Saturday, February 03, 2024


One of the funniest skits on a late night show in the 20th century. 

VANITY FAIR has an oral history of LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN O'BRIEN and it made me think of that skit.

From laughter to tragedy -- the assault on Gaza continues.  In London, they turned out to protest the continued assault.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said it was the “eighth national march held for the Palestinian people”, following the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on October 7 in which 1,300 people were killed and more than 240 kidnapped before Israel retaliated with months of attacks on the Gaza Strip, killing and wounding thousands.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said on Saturday that 107 people were killed over the past 24 hours, bringing the wartime total to 27,238, with more than 66,000 people have been wounded.

Scotland Yard estimated around 10,000 demonstrators had marched through the West End of London on Saturday, with the crowd doubling to 20,000 for the speeches in Whitehall.

Demonstrators carried banners which read “end the killing” that were accompanied by harrowing images of the bloodshed since the conflicted erupted.

Other banners declared “free the children”, “freedom to Palestine” and “Boycott Israel”.

At least 200,000 people marched for Palestine in London on Saturday, a sign of the continuing mass anger against Israel’s genocidal assault in Gaza. Some speakers at the march rally said it was 250,000.

At the same time around 10,000 people were on the streets in Edinburgh (see below). It was the biggest march in the city since the start of the Israeli assault on Gaza. 

In London, Amara, a young Muslim woman from Tower Hamlets, told Socialist Worker, “Israel needs to give Palestine its land back. And those who were forced to leave Palestine have to be allowed back. 

“Just like the British Empire was forced to give land back—the Israeli state has to do the same. It’s not theirs to keep.”

Marchers chanted, “Rishi Sunak you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” and, “Keir Starmer, you can’t hide, you support a genocide.”

Farah, who lives in London but is from Iraq, said, “I have no words for what Israel is doing except genocide. But I’m not shocked at the response from the West, or Arab leaders. They care about their own interests.”

Safa and Meenal from west London said, “Cutting Unrwa aid funding is unacceptable and the accusations against it are bullshit—respect to Spain for actually upping their funding. The labelling of Houthis as terrorists is ridiculous—the British and US armies are two of the world’s biggest terrorist organisations.

“Police trying to scare people into silence and off the streets won’t work. We know what we’re standing for, everyone protesting today is on the right side of history.”

Sophie from Northampton said, “In Yemen the Houthis are standing up for what’s right, Britain needs to stop bombing them.”

The police were noticeably more aggressive than previously on the demonstration. They had issued a ban on face coverings—a studied insult to Muslim women—in advance. They arrested a protester for this at one point.

And later they pushed into the Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) section of the march, seized the lead banner with its slogan, “Victory to the resistance”—but then returned it. 

There were at least 31 trade union banners in the special section of the march, and many others sprinkled throughout the rest of the demonstration.

The workplace and student day of action on Wednesday, 7 February, is now a chance to deepen the movement among workers and students. Pete from King’s College London UCU union branch said, “We need more direct action targeted at the arms industry.” 

On 7 February, he said, “We are doing a staff and student lunchtime walkout for Palestine.”

London was not the only site of protests today.  ALJAZEERA notes:

Thousands of people gathered in France, Switzerland, and Germany on Saturday to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

In Paris, hundreds of protesters, carrying Palestinian and South African flags, denounced the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. Criticising the French president for “complicity” in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, the protesters urged the government to work towards peace in the Middle East.

In Geneva, thousands marched through the city centre in support of the people of Gaza. In Berlin, 2,000 Palestinian supporters rallied at Potsdamer Platz against the attacks.

More rallies are planned across the world on Sunday to call for an end to the war that has seen more than 27,000 Palestinians killed by Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.

There was also a huge protest in Tel Aviv where Israelis called for Netanyahu to step down as prime minister of Israel and for new elections to take place.

CNN’s Lauren Izso and Michael Rios note, "Thousands of people are protesting in parts of Israel today to demand a change in government and the release of the remaining Israeli hostages in Gaza."

Other big news this weekend?  Alison O'Reilly  (IRISH TIMES) reports, "President Michael D Higgins has called for an 'immediate ceasefire' in Gaza after the death toll passed 27,000 – the majority of whom are women and children."  She quotes the president of Ireland stating, "Given all of these facts, any further extension of the bombing campaign into what is a densely populated area to which so many people have fled would leave any respect for humanitarian law in tatters."

Ruth Michaelson (GUARDIAN) notes, "Israeli forces struck densely populated areas across the middle and southern Gaza Strip in a midnight attack on Friday and early Saturday, killing at least 25 people amid fears of an impending push south by ground troops as pressure builds for a ceasefire deal."  ALJAZEERA adds, "Eleven displaced people have been injured inside the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) headquarters in southern Khan Younis city following the throwing of smoke bombs by Israeli forces." No one is safe in Gaza -- certainly not the children.  ALJAZEERA reports, "Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that at least two children were killed in Israeli attack on kindergarten in Rafah, southern Gaza."  In addition to the two killed, THE NATIONAL notes other children were left injured, "Dozens of others were injured in the strike on the nursery in the eastern Al Salam neighbourhood, the official Wafa news agency reported. Strikes were also reported on Khan Younis and the central areas of Deir Al Balah and Nuseirat refugee camp."
Gaza remains under assault. Day 119 of  the assault that began in October.  Binoy Kampmark (DISSIDENT VOICE) points out, "Bloodletting as form; murder as fashion.  The ongoing campaign in Gaza by Israel’s Defence Forces continues without stalling and restriction.  But the burgeoning number of corpses is starting to become a challenge for the propaganda outlets:  How to justify it?  Fortunately for Israel, the United States, its unqualified defender, is happy to provide cover for murder covered in the sheath of self-defence."   CNN has explained, "The Gaza Strip is 'the most dangerous place' in the world to be a child, according to the executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund."  ABC NEWS quotes UNICEF's December 9th statement, ""The Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child. Scores of children are reportedly being killed and injured on a daily basis. Entire neighborhoods, where children used to play and go to school have been turned into stacks of rubble, with no life in them."  NBC NEWS notes, "Strong majorities of all voters in the U.S. disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of foreign policy and the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest national NBC News poll. The erosion is most pronounced among Democrats, a majority of whom believe Israel has gone too far in its military action in Gaza."  The slaughter continues.  It has displaced over 1 million people per the US Congressional Research Service.  Jessica Corbett (COMMON DREAMS) points out, "Academics and legal experts around the world, including Holocaust scholars, have condemned the six-week Israeli assault of Gaza as genocide."   The death toll of Palestinians in Gaza is grows higher and higher.  United Nations Women noted, "More than 1.9 million people -- 85 per cent of the total population of Gaza -- have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be nearly 1 million women and girls. The entire population of Gaza -- roughly 2.2 million people -- are in crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse." ALJAZEERA notes, "At least 27,019 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by Israeli attacks since October 7 while another 66,139 have been wounded, the Health Ministry in the besieged enclave has just said."  AP has noted, "About 4,000 people are reported missing."  And the area itself?  Isabele Debre (AP) reveals, "Israel’s military offensive has turned much of northern Gaza into an uninhabitable moonscape. Whole neighborhoods have been erased. Homes, schools and hospitals have been blasted by airstrikes and scorched by tank fire. Some buildings are still standing, but most are battered shells."  Kieron Monks (I NEWS) reports, "More than 40 per cent of the buildings in northern Gaza have been damaged or destroyed, according to a new study of satellite imagery by US researchers Jamon Van Den Hoek from Oregon State University and Corey Scher at the City University of New York. The UN gave a figure of 45 per cent of housing destroyed or damaged across the strip in less than six weeks. The rate of destruction is among the highest of any conflict since the Second World War."  Max Butterworth (NBC NEWS) adds, "Satellite images captured by Maxar Technologies on Sunday reveal three of the main hospitals in Gaza from above, surrounded by the rubble of destroyed buildings after weeks of intense bombing in the region by Israeli forces."   

As Gaza remains under assault, US President Joe Biden continues to spread the war.  ALJAZEERA notes:

The United States has conducted a wave of air strikes on Iran-aligned targets in Iraq and Syria in retaliation for an attack that killed American soldiers in Jordan.

On Saturday, Iraq said 16 people, including civilians, were killed on its soil, and a monitoring group reported 18 people were killed in Syria.

In all, the US government claims that they struck 85 targets in Iraq and Syria.  At RUDAW, Julian Bechocha reports on the Iraqi reaction:

Iraq’s foreign ministry on Saturday said it will summon the charge d’affaires of the United States Embassy in Baghdad to hand over an official note of protest against the deadly overnight strikes on militia groups that killed at least 16 people. 

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will summon the charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in Baghdad, David Burger, in protest against the American aggression that targeted Iraqi military and civilian sites,” the ministry said in a statement. 

The US on Friday night launched a major retaliation campaign against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF) and Iran-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria, striking more than 85 targets with over 125 precision munitions. The strikes killed at least 16 people and injured 25 more in Iraq’s western Anbar province, near the Syrian border, according to the Iraqi government. 

Iraq’s presidency condemned the strikes as a “blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty,” saying it will hold an emergency meeting of the country’s four presidencies and political blocs “to discuss the aggression.”

“Iraq has expressed a clear desire to organize the work of the international coalition through a round of talks, but yesterday’s attacks will undermine the chances of success of the ongoing negotiations,” it said. 

We put a question to the National Security Council spokesperson, John Kirby, on Friday on how targets [following the air strikes in Iraq and Syria] were selected.

We were told there was clear and irrefutable evidence that these were linked to attacks on US interests. When asked if we could see this evidence, none was provided. When we asked if this evidence would be forthcoming, we were told that we would just have to trust the US military.

You’ll remember that we were told to trust the US military back in 2003, prior to the US invasion of Iraq. And that intelligence turned out to be faulty.

This time around, the US military is promising to be more transparent.

The following sites updated:

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Rep. Angie Craig Pushes Biden Administration to Combat Post-Roe Pregnancy Criminalization


Rep. Angie Craig Pushes Biden Administration to Combat Post-Roe Pregnancy Criminalization

February 2, 2024

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Angie Craig urged the Biden Administration to take additional steps to prevent women from being prosecuted for pregnancy outcomes.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 21 states have banned or restricted abortion – resulting in a sharp increase in pregnancy criminalization in the United States.

In a letter, Rep. Craig joined over 150 Democratic colleagues in urging President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to provide support to any person who experiences or is threatened with criminal penalties due to their pregnancy status and to take necessary steps to prevent pregnancy criminalization from happening.

“The Dobbs decision has only escalated efforts to charge people with crimes related to their pregnancies, and we are deeply concerned about this sharp increase in the criminalization of pregnant people - all of whom deserve the right to control their own bodies, lives, and futures,” wrote the Members.

“We urge you to provide all legal and medical support available within your respective authorities to prevent the criminalization of pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes,” they continued.

A full copy of the Members’ letter can be found here.


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Congresswoman Bush and St. Louis Organizations Host Telephone Town Hall on Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

February 02, 2024

Congresswoman Bush and St. Louis Organizations Host Telephone Town Hall on Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence

WATCH: Congresswoman Bush, Organizations provide domestic violence prevention resources to constituents

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 2, 2024) — On Wednesday, Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) hosted a telephone town hall, alongside several local St. Louis organizations, on domestic and intimate partner violence. Throughout this event, the Congresswoman and guest speakers shared information and resources available on domestic and intimate partner violence and spoke with and connected attendees with services as needed. Over the month of December, the St. Louis region saw an increase in domestic violence cases.

The organizations that participated in this tele-townhall, include: Safe Connections, Young Women’s Christian Association St. Louis (YWCA STL), Journey Against Domestic & Sexual Abuse (JADASA), Diamond Diva Empowerment, Lydia’s House, and Behavioral Health Response.

“We know that intimate partner violence is a longstanding problem in our community. There have been so many deaths in the District, many of whom are Black women and girls, but we know this impacts us all. This issue is a top priority for me,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “As we continue the long-term work of making a more peaceful and just community, I want to make sure that everyone has the resources and support they need to stay safe right now. That’s why I convened this town hall.”

“Domestic violence is something that happens in every community in every state. And it transcends gender, ethnicity, religion, and income. However, as Congresswoman Bush said, and I want to wholeheartedly echo, we also know there are communities and identities that may experience violence at higher rates such as women of color and LGBTQ+ folks,” said Emily Stoinski, Safe Connections.

“One in three teens between the ages of thirteen and eighteen experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence. Only 33% of teens who are violated disclose the abuse. Many teens do not report unhealthy behaviors because they may not understand or can readily identify some behaviors as unhealthy or abusive. Which is why it is important for the community organizations, family, and faith-based institutions to rally together to help our teens understand the importance of boundaries,” Dr. Cynthia Bennet, Jadasa.

Please watch the full recording of the town hall HERE.

As a survivor of domestic violence, Congresswoman Bush has remained a steadfast advocate for legislation that protects and expands resources to victims and survivors of domestic violence:

  • Last year, Congresswoman Bush secured nearly $700,000 in federal funding to improve the St. Louis 911 dispatch system to ensure they can more effectively respond to active threats, including instances of domestic violence. 
  • Last year, Congresswoman Bush and her Democratic colleagues worked hard to close the dating partner loophole as part of the most meaningful federal gun safety bill enacted in over 30 years.
  • Congresswoman Bush is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional amendment that puts gender equality into the U.S. Constitution and would allow legislators to pass stronger laws to combat domestic violence.
  • In July of 2021, Congresswoman Bush secured $5 million in housing vouchers to provide emergency housing for victims of domestic violence.
  • In 2021, Congresswoman Bush’s amendments to the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act were signed into law. Her amendments would prevent evictions for survivors of domestic violence.

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Baldwin Urges President Biden to Work with Israel to Increase Humanitarian Aid into Gaza

Baldwin Urges President Biden to Work with Israel to Increase Humanitarian Aid into Gaza

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and 24 of her Senate colleagues are urging President Biden to encourage Israeli officials to take five specific steps to significantly increase urgent humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza.

“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is dire and the civilian suffering is at an unacceptable and staggering level. Ninety-three percent of Palestinians in Gaza are facing crisis levels of hunger. Eighty-five percent of the population is displaced. Seventy percent of those killed are women and children,” the senators wrote. “While the scale of the crisis is massive, the humanitarian assistance that is entering Gaza is just a fraction of what is needed to save lives.”

In order to significantly increase the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza, the senators recommended the administration work with Israeli officials to take five specific steps:

  1. Repair and open a third border crossing at Erez to provide additional aid to north Gaza. Planned missions by humanitarian actors to reach north Gaza from the south have repeatedly not been allowed to proceed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) due to cited security concerns, leaving hundreds of thousands living there stranded without enough food, water, and medical supplies and equipment.
  2. Streamline the convoluted inspections process for aid entering via the Rafah and Kerem Shalom border crossings, and issue a pre-approved list of items for entry.
  3. Establish a clear, enforceable deconfliction process inside Gaza to ensure humanitarian organizations can operate safely. Hundreds of health and humanitarian workers have died in Gaza, including humanitarian aid workers who have been killed in areas deemed “safe zones” by the IDF. Israeli authorities should establish a direct line of contact for the humanitarian community to the IDF, as well as hold regular meetings to review incidents and make improvements.
  4. Increase capacity for processing humanitarian aid and restart the import of commercial goods via the border crossing at Kerem Shalom. Before October 7th, hundreds of trucks filled with commercial goods crossed through Kerem Shalom into Gaza every day. The current humanitarian trucking operation can help reduce the suffering, but it cannot substitute for a functioning commercial sector.
  5. Open additional supply routes for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Every option must be explored to increase the amount of humanitarian and commercial goods going in, including via Jordan, the West Bank, Ashdod, and maritime routes. To the extent feasible, we also encourage you to explore whether U.S. military assets could help support humanitarian deliveries, via maritime or air routes.

“The largest daily amount of humanitarian aid entered Gaza on November 28th, during the seven-day humanitarian pause. Additional and longer humanitarian pauses are needed to enable a surge of assistance to enter Gaza and the safe movement of goods and people within Gaza. A humanitarian pause will also allow people to safely return to their homes in north Gaza. These steps will not solve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but taken together, they will alleviate the suffering for millions of people,” the senators concluded.

The letter was led by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and was also signed by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Angus King (D-ME), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Patty Murray (D-WA).

A full version of the letter is available here.


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Senator Murray Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order on Settler Violence in West Bank


Senator Murray Statement on President Biden’s Executive Order on Settler Violence in West Bank

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement on the Executive Order President Biden signed today allowing the U.S. to impose new sanctions on Israeli settlers involved in violent attacks against Palestinians. With the signing of the Executive Order, sanctions immediately went into effect on four West Bank settlers who have committed violence against Palestinians.

According to the Executive Order, individuals who are “directing, enacting, implementing and enforcing or failing to enforce policies that threaten the peace, security and stability in the West Bank” could be sanctioned, including Israeli leaders. The Executive Order mirrors sanctions imposed on individuals designated as terrorists.

“This is an important move by President Biden—Israeli settler violence against Palestinians is abhorrent and indefensible, and the Biden Administration’s decision to back up their forceful denouncements of settler violence with sanctions against individuals who direct or participate in this kind of violence and intimidation is a meaningful step that I wholeheartedly support.

Extremist settler violence, which reached record levels in 2023, is a major threat to the safety and security of thousands of civilians living in the West Bank right now and a very real hurdle to achieving lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is essential that we send a strong message that anyone engaging in or threatening violence against Palestinians in the West Bank—including Israeli leaders and government officials—will be held accountable by the United States.”

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, Senator Murray has made numerous calls for humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians, and has urged President Biden to lead the international community in contributing to the United Nations’ emergency appeal to address the immediate humanitarian needs in the West Bank and Gaza. Murray called for a humanitarian pause in the war in November and as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, she is working right now to pass a comprehensive national security supplemental package that includes aid to our allies in Israel and Ukraine and humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians.


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Turkish leader Erdogan is no friend of Palestine, he’s waging war against the Kurds


Turkish leader Erdogan is no friend of Palestine, he’s waging war against the Kurds

by Charlie Kimber

For all his rhetoric, the Turkish president hasn’t severed economic relations with Israel
Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Joe Biden and Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg illustrating an article about Erdogan and Palestine

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan gives rhetorical support for Palestine, but is keeping in with Western imperialism. He’s arm in arm with Joe Biden and Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg (Picture: Flickr/Nato)

Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses as the friend of Palestinians in Gaza. But he has his own dirty war as his forces blast Kurds and their allies in Syria and Iraq.

Because Turkey is a part of the Nato military alliance, and a major force in the region, the West remains silent.

Across four days last week, Turkish military forces targeted over 50 locations across north and east Syria. Air strikes hit people’s homes, hospitals, schools and key infrastructure. Around two million people were left without power and water.

These attacks underline the spreading chaos and death that imperialism has unleashed across the region. The Israeli state is warning war against the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank—and carrying out military strikes in Lebanon and Syria. 

Britain and the US are bombing Yemen. Pakistan and Iran are exchanging missiles on their border.

Erdogan’s attacks on Kurds and others show how imperialism’s latest offensives against the Palestinians are bleeding into and adding to a series of other conflicts. And they are accelerating them. These conflicts are themselves based on earlier imperialist carve-ups in the Middle East and the denial of national rights to, for example, the Kurdish people.

As in December, Turkey’s latest air strikes followed operations of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The group carried out attacks on Turkish bases in the mountains of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, in which nine Turkish soldiers were killed.

Turkey also wants to strangle the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria—also known as Rojava—and eliminate its military, the Syrian Democratic Forces.

The socialist Revolutionary Left Movement in Syria said last week, “Brutal Turkish attacks that have been continuing for many months on people and all infrastructure in north eastern Syria, aim to deprive the means of life for millions of Syrians. 

“They are an attempt by Turkey to exhaust the Autonomous Administration in the region and prevent it from providing the necessities of life for the people. 

“In the face of this brutal Turkish war against our land and our people, which cannot take place and continue without US approval, what is required is a clear, frank and practical position in condemning and confronting it from all Syrians. 

“In addition we have to mobilise all the energies of our people, their political forces and the forces of liberation in the world to stop this continuing Turkish aggression—and even defeat Erdogan.

“At this fateful moment when emerging Turkish imperialism is preparing to attack the peoples of the region and destroy all the gains achieved with the blood of male and female martyrs, the political and moral duty requires every democratic Syrian and every leftist and freedom-loving person in the world to show principled and unconditional solidarity. 

“We must support the peoples of the region in their legitimate resistance to Turkish aggression and all its mercenaries and agents.

“We renew the call issued by our party, the Revolutionary Left Movement in Syria, at the end of last year, to all those who have the will to resist and advocates of liberation to do all necessary coordination among themselves, at home and abroad, to condemn this aggression against the areas of democratic self-administration and confront it forcefully, until the last soldier leaves.

“It is time to defend our people’s gains and their right to liberation by all available means instead of being satisfied with empty slogans and conciliatory liberal rhetoric.”

Erdogan’s verbal support for the Palestinians is another calculated play in his great game of balancing between the major imperialist powers and extending Turkey’s control.

Before 7 October, Turkey had deepened its relations with the Binyamin Netanyahu government in the interests of exploiting oil and gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean. Erdogan fears the genocide by Israel can set the whole region on fire, and that that can destabilise Turkey as well.

Kurdish forces, which cooperated militarily with the US against Isis, are also caught between their support for Palestine and their desire to keep Joe Biden on board. It’s disastrous to ally with the US, which uses movements for its own ends and then dumps them.

On 11 October Erdogan denounced the Israeli bombings of Gaza. But ten days later Turkish authorities “politely sent away” Hamas’ political leader Ismail Haniyeh and his entourage. It came after footage circulated on social media of him giving prayers of thanks while watching the 7 October attack on TV in Istanbul. 

Then, soon after, Erdogan declared that Hamas was a “liberation organisation” working for the freedom of its land and its people. But, in the interests of Turkish capitalism, he has not severed substantial economic relations with the Zionist state.

Imperialism and Zionism are catapulting millions of people into the horrors of war. Total opposition to such forces—and workers’ struggle from below—are needed more than ever.

     © Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.   

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a new life for mexico's oldest union


Interview with Humberto Montes de Oca by David Bacon
NACLA, Center for Mexican Studies UCLA

Mexico City, Mexico. September 1, 2011. Humberto Montes de Oca is interviewed in Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, on the day Mexican President Felipe Calderon gave his annual speech about the state of the country. The protest, called the Day of the Indignant, was organized by unions including the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) because the Mexican government fired 44,000 electrical workers and dissolved the state-owned company they worked for, in an effort to smash their union. Humberto Montes de Oca is the international secretary of the SME. Photo by: David Bacon

Humberto Montes de Oca is the Secretary for Internal Relations of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME - the Mexican Union of Electrical Workers).  He was originally a working-class art student who became active in the leftwing political movements of the period of Mexico's Dirty War (1970s to early 1980s).  He joined the SME as a political act to become part of the country's radical working-class movement, and soon became one of its most important leaders.

In 2009 the Mexican administration of Felipe Calderon dissolved the Power and Light Company of Central Mexico, one of the country's two national providers of electrical power.  He then declared the union non-existent and terminated the jobs of its 44,000 members.  While other administrations had regarded the SME, one of Mexico's oldest, and most democratic and radical unions, as a political opponent, no government before had taken such an extreme step.

About half the union's members decided to resist the attack, and began an effort that continues today to recover their jobs and workplace rights, including the union contract.  They kept the union's structure and headquarters intact, and then set up an allied workers' cooperative to generate work and help members survive.  The other members took the government's severance package and gave up their union and job rights.

In this interview with journalist David Bacon, Montes de Oca describes the current state of the union and its relationship with the progressive administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  He talks about the way the union organizes and educates its members internally, and places the union in the current national and international context.  The interview has been edited for clarity.

The Current State of Labor Reform

Today we are in a situation created by the 2019 freedom of association reform. To some degree that reform was forced on the government by the pressure of unions in Canada and the United States, as part of the negotiation of the new free trade agreement T-MEC (Tratado - Mexico Estados Unidos Canada).  Pressure was put on Mexico to make changes in union representation because charrismo and the employer protection contracts were used to cheapen the labor of Mexicans. Workers in Canada and the United States were at a disadvantage. Capital investment comes to Mexico because of these more favorable conditions. It is a form of social dumping.

In Mexico, those unions argued, workers should have greater mobility, greater ability to defend their interests to increase their benefits and income. This reform was implemented using this logic.  It requires all unions to show that they are legitimate representatives of workers, and to create legitimate collective labor contracts. These two elements are generating a new situation in our country. The corporate and employer protection unions opposed this reform because it goes against their interests. But they have also adjusted by inventing a strategy in which they go through the process, but everything actually remains the same.

The charros can legitimize themselves because they have control of the workers. They themselves organize the process and can manipulate them. Workers do not have information, they do not have training,  and they do not have the initiative. It is convenient for politicians also that things remain the same, since these charros can still produce votes.

It is true that North American and Canadian unions sought to integrate the labor chapter of the T-MEC with the labor reforms in Mexican legislation. But it is also true that in Mexican unionism there is a tradition of democratic struggle. In the seventies, eighties and nineties tough battles were fought for union democracy in our country. Our very own survival as a union has been a fight for union democracy. Democratic unionism fought many battles for democratization, but it was not structured as a single force, that knocked on the door and said, "we want a reform." Democratic lawyers were among the most important promoters of the reform, because many of them participated in the democratizing movements..

But the reform created bodies, like the Federal Labor Registration Center, which exercise very arbitrary power in a way that does not correspond to the spirit of the law. They tolerate noncompliance by some unions and demand the strict enforcement of procedures with others. Who decides? There is a danger that unions themselves will lose their autonomy and the labor movement its independence.

Yet there are groups of workers who are taking advantage of the situation to free themselves  from charro unions.  The example of the independent union victory at the General Motors plant in Silao is the clearest. We can see that it is possible for workers, using this legitimation process, to displace charro unions and achieve authentic collective bargaining.

So there are two kinds of outcomes. On the one hand a sham process allows charro unions and protection unions to become legitimate through a fraudulent procedure. On the other hand, an authentic process makes it possible to displace the charros and create a new democratic unions. This is happening in parallel. We celebrate the creation of the Casas Obreras [community centers that help workers organize] that provide information and raining, and which disseminate knowledge of the law that can be used to trigger the democratization of unions.  We support this and we must work to help it succeed.

Unfortunately, there is as yet no commitment to a widespread challenge by established independent unions to the old CTM structure [Confederacion de Trabajadores Mexicanos - the federation allied to Mexico's old ruling political party, the PRI]. Democratic unions are fragmented. They do not have, with the exception of the new Central Obrera, any intention of promoting a widespsread process of democratization. They exist in an enclosed world of their own, and have no plan to expand outside of it. This is a conservative policy - to conserve your resources within your own space, and not confront the charros.

These unions only think about "my problems," "my demands", "my conflict", and don't get involved with anything else. In other words, they have no intention of generating a movement beyond what they conceive as their own space. At the same time, the left no longer talks about unions. It is losing its link with the workers it had in the past. That weakens the possibilities for democratic change.

The new Central Obrera, however, does propose a national campaign for the democratization of unions. Conditions are good for this because many contracts were not legitimized, and disappeared. This creates a void, and we have to know how to fill it. For that we need a workers movement that thinks of itself as a class, beyond individual sectors or branches. The National Democratic Convention of Workers is based on that idea.

We are not saying that everyone must simply join the new Central Obrera. We are saying the new Central, and organizations in other sectors who want a movement for union democratization in our country, should come together.  We have common issues: freedom of association, union democracy, social security, pensions, retirements, salaries - the basis for generating a movement. In that movement there's room for many efforts, including the Casas Obreras, the new emerging unions and federations of unions, and the old pillars of democratic unionism such as the SME. Perhaps in the medium and long term there will be a regrouping. Even if some are not moving in that direction now, perhaps later they will be convinced that this is needed, and they can help to build that process.

Mexico City, Mexico. November 9, 2018. The cooperative set up by the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME). Humberto Montes de Oca, secretary for exterior relations of the SME. Photo by: David Bacon

Nationalizing the Energy Industry

We share with the government the idea of nationalizing the electrical industry. In the past, we defended the nationalized electricity industry, against the gradual privatization that took place in previous administrations. Once the law was changed to allow privatization by the oligarchy and transnational corporations, they imposed the law of the free market in the electricity sector.

Today we call for reversing the structural privatization reform of Enrique Peña Nieto, imposed in 2013. But we want to add a social dimension, the recognition of the human right to energy as a constitutional right, and the social management of this strategic area, with broad participation of technicians, workers, and energy users. We need researchers who can manage this public company and not turn it into a political instrument of the state and the party in power.  This is what we've frequently seen in our country, in the case of public companies.

For us, it is not enough to nationalize or renationalize the energy industry. We need the social management of strategic industries for the common good, with the broad participation of society, of workers, of specialists, of the energy consumers themselves.  The right to energy is an inalienable human right. The solution is not as simple as saying, "let it be made public and that's it." There must be social management with broad social participation.  What we have now is the bureaucratization of the management - public officials who obey commercial logic rather than the general interest of society.

State capitalism was very strong in Mexico in the sixties and seventies, which allowed development of the model that led to neoliberalism. Now we have a government that intends to regain the stewardship of the state in the economy. But that does not guarantee that it is dismantling the structural reforms neoliberal governments imposed on us over the last 30 years. It has left them intact. It is not reversing the dependence and subordination of our economy towards the north, towards the United States mainly.

It is not reversing the forms of savage exploitation of capital either. In regulating outsourcing a small step forward was taken, but the exploitation continues to exist. For this to change, we need to do more than make companies public. The Federal Electricity Commission, the company that supplies electric energy, is a public company, but that does not mean that it has a social character. The company will still cut you off if you don't pay. It is selling a commodity.  If you consume and don't pay for it, you're cut off, and your human right to energy is not recognized.

Socialism means social management. It is a myth that by strengthening the state we are moving towards socialism. This is a country where capitalism is dominant and where the state facilitates the accumulation of capital. So strengthening the state will not take us to socialism. The state regulates the economic process to regulate capital, or to redistribute it. In contrast to savage capitalism, this state's goal is to make it a regulated, decent, humanitarian system, without ceasing to be capitalism. So this government wants to impose certain regulations on the market, on corporations, on free trade and so on. But it is still the same. Deep down there is the capital relationship.

Difficult Relations with the Lopez Obrador Administration

AMLO [Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador] was running for office in 2010,during the hunger strike in which our union fought the attack meant to destroy us. On one occasion he came to be with us. At that time he considered himself the legitimate president because of the fraudulent election. He gave us a letter in which he promised that when he became president in the next election, he would reintegrate us into the workforce. To date he has not fulfilled this commitment, and he has not given the union a hearing.

Instead, AMLO has supported the former leaders of our union, who in 2009 called for the capitulation of the SME.  They wanted to collect severance pay, so they resigned from the union and tried to dissolve it, liquidating its assets and distributing the money among the workers. We did not agree. We made a commitment to resist, not to liquidate ourselves, and to mobilize and fight against the extinction decree. They abandoned this fight and yet, after we fought for 14 years, they are the ones close to the President.

Some officials, like presidential spokesperson Jesús Ramírez Cuevas and the director of the Federal Electricity Commission, Manuel Bartlett Díaz, are using these dissident groups to attack the union. They no longer belong to the SME, yet they threaten to take over our facilities by force and violence, and have mounted a media campaign of slander. At this end of the administration's six-year term unpredictable things can happen. We are prepared to face any aggression by those former workers.

Mexico City, Mexico. November 29, 2018. Humberto Montes de Oca, the international secretary of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) at a meeting with U.S. union leaders to talk about the new government in Mexico after Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took office as President. Photo by: David Bacon

People in this government believe that the governing party should have unions that are useful, loyal and subordinate. To them, a corporatized SME would be useful. Since we have not expressed any subordination,  and we safeguard our union autonomy, they don't like this.

Our organization has always been critical. We recognize that the President is making an effort to recover the country's energy sovereignty, but we also have criticisms of its labor policy. There are many unresolved conflicts and strikes, like the 3-year strike in Sur Notimex and the miners strike in Cananea.  There is no solution for our colleagues of the National Coordination of Education Workers. In short, the regime's labor policy is not what one might hope for from a democratic government.

The current government has little dialogue with social movements, unlike the progressivism in South America, where presidents like Lula, Chavez and Evo Morales have had a lot of communication with them. Here many social movements that supported MORENA [the Movimiento para la Regeneracion Nacional - Mexico's current governing party] in 2018 feel disappointed because they have not seen their situation improve or attention to their demands. The government proposes a direct relationship with the population without intermediaries that demand solutions. In its view a union, a neighborhood organization, or an organization of academics or researchers is an intermediary, which it doesn't need or want. Instead, the government supports the people through its social policy and assistance programs.

This is a clientelistic electoral policy, and the proof of its unpopularity is that here in Mexico City, MORENA lost the majority of the mayoralties in the last election.  The city has been the cradle of the left-wing social movement in Mexico, but there is not a good relationship between the government and its social movements. That was reflected in the vote. It is a policy that Andrés Manuel has had throughout his career. He was never very close to independent unions, and now as President he has not generated dialogue or a close relationship.

The Status of the SME Today

Currently we have a membership of approximately 15,000 active workers and 10,000 retirees, who come from the former company Luz y Fuerza del Centro. We have work in the generation plants recovered from that public company, and other economic ventures where we have collective contracts.  We have a collective bargaining agreement with Generadora Fénix and a contract with the Portuguese company Mota-Engil, where we are part of the public limited liability company that generates electricity. We have the right to 50% of the company's profits. When the company was organized we established a co-participation agreement along with sharing the profits.

The hydroelectric plants this company operates are generating around 100 megawatts per day. The profit is distributed among all members of the union, whether or not they work for the company. All members have the right to enjoy it. Year after year we calculate the amount, we go to our general meeting and the general meeting decides what to do with the it. We have at times made investments in other generation plants. In recent years with the Covid emergency and the needs of our colleagues, the assembly decided on a per capita distribution of all dividends. We also created a trust for our colleagues who die, to provide aid for their relatives.

We have other collective contracts with other companies, smaller agreements, which enable us to keep the national industrial registry of our union. We also have people working in the cooperative, LF of the Center, which is now in a transition period. So the union is made up of workers who work under a collective labor contract, cooperative workers who work in the union's social and solidarity economy projects, and workers who do not have a job.

We are incorporating the children of the workers in resistance as members, not only in terms of looking for a job, but also from the social perspective of creating spaces for our young people and children. We have groups for women and for pensioners and retirees. Under Mexican law we have a legal and legitimately constituted leadership, democratically elected by personal vote, free and direct.  We want to provide spaces for participation. Our statutory mandate says we must ensure the well-being, recreation, dissemination, and political training of our members. Our goal is to strengthen internal unity in the face of a great challenge - government orchestration of a coup against the union.

We have a strong presence in the central states of Mexico, with a union structure in Morelos, Michoacán, Hidalgo, the State of Mexico, and Mexico City. We maintain a strong strategic alliance with the users of electrical energy - the National Assembly of Electrical Energy - and we hold days of struggle on the 11th of each month. We go with them to demand a clean slate, a social tariff and the recognition of the human right to energy. We recently had our extraordinary general assembly, and took stock of the critical negotiation with a government that does not keep its word.. Our objective is labor reintegration in the nationalized electricity industry.  For users, we want recognition of the human right to energy.  Users need a clean slate so their debts are forgiven, and they can sign a new agreement with the company without being charged large amounts of money.

We have very good relations with the unions in the United States and Canada. Trinational solidarity was very important in our case. We were able to present a complaint within the framework of the labor chapter of the old NAFTA because of help from the unions in both countries. That complaint helped us put pressure on the government of Enrique Peña Nieto to find a political solution to our conflict. We maintain those relationships, and there is a lot to share.

This link between unions is necessary to defend the interests of the working class in our three countries. We have very different situations, different cultural and historical experience, and even the laws under which we function. We believe that in the law there is actually greater protection and more freedom for workers in Mexico than in the United States, where union freedom and labor rights are very restricted. Article 123 of our Constitution and the Federal Labor Law are the products of our social movements. Paradoxically, however, our income levels are much lower, and unions in our country also operate on behalf of employers' interests and not those of the majority of workers. And there is no authentic respect for the autonomy of the unions.

We are part of the process of change in Latin America. We have scheduled  several events bringing together international energy workers. We try to support the workers of France, who are defending their retirement system, and the Peruvian people who are being massacred.  We have just signed a statement opposing the attacks on the indigenous, Zapatista communities by paramilitary groups linked to the political elite in the state of Chiapas.

Creating a Class-Conscious Membership

Our vision is defending the interests of workers and a democratic union life. To accomplish this, our organization has always tried to train its members politically, and in terms of our union's history and traditions. Before the government's attempt to destroy the union in 2009, we had a school for union activists with a general orientation, organized and operated by retired colleagues with a political background. Some left-wing activists had joined the union to contribute to the political and ideological training of our social base - our members and close allies. All union representatives had to participate in this mandatory training school. We had an escalating series of general modules, from the history of the labor movement and of our union to the study of political economy, historical materialism and Marxism.

When I held the position of departmental representative, I was a rank-and-file member in the underground cable department. I'm an underground distribution worker. As soon as I began to represent my colleagues, I  immediately began to attend these classes in the history of the labor movement and our union.

Mexico City, Mexico. September 1, 2011. Members and their families of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) protest in Mexico City's main square, the Zocalo, on the day Mexican President Felipe Calderon gave his annual speech about the state of the country. The protest, called the Day of the Indignant, was organized because the Mexican government fired 44,000 electrical workers and dissolved the state-owned company they worked for, in an effort to smash their union. Protestors also demanded jobs, labor rights and an end to the repression of political dissidents. SME members had been camped out in the square since May. Photo by: David Bacon

The classes were given in short cycles, some in a course of four or six weeks, with two classes a week. There were also other training activities, such as seminars and conferences, organized by the union. I had to go to several, but I remember one in particular about geopolitics that was very interesting. Trainers came from the national university and other higher education institutions, like Alejandro Álvarez and Andres Barrera. We had workshops on organizational subjects and many forums on the human right to energy, and energy transition.

But it was often a very stuffy, dogmatic education. It was very rigid, in the sense that reality was interpreted with the eyes of the past. The aim was to frame reality in the perspective of yesterday.  

The proof of the dogmatism was that the teachers who taught those classes were among the first to give up when the government attacked us in 2009.  They betrayed the organization because they did not understand that attack or how to resist. When the coup was carried out, the teachers at the cadre training school called for us to liquidate the union. I think they were really pseudo-Marxists - bureaucratic, dogmatic people who could not generate creative ideas and a movement for resistance.  They were left behind and in the end they betrayed us.

What had to be done was to create theory and practice based on new challenges and conditions - a new situation with new goals. The challenge is to understand the reality we are living in, and use Marxism as a methodological tool to interpret and change it. What happened 100 years ago can't just be duplicated now. There are many changes in the economy, in politics, in ideology, that need a contemporary analysis from a revolutionary perspective, trying to formulate an alternative.

When real existing socialism fell, it created a crisis for everyone, and we still can't get out of it.  How do we interpret that failed experience, that historical defeat?  How can we develop a revolutionary practice in the situation we are now experiencing - a deep structural crisis in capitalism, environmental devastation, and the intensification of exploitation and the growing precarity of work?

For some, Marxism remained stagnant in time, as if it stayed still in a photograph. But repeating the old phrases leads nowhere, repeating the old slogans leads nowhere. That's what I call dogmatism. We are capable of creating and recreating revolutionary ideas based on the needs of our time, the new conditions that place us in a situation different from that of years ago. There have been new developments in Marxism. For me Marxism is a guide. A Marxist has to interpret events from his or her understanding of the present, using this method.

During the resistance to the 2009 attack the formal school of political education was interrupted. Our priority was responding to the extinction of our source of work. However, although the school stopped functioning, we still had workshops, forums, conferences, and seminars, but not the school's study program. Now we are resuming union political training again. I have many years of training and I want to share it with my colleagues. I'm giving workshop courses to form a new leadership in the union.

We are going to reactivate the school for activists. I'm working with comrade Hugo Álvarez Piña, our secretary of education and propaganda, but we want to restructure it.  We have to deal with the reality of generational change, and make sure our leaders have the tools and knowledge that will allow them to give the right direction to our union.

We have scholarships for the children of workers who belong to the union. We call them the children of the resistance, the sons and daughters of the workers who resisted the extinction of our source of work and the forced dissolution of our union during the past fourteen years. We are incorporating them into our training program. They get an introduction about unions, and then an explanation of how our union was born and its history over 100 years.  We talk about the most important moments of struggle, how we created a process of resistance to prevent its disappearance, and our perspective for the future.


Photographs by David Bacon

Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California
3933 Mission Inn Avenue, Suite 103
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Pacific Media Workers Guild, CWA Local 39521, adopted a resolution supporting the Labor Call for a Ceasefire in Gaza:

Unearthing the history of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Photographs © by David Bacon



More Than a Wall / Mas que Un Muro explores the many aspects of the border region through photographs taken by David Bacon over a period of 30 years. These photographs trace the changes in the border wall itself, and the social movements in border communities, factories and fields. This bilingual book provides a reality check, to allow us to see the border region as its people, with their own history of movements for rights and equality, and develop an alternative vision in which the border can be a region where people can live and work in solidarity with each other. - Gaspar Rivera-Salgado

David Bacon has given us, through his beautiful portraits, the plight of the American migrant worker, and the fierce spirit of those who provide and bring to us comfort and sustenance. -- Lila Downs

Published by El Colegio de la Frontera Norte with support from the UCLA Institute for Labor Research and Education and the Center for Mexican Studies, the Werner Kohlstamm Family Fund, and the Green Library at Stanford University

Price:  $35 plus postage and handling
To order, click here:

"The "border" is just a line. It's the people who matter." - JoAnn Intili, director, The Werner-Kohnstamm Family Fund


Photographs and text by David Bacon
University of California Press / Colegio de la Frontera Norte

302 photographs, 450pp, 9”x9”
paperback, $34.95 (in the U.S.)

order the book on the UC Press website:
use source code  16M4197  at checkoutreceive a 30% discount

En Mexico se puede pedir el libro en el sitio de COLEF:

Los Angeles Times reviews In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte - click here

The David Bacon Archive exhibition at Stanford Libraries

Exhibited throughout the pandemic in the Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford. The online exhibition (, which includes additional content not included in the physical show, is accessible to everyone, and is part of an accessible digital spotlight collection that includes significant images from this body of work. For a catalog: (

Online Interviews and Presentations

Red Lens Episode 6: David Bacon on US-Mexico border photography
Brad Segal: 
On episode 6 of Red Lens, I talk with David Bacon.

David Bacon is a California-based writer and documentary photographer. A former union organizer, today he documents labor, the global economy, war and migration, and the struggle for human rights.  We talk about David's new book, 'More than a Wall / Mas que un muro' which includes 30 years of his photography and oral histories from communities & struggles in the U.S.-Mexico border region.

Letters and Politics - Three Decades of Photographing The Border & Border Communities
Host Mitch Jeserich interviews David Bacon, a photojournalist, author, broadcaster and former labor organizer. He has reported on immigrant and labor issues for decades. His latest book, More Than A Wall, is a collection of his photographs of the border and border communities spanning three decades.

Exploitation or Dignity - What Future for Farmworkers
UCLA Latin American Institute
Based on a new report by the Oakland Institute, journalist and photographer David Bacon documents the systematic abuse of workers in the H-2A program and its impact on the resident farmworker communities, confronted with a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.

David Bacon on union solidarity with Iraqi oil worker unions
Free City Radio - CKUT 27/10/2021 -
Organizing during COVID, the intrinsic value of the people who grow our food
Sylvia Richardson - Latin Waves Media
How community and union organizers came together to get rights for farm workers during COVID, and how surviving COVID has literally been an act of resistance.
Report Details Slavery-Like Conditions For Immigrant Guest Workers
Rising Up With Sonali Kohatkar

The Right to Remain

Beware of Pity

En Español
Ruben Luengas - #EnContacto
Hablamos con David Bacon de los migrantes y la situación de México frente a los Estados Unidos por ser el principal país de llegada a la frontera de ese país.

Jornaleros agrícolas en EEUU en condiciones más graves por Covid-19: David Bacon
SomosMas99 con Agustin Galo Samario

"Los fotógrafos tomamos partido"
Entrevista por Melina Balcázar Moreno - Laberinto

David Bacon comparte su mirada del trabajo agrícola de migrantes mexicanos en el Museo Archivo de la Fotografia


Online Photography Exhibitions
Documentary Matters -  View from the US 
Social Documentary Network
Four SDN photographers explore themes of racial justice, migration, and #MeToo
There's More Work to be Done
Housing Assistance Council and National Endowment for the Arts
This exhibition documents the work and impact of the struggle for equitable and affordable housing in rural America, inspired by the work of George “Elfie” Ballis.
Dark Eyes
A beautiful song by Lila Downs honoring essential workers, accompanied by photographs

A video about the Social Justice Photography of David Bacon:

In the FIelds of the North
Online Exhibit
Los Altos History Museum

Virtual Tour - In the Fields of the North
History Museum of Tijuana
Recorrido Virtual de la Exposicion - En los campos del norte
Museo de Historia de Tijuana

THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog

Other Books by David Bacon - Otros Libros

The Right to Stay Home:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  (Beacon Press, 2013)

Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants  (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

En Español:  

EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA  (Critica - Planeta de Libros)


For more articles and images, see and

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