It’s up to ‘We the Peoples’

George W. Bush’s campaign of bribes and threats aimed at corralling enough votes in the United Nations Security Council to provide cover for a pre-emptive war against Iraq makes us wonder: Did President Bush ever read the UN Charter?

But it’s there: “We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war [and to ensure] that armed force shall not be used save in the common interest … do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.”

Among the charter’s provisions was the establishment of a Security Council, charged with keeping the peace – and it seems that most of its 15 members are taking that responsibility seriously.

After Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the U.S. “case” for a military attack on Iraq to the Security Council on February 5, the media spin made UN support appear to be a “done deal.”

But failure of this support to materialize has turned into a major diplomatic pratfall, in spite of veiled warnings that a vote against the U.S. in the Security Council would be considered “unfriendly.”

Bribery hasn’t worked either (just ask Turkey), nor have invitations to the White House swayed the votes of Guinea, Cameroon or Angola. Although it’s too early to count the chickens, one thing is certain: it’s been a lousy week for Bush as his “coalition of the willing” now includes only Spain and Bulgaria in addition to Britain.

There are other developments that have served to force Bush to slow down and look over his shoulder: The inspections are working, with or without Iraqi help. Missiles are being destroyed. U-2s are surveying Iraqi territory. Additional scientists have agreed to interviews.

George W. Bush may be determined to go to war come hell or high water. But “it’s not over ‘til it’s over.” As the last few days have shown, war can be avoided. And THAT is the task history has given to the “we the peoples” who established the United Nations in June 1945.


Reclaiming International Women’s Day

This year marks the 93rd observance of International Women’s Day, a working class holiday that, like May Day, was “born in the U.S.A.”

These holidays have been officially ignored in the U.S. because of their socialist, militant working class origins. Thus for decades, International Women’s Day and May Day were celebrated by hundreds of millions of workers everywhere else except the U.S. Yet consider: May Day commemorates Chicago’s Haymarket Martyrs and the worldwide worker struggle for the eight-hour day. International Women’s Day honored a 1908 demonstration on Manhattan’s Lower East Side to demand voting rights and economic rights for women as well as a bitter 1909 strike battle by 30,000 garment workers in New York City.

Clara Zetkin of Germany and Alexandra Kollantai of Russia introduced a resolution establishing International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Socialist Women in 1910. Zetkin specifically mentioned the women’s battles in the U.S.

On March 25, 1911, a fire erupted in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory near Washington Square Park in Manhattan. The owner had padlocked the fire exits on specious grounds that the workers were “pilfering.” In fact, the action was taken to keep union organizers out. Scores of the young women, mostly Jewish and Italian immigrants, leaped to their death from the seventh floor of the factory. Ever since, International Women’s Day has been linked to this tragedy – and stands as a permanent protest against the crimes of greedy corporate owners.

In recent years, organized labor and the women’s equality movement in the U.S. have been reclaiming these two holidays as our own. Thousands of American women observed International Women’s Day this year by joining in a “Code Pink” protest outside the White House against George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. Clara Zetkin would have been proud!