. Certainly CLR James recognized that the practice of Trotskyists had serious flaws and certainly repudiated the Stalinist approach on the Negro Question in the 1930's of advocating a separate state for blacks in America. The mistakes made by the Socialist movement of his time were seemingly strategic and of the moment but they became much more he pointed out. James was without doubt a tireless advocate on behalf of the proletarian revolution who realized the dialectic of quantity becoming quality throughout his life. A multi-faceted person, he was also a historian of the Caribbean writing the Black Jacobins on the Haitian Revolution and a few works of fiction notably Mariners, Renegades and Castaways. We would all do well to understand CLR James and the complexity of his contribution to Socialism better.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Pakistan: Rape of 7 year old in New Year Sparks Protests

The rape and murder of a young girl in Pakistan has sparked calls for #JusticeforZainab around the world, amid anger over a spate of unresolved child sex crimes in the conservative nation. (Image: Reuters) *


Effective awareness raising and reporting processes way forward in curbing increase in child sexual abuse cases

Friday, 12th January 2018: The brutal rape and murder of a seven-year old girl in Kasur, consequent slack in the police’s investigation and ensuing violence against demonstrators seeking justice for the child is a deplorable situation for the state authorities to be in.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said in a statement: “subsequent dismissal of the concerned police officials or suo motu action by an appellate court as a response to tragic cases like that of Zainab’s, are not permanent nor effective solutions in fighting the plague of child sexual abuse in the country, but  are simply a way to allay the public’s emotions temporarily. Can the provincial government explain how or why demonstrators were fired at in Kasur the day Zainab’s case became public and in which two people were killed? Can the provincial government share what relief measures have been provided to the child victims of sexual abuse in Kasur in prior cases and what measures it has taken generally to curb this menace permanently? After the introduction of the 18th Amendment, it is the responsibility of provincial governments to devise child protection policies appropriate to their part of the country. Can the provincial governments provide details of their progress in this regard?”  

Disturbing trends, such as that more than 11 children under the age of 18 are sexually abused daily and that most victims are murdered after assault, are indicating a widespread menace that requires prompt and strict as well as sustainable action by the relevant authorities. In 2016, 4139 incidents of child sexual abuse took place where 43 percent of survivors were known to the offenders, while 16 percent of the reported cases showed family members as the perpetrators.

HRCP’s fact finding report on the child pornography scandal in Kasur in 2015 revealed that several such cases were reported but only after being highlighted in the mainstream media. When parents of the victims were asked why they had not reported the abuse in a timely manner, they offered two reasons: (i) the social stigma attached to such incidents; and (ii) the atrocious behavior of the police with those who reported it in a timely manner.

The helpline launched by the Child Protection Bureau Punjab a few years ago was a commendable step. However, the utility and importance of the helpline was not disseminated in an effective way. The helpline needs to be made more accessible and children enrolled in schools and seminaries should be made aware of its scope.

Mass media should also realize that for such tragedies, besides responsible and vigorous reporting, adequate follow-up on reported cases is vital for accountability and as a long-term solution to such horrific incidents.

Our provincial governments must take steps to include these themes in school curricula to make pupils and their families aware of such sensitive issues and empower them to protect themselves. They should be made aware of contact persons or facilities they can immediately approach if facing such situations.

As a nation, we are responsible for protecting our children and should together play an effective role in addressing this menace.

Dr. Mehdi Hasan

Chairperson

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
107-Tipu Block, New Garden Town, Lahore - 54600
Phone: (92-42) 35845969 Fax: (92-42) 35883582
eMail: hrcp@hrcp-web.org
* Image not with the original

Bedari, is a women's and children's rights organization in Pakistan if the readers want to know more about these issues. Bedari also focuses on sexual violence against women and children. It is not connected to the HRCP as far as FFWP knows. Bedaris' website is: http://www.bedari.org.pk/
Bedari FB page: https://www.facebook.com/BedariPakistan/