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Ronald Reagan: Ding Dong The Witch is dead

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By Richard Mellor

With the death of the man Democratic Party strongman Clark Clifford called, "an amiable dunce" workers are witnessing what the phrase, United We Stand really means. The capitalist press and their media has been dominated by headlines heaping praise on former U.S. President, Ronald Reagan. But throughout the 1980's Democratic Party politicians vilified Reagan as the embodiment of evil, as the destroyer of workers' living standards and human rights. Jesse Jackson, the darling of the liberals, said of Reagan at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, "He cuts energy assistance to the poor, cuts breakfast programs from children, cuts lunch programs from children, cuts job training from children, and then says to an empty table, 'let us pray'".

But this is for electioneering, competition for the dwindling electorate in the U.S. When the chips are down, when they are under scrutiny, they draw in the wagons. In the week after his death, CNN's crossfire, the font of dissent for bourgeois politics, is allowing only guests that are Reagan supporters. It's a matter of "protocol", writes the San Francisco Chronicle. The bourgeois take seriously the Union slogan, An Injury To One Is An Injury To All.

Of course Reagan was more than an "amiable dunce" he was a war criminal and terrorist. He terrorized workers at home and terrorized and murdered them abroad. In 1981, 13,000 PATCO members had gone on strike after months of fruitless negotiations with the federal government. The three major demands were a 32 hour workweek, a $10,000 across the board raise, and a better retirement package.

Despite the media making it an issue, money was not the primary concern; it was the massive stress these workers were under. One striker explained, "it's like playing Pac-Man but when two blips collide you lose 350 people. " These workers were striking to make their workplaces more humane and travel for the rest of us safer.

A mere 48 hours after the walkout, President Reagan fired more than 11,000 Controllers who had not returned to work. To drive home the point, Reagan, who was so generous with the Polish Solidarity movement at the time, declared a lifetime ban on the rehiring of the strikers by the FAA. This was an act of violence and a warning to the Labor Movement and the heads of the AFL-CIO did nothing. The capitalist class correctly saw this as a golden opportunity, as open season on Labor, and went on the offensive; weakness invites aggression as they say.

Reagan was a mediocre B movie actor who was the front man for U.S. capitalism. With Margaret Thatcher in Britain he led the 1980's offensive against the heavy battalions of Organized Labor. Behind him were the likes of Caspar Weinberger and George Schultz, former Bechtel executives. Reagan portrayed that "Aw shucks" image while implementing the policies of U.S. capitalism with such devastating effects much like the simpleton Bush Junior does today.

Reagan evicted mental patients from the relative security of the hospitals throwing the most vulnerable among us on to the streets and in to the comfort of the freeway underpasses. For women with mental illness this proved even more devastating as they became victims of rapes and abuse with no one to help. For those whose sickness became uncontrollable without medication there was always the death penalty for their. transgressions.

Reagan believed that government should stay out of people's business, unless it helped business that is. Despite remarking that "Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them", he introduced protectionist measures for steel, textiles and motorcycles on behalf of his friends and throughout his administration the mining, oil and timber industries had a field day to the detriment of the environment.

Workers around the world were victims of Reagan's violence. His avid support for terrorists in Central and South America led thousands of people to their deaths and many thousands more to a life of misery and depravation. From 1981-89, the Reagan years, the U.S. government provided the El Salvadorian oligarchs and their terrorist organizations with almost $4bn of U.S. taxpayers money, some 70% of this was used for weapons and war assistance, a war against the workers and peasants of that country who were struggling to determine their own future. This came after a U.S. supported coup overthrew a democratic government in 1979 and for two years right wing death squads supported by the U.S. hunted down any dissidents; more than 8,000 trade unionists were murdered or abducted during this period. The same process took place in Nicaragua including the mining of Managua harbor.

But the fraud continues. The same forces that convinced a majority of Americans that Saddam Hussein was behind 911 bring us Reagan the egalitarian. Tom Daschle, Senate Democratic Leader proclaims Reagan as the man that, "Š.spoke to all that was good and decent in America" , It's good to destroy U.S. workers lives. It's good to invade tiny island countries like Grenada and kill Cuban construction workers building the airport there. It's good to support terrorists in Latin America around the world who murder Union leaders and suppress workers' rights.

In the past few months there have been other stark reminders that when the bosses talk of unity they are talking about class unity, their unity with each other. Bush's arm around the war criminal Rumsfeld defending his actions while pledging to punish the trailer park perpetrators of Iraqi torture, should remind us all who are friends are and who are our enemies. The portrayal of Reagan as some sort of saint is another. In some ways the excess to which the lovefest has reached reflects the weakness and insecurity of U.S. capitalism and its fear of its own working class. Under siege from all sides, divided within itself, it fears the potential power and anger within the working class that lies beneath the surface of society. Reagan has replaced Iraq as the rallying cry.

This charade can only have the success it does due to the role of the leadership of Organized Labor. This is the one and most important element in the force that subscribes to the United We Stand mantra. Without the labor leaders the anger and hatred of the rich, the corporations and their political representatives would find a way of expressing itself in an organizational way. During the eighties, when they were campaigning to get their Democratic friends elected the labor leaders demonized Reagan. But now, stability is crucial. Unity of the nation and labor peace are the order of the day. We must have no dissent.The truth must be cloaked in the flag of patriotism. Capitalists and labor leaders alike cannot imagine a world without the market, without capitalists. McCarron of the Carpenters Union has gone so far to say that labor is not the creators of wealth, employers are. The present divisions within the u.s. capitalist class present a ripe, opportunity for labor and the working class in general, an opportunity the labor leadership should exploit but it would surprise no one if it came to light that John Sweeney, president of the AFLC-CIO has sent a letter to bush and kerry calling for "unity" in the interests of the nation.

Directing the anger of the working class in to an organized offensive against capital threatens the world view of the labor leaders and, they fear, can only lead to chaos. Revealing the truth about one of the most vicious political representatives of U.S. capitalism opens up this door. The lesson for working people is that the bourgeois are on the defensive. The debacle in Iraq has shaken their resolve. An attack on one of their heroes now would shake it further and increase the confidence of the working class; neither they or their allies at the AFL-CIO want that to happen

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