A year of struggle

The year 2003 ended as it began with the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress lavishing more tax breaks and giveaways on the rich. They approved a prescription drug scam that will pour billions into the coffers of the pharmaceutical profiteers while opening the door to privatizing Medicare.

Yet Senate Democrats killed with a filibuster an energy bill loaded with $110 billion in goodies for Dick Cheney’s oil and gas buddies. And Senators blocked a unanimous consent motion that would have speeded passage of an $832 billion omnibus spending bill loaded with giveaways to the rich. Republicans had removed from the measure an amendment that would block passage of George W. Bush’s bill to deny overtime protection for eight million workers.

The rearguard action by the Senate Democrats means that a battle can be waged, starting now, to pressure senators to junk this $832 billion colossus, restore overtime protection and extend unemployment benefits, when they return to Washington Jan. 20.

This past year was marked by heroic struggle of millions against the Iraq war, a worldwide movement so powerful some called it the “second superpower.” The year also gave birth to a new movement with the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, which raised to a new high the struggle for legal status for millions of undocumented workers. There was also the “Battle of Miami” against the misnamed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

More than 70,000 grocery workers in California went on strike to defend their health care protection. Every time corporate America and the ultra-right knocked the people down, they stood up and fought again.

Yet the struggles of 2003, however titanic, were but a dress rehearsal for 2004. The labor movement, African Americans, Latinos and all people of color, women, seniors and youth must unite in the one overriding task in the 2004 elections: Defeat George W. Bush! Defeat the ultra-right!

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New Year’s resolution

People everywhere celebrate holidays tied to the changing seasons. The winter solstice, shortest and darkest day of the year, is celebrated with dazzling lights and a faith that in the new year, spring will come, and the earth will once again produce a bountiful harvest.

At their best, these holidays express lofty ideals: sunlight over darkness, unity over hatred, peace not war, giving not taking. They are a time to rejoice, to sing and dance. But, also, they are a time to reflect on why so many people face insecurity, job loss, racism, violence, and poverty.

Certainly, this year, our thoughts turn to the 150,000 members of our armed forces, mostly working class youth, disproportionately Black and Latino, trapped in Afghanistan and Iraq by George W. Bush’s preemptive war.

Bush opened the holiday season with his secret Thanksgiving trip to the Baghdad airport where he posed for photos holding a turkey on a platter. Later we learned that hundreds of soldiers were excluded for “security” reasons, forced to eat cold C-rations to accommodate Bush’s costly election-campaign photo op.

Our hunch is that they screened the soldiers for fear that some GI might step forward and ask, “Sir, why are we here? Please bring us home.”

Bush’s Thanksgiving escapade is a fitting

accompaniment to the corruption of the holiday season by corporations that have turned it into a time of maximum profit greed, exhorting people to spend, spend, spend, money they don’t have.

We join with those who would reclaim the spirit of the season, making it truly a season of “peace on earth, good will to humankind!”

It may be too late to get all those soldiers home for the holidays this year. But let’s make a New Year’s resolution: We will struggle with all our might and main to bring them all home in 2004! And insure that every one of these youth has a GI Bill of Rights guaranteeing health care, a college education and a decent job.