Election battles forming

Battle lines are already shaping up in the crucial 2002 elections, in which all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate seats will be up for grabs. President Bush and the Republican ultraright seek to increase their majority control of the House and regain control of the Senate. They will also seek to extend their domination over state and local governments by electing more ultra-right governors and state legislators.

Bush will continue to wrap his right-wing agenda in the “war on terrorism,” giving tax relief to the greedy from the budget for the needy. Attorney General John Ashcroft will attempt to silence opposition with his witch hunt lie that critics of Bush give “aid and comfort” to the terrorists.

The issues are clear. Unemployment continues to skyrocket with Ford announcing the layoff of 35,000 workers. Steelworkers are fighting to defend their jobs and “save the steel industry.”

States have no money to provide Medicaid coverage for the poor. Every state, city and town is faced with budget deficits that will force cuts in essential human services. How will the people’s coalition exert its influence in these turning point elections? Enron’s bankruptcy has shown a whole campaign money trail to the Bush administration and members of Congress, opening wide the window on influence buying, political favoritism and corporate greed’s influence in the political system. Our power lies in organizing.

The 2002 elections are a battle the people can win. What is needed is strong multiracial unity around a program and candidates who will fight for it. The program must include livable wage jobs, health care for all, defense of civil liberties and civil rights.

This movement must not permit differences over the “war on terrorism” to split its ranks. On some issues, we must be prepared to “agree to disagree” in the interests of the unity we must have if we are to end the hammer-lock Enron’s man, Republican Tom DeLay, has on the House.


Colombia’s peace at risk

Colombia’s peace process, seemingly doomed last weekend, resumed this week after intense efforts by the U.N. special envoy and diplomats from 10 countries, including Cuba. Resumption of the talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP) and the government headed by President Andres Pastrana relieved, at least for the moment, the terror felt by tens of thousands of residents of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) who had faced the prospect of invasion by Colombian army troops and the ultra-right militias allied with them, and by millions of Colombians outside the DMZ frightened of intensified government and militia action. These fears are all too rooted in the deaths of untold thousands of innocent civilians, including thousands of trade union organizers, at the hands of the ultra-right.

The near-catastrophe to the talks, with all this would have meant in intensified repression and bloodshed for Colombia’s working people, can be laid squarely at the doorstep of the Bush administration. Plan Colombia, approved by Congress two years ago, has assigned $1.3 billion in mostly military aid, including U.S. military advisers and Blackhawk helicopters, to Colombia under the pretext of fighting drugs.

Now the Bush administration seeks to make Plan Colombia an instrument in its unilateral “war on terrorism.” Without the Bush administration’s backing, the Pastrana government would scarcely have tried to unilaterally halt the three-year-old talks, broadly supported by the Colombian people.

The Colombian Communist Party called the resumption of talks “a victory for good sense, dialogue and civility,” and commended the many people’s organizations “who daily defended peace with their declarations, actions, marches and vigils.” They warned that it is necessary to be vigilant because the enemies of peace will seek pretexts to destroy the talks, and called on the negotiators to work for “real, significant changes” in the official government policies that have mired millions of Colombians in misery and inhuman living conditions.

Here at home, support for the Colombian peace process can start with vigorous opposition to Plan Colombia.