The following is an open letter from the first secretary of Workers World Party, Larry Holmes, written to the AFL-CIO leadership on the eve of their organization’s national convention Sept. 8 in Los Angeles. If you agree with this statement, write an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sept. 6 — At this critical moment, the number one priority for organized labor must be to publicly, unequivocally, and loudly oppose the president’s plans to attack Syria.
Understandably, the question of another war, this one against Syria, was likely not on the agenda of the AFL-CIO convention beginning this weekend in Los Angeles. Recent events, however, have changed everything and there’s no point in pretending that the situation is the same as before.
If the plans to attack Syria are denounced from the podium of the labor convention, this would mean that organized labor has risen to the challenge of becoming the militant, thoroughly progressive, independent movement of working people in the United States. Not to do it would reduce the leadership of the AFL-CIO to providing cover for the president’s war plans.
The fact that President Barack Obama has cancelled his appearance at the convention is no reason to ignore the challenge this new war poses.
The most important lesson from the last twelve years of war against Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya — and other countries where people have been bombed by U.S. drones — is not just that George W. Bush was an evil liar and a war criminal. Of course Bush was that and more. It is a humiliating miscarriage of justice that Bush, Rumsfeld and all of the other architects of endless war are not in jail or on trial for premeditated mass murder.
The most important lesson from the recent past, however, is that when U.S. presidents order the Pentagon to unleash its awesome killing machine, this is not done for humanitarian reasons. Another lesson is that the sole purpose of the demonization of Saddam Hussein or Bashar al-Assad is to herd the reluctant U.S. population into supporting a criminal war.
The real objectives of the Pentagon’s wars are always to secure the empire and terrorize all who would dare to challenge U.S. imperialism. It is for the strategic and economic gains of the U.S. superrich. And it is always the working people and all the poor who pay the most for the war and make the greatest sacrifices.
Again, this is the real goal of war plans against Syria.
President Obama, who was elected to end endless war, once again is betraying those who elected him.
At home and across the world, virtually everyone is against war on Syria.
The leadership of the organized labor movements has the responsibility to speak out against war. It must do this not only because it is in the interest of the U.S. working class, but also to prevent the millions of workers who oppose this war from following the right wing, tea party, racist demagogues who pretend to be against the war — but who in reality oppose everything Obama does for the most reactionary reasons.
The AFL-CIO is meeting at a time when labor unions and workers everywhere are under relentless attack. For labor leaders meeting in Los Angeles, summoning the resolve, the clarity and the independence to stand up against another war can only bode well for the struggle of workers at Walmart stores, at fast food restaurants, and everywhere workers are resisting capitalist greed and superexploitation.